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Dickie V's picks for conference champs, players of the year

It is time to go to the crystal ball, baby!

The season is right around the corner, so it is time to look at my picks by conference. Let's look at the big ones:

ACC

Team to beat

North Carolina Tar Heels

I know fans at Duke and Virginia feel differently, but the Tar Heels have experience and depth. They are familiar with one another, and Marcus Paige is healthy. Justin Jackson will be even better with a year of experience under his belt. This is an outstanding league with teams like Notre Dame, Miami, Florida State, Syracuse and Louisville lurking too. The Tar Heels will earn the crown.

Player of the year

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia Cavaliers

I give him the nod over Paige of the Tar Heels.


American Athletic Conference

Team to beat

Connecticut Huskies

SMU might have been the choice, but the Mustangs are not eligible for the postseason. Coach Kevin Ollie has great depth in the backcourt, which gives the Huskies the edge over Cincinnati.

Player of the year

Nic Moore, SMU Mustangs

This will be a battle between Moore and teammate Markus Kennedy for the honor. Connecticut has a lot of talent, but it is hard to pick one player from the Huskies for the honor.


Atlantic 10

Team to beat

Dayton Flyers

This is going to be a battle between Dayton, Rhode Island and Davidson. I expect great competition in this league.

Player of the year

DeAndre Bembry, Saint Joseph's Hawks

Bembry gets the nod over E.C. Matthews of Rhode Island and Jack Gibbs of Davidson.


Big East

Team to beat

Villanova Wildcats

Coach Jay Wright's Cats are the prohibitive favorite over Georgetown and Butler.

Player of the year

Kris Dunn, Providence Friars

Dunn and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera of Georgetown will battle it out for the honor.


Big Ten

Team to beat

Maryland Terrapins

The Terps are legitimate national championship contenders. Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Purdue will not make it easy.

Player of the year

Melo Trimble, Maryland Terrapins

There is a lot of talent in this league. Indiana's Yogi Ferrell, A.J. Hammons of Purdue and Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin will challenge Trimble.


Big 12

Team to beat

Kansas Jayhawks

This is a three-team race among Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma. All three could be in the top 20 of the national rankings.

Player of the year

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma Sooners

Hield and Georges Niang are the front-runners. Kansas has several candidates as well.


Missouri Valley

Team to beat

Wichita State Shockers

What else is new? The Shockers and Northern Iowa Panthers will duel for the title again.

Player of the year

Fred VanVleet, Wichita State Shockers

It's a toss-up between VanVleet and teammate Ron Baker.


Mountain West

Team to beat

San Diego State Aztecs

Look for the Aztecs to duke it out with Boise State for the league's top honors.

Player of the year

Winston Shepard, San Diego State Aztecs

I was torn. This will go to Sheppard, teammate Malik Pope or Boise State's Anthony Drmic.


Pac-12

Team to beat

California Golden Bears

Can Arizona make a run after losing so much talent? Utah, Oregon and UCLA believe they will be in the running too. The Golden Bears are my favorite.

Player of the year

Gary Payton II, Oregon State Beavers

It is between Payton and Jakob Poeltl of Utah.


SEC

Team to beat

Kentucky Wildcats

Big Blue Nation will celebrate again, but it will be more challenging. Vanderbilt, LSU, Texas A&M and Georgia will have something to say.

Player of the year

Damian Jones, Vanderbilt Commodores

I do not like to pick freshmen before they play their first game. Ben Simmons of LSU and several Kentucky players could end up in the mix. Jones is just so valuable for the Commodores.