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Three each from Kentucky, Indiana on first Wooden watch list

The hunt for the best college basketball player in the country officially is on.

The first John R. Wooden Award watch list, released Tuesday, comprises 50 top players, representing eight conferences and 35 teams. Thirteen programs have more than one player on the list. Only two -- Kentucky and Indiana -- have three players on the list.

In a landscape apparently not as dominated by freshmen as prior seasons were, the early favorite may nonetheless be LSU's Ben Simmons, the 2015 class's top arrival, a preseason AP All-American, and the likely No. 1 overall pick in next summer's NBA draft.

Gonzaga senior forward Kyle Wiltjer, a fellow preseason All-American who averaged 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 54 percent shooting in 2014-15, is considered by many to be Simmons' chief competition -- if not the overall favorite.

Other top freshmen on the list include California's Jaylen Brown, Villanova's Jalen Brunson, Duke's Brandon Ingram, Kentucky's Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray, and Mississippi State's Malik Newman.

The Wooden Award watch lists are published throughout the season. Players not on the current list are eligible for inclusion in later editions.