2013-2014 Season Preview: College Hoops Breakout Players

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists,click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last November, there were a precious few who actually knew who Kelly Olynyk was. Fast forward a year, and he turned an all-american season into becoming a lottery pick. Every year, there are players that break out and become stars, whether it’s because of a larger role thanks to someone’s departure or the fact that they spent their summer getting after it in the gym. Here are 21 guys that have a chance to do just that this season.

1. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: I think Harrell is in line for a huge season with the Cardinals. Harrell played really well in limited minutes as a freshman and was quite impressive competing for Team USA at the U19 World Championships. He can’t replace Gorgui Dieng’s passing ability or shot-blocking, but he’s an aggressive big man that will attack the glass, run the floor and play hard for 40 minutes. On a team that lacks interior depth, he could average a double-double.

’12-’13: 5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg

2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker is one of the most talented players to come through the Wisconsin program in recent years, the rare five-star recruit that Bo Ryan lands. An athletic, 6-foot-7 wing with range, Dekker should be Wisconsin’s No. 1 option offensively with Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Breusewitz graduation. If he can play with the efficiency he had as freshman with a heavier work load, Dekker has a shot at being Big Ten Player of the Year.

’12-’13: 9.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 39.1% 3PT

3. Rodney Hood, Duke: Hood spent last season sitting out in Durham after transferring into the program from Mississippi State, and despite the fact that he’s on a team with Jabari Parker and Rasheed Sulaimon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hood have the kind of season that earns him All-American consideration. As a freshman, the athletic, 6-foot-8 lefty found a way to average double-figures on a team that included Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. That’s more impressive that it sounds.

’11-’12: 10.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg

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4. Perry Ellis, Kansas: Ellis entered Kansas as a freshman with loads of hype surrounding his ability to score the ball, but he didn’t quite live up to those expectations, although that had more to do with opportunity than effectiveness: he posted an offensive rating of 114.1. As the starting four for the Jayhawks this year, Ellis will likely be the No. 2 option offensively, along with Wayne Selden. With defenses keying on Wiggins, don’t be surprised to see Ellis thrive.

’12-’13: 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg

5. Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith spent last season sitting out after transferring from Virginia Tech, and after a year of working on his game, the sophomore will have a chance to slide into Florida’s lineup immediately. With Will Yeguete banged up and Chris Walker enrolling in December, the versatile forward will have a chance to earn his minutes early in the season.

’11-’12: 6.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.9 apg

6. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri: It’s weird to list someone that averaged 16.5 points as a breakout candidate, but I’d counter with this: How many of you saw Clarkson play at Tulsa? Missouri is ecstatic about how well he’s progressed, so don’t be surprised to see the 6-foot-5 wing generate all-SEC buzz, put his name on the NBA’s radar and become a guy that the nation knows.

’11-’12: 16.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg

7. Mike Tobey, Virginia: This prediction may be a year too early for Tobey, as UVA returns Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell and plays as slow a pace as you’ll find nationally. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from paying attention to this 6-foot-10 sophomore. He put up impressive, efficiency numbers in limited minutes as a freshman and made the U19 team.

’12-’13: 6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 13.9 mpg

8. Ty Wallace, Cal: Wallace put up solid numbers and was impressive in spurts as a freshman, but his efficiency numbers were fairly low thanks to a season-long shooting slump. But this 6-foot-4 slasher will have the opportunity for more minutes and shots thanks to Allen Crabbe’s departure. If he improves from the perimeter, Wallace will have a big season.

’12-’13: 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg

9. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: With Deshaun Thomas gone, someone is going to have to take on the role of go-to scorer for Ohio State, and if last year’s stretch run is any indication, Ross should be that guy. He averaged 17.7 points in the last three tournament games. Consistency will be the key to his season.

’12-’13: 8.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 16.8 mpg

10. A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons was dominant at times as a freshman, but he also had stretches where he disappeared. Conditioning was an issue for the big fella, and he reportedly lost more than 25 pounds this offseason. If Purdue makes a run at the NCAA tournament, a lot of it will have to do with this potential all-Big Ten sophomore.

’12-’13: 10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg

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Eleven more guys that should be in for a big season

  • Kris Dunn, Providence (5.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.2 apg): The best point guard in the Class of 2012 is finally healthy.
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (7.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg): A lockdown defender, Hield will need to expand his offensive game to offset Oklahoma’s heavy losses.
  • Jerami Grant, Syracuse (3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg): With James Southerland gone, there will be plenty of minutes for Grant this season.
  • Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona (6.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg): Tarczewski needs to take the next step as a physical interior presence for the Wildcats.
  • Josh Scott, Colorado (10.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg): Scott’s 20 pounds of extra muscle should help him in the paint.
  • Kyle Anderson, UCLA (9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg): With Shabazz gone, Anderson will show what he can do with an offense running through him.
  • Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga (5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg): Conditioning is the only thing holding back the seven-foot Mt. Poland.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg): Cauley-Stein is not Kentucky’s starting center. He oozes upside, but can he reach his potential?
  • Josh Smith, Georgetown (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg): An in-shape Josh Smith is a lottery pick. It’s also something we’ve never seen.
  • Tyrone Garland, La Salle (13.1 ppg, 2.0 apg): The SW Philly Floater will be the primary scorer for La Salle with Ramon Galloway gone.
  • Ben Carter, Oregon (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg): There are minutes in Oregon’s front court available, and Carter played well in spurts last year.

Gonzaga passes the title of best program without a Final Four to Xavier in win

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In 1999, Gonzaga was not yet “Gonzaga”.

A No. 10 seed in just their third NCAA tournament, the Zags won three games against high-major competition, coming within a possession of reaching the Final Four in a loss to No. 1 seed UConn.

UConn, at that point, was one of the best programs in the country under Jim Calhoun, but the knock on the Huskies at that point was that they couldn’t win the big one. They had been to three Elite 8s and three more Sweet 16s in the previous eight seasons, but it wasn’t until they knocked off that Gonzaga team that they finally were playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.

For 18 years, Gonzaga tried and failed to get to a Final Four, becoming one of the nation’s premier basketball programs without having the postseason success to legitimize themselves in the eyes of idiots around the country. That ended on Saturday night in San Jose, as No. 1 seed Gonzaga ended No. 11 Xavier’s thrilling run to the Elite 8 and passing on the torch that UConn passed to them.

Xavier can now claim the title of the best basketball program that has yet to make a Final Four, which is both a compliment and a curse.

The Musketeers have been to the NCAA tournament 25 times since the bracket expanded to 64 teams in 1985. They’ve been to nine Sweet 16s and three Elite 8s. They had a winning record in NCAA tournament play until Saturday’s loss and now lay claim to the title of the team with the most NCAA tournament wins without an appearance in the Final Four.

Xavier is going to get there eventually. Chris Mack is one of the best coaches in the business. Hell, if Trevon Bluiett and Edmond Sumner both return to school, it could very well be next season that they snap that streak. It’s coming at some point.

I don’t even think it’s an insult to say this about Xavier. I don’t think it’s a shot at the program or the coaches that have come through it. Getting to the Final Four is hard. Bill Self is a lead-pipe lock to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s been to just two Final Fours in his career. He’s 2-7 in the Elite 8, and if Derrick Rose could make his free throws, the discussion of just how good of a coach Self is if he can’t win a title would be raging with the Jayhawks flaming out of the tournament on Saturday night.

But as with Gonzaga and UConn before them, Xavier is going to have that monkey on their back every time they suit up in March.

VIDEO: Tyler Dorsey hits dagger after dagger in upset of Kansas

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Tyler Dorsey is building himself quite the reputation for being a big-shot maker.

He hit the game-winner that got Oregon to the Sweet 16. He hit two threes at the end of the first half to push Oregon’s lead to 11 points over Kansas. And he hit this three, the dagger through the heart of Kansas:

Dorsey finished with 27 points. He’s scored at least 20 points in every game since the NCAA tournament began.

No. 3 Oregon heading to first Final Four in 78 years

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Oregon, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, made what looked to be a smooth path to Phoenix into a bumpy road. But after 78 years, the Ducks are going back to the Final Four, defeating No. 1 Kansas, 74-60, in Elite Eight on Friday night in Kansas City.

Everything went right for the Ducks in the first half. Josh Jackson was called for two fouls in the less than three minutes. The Jayhawks were limited in transition. Tyler Dorsey’s two 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds gave them a double-digit lead at halftime. Oregon stretched it to as many as 18 in the second. Kansas couldn’t buy a basket from three (a far cry from the 3-point barrage it put on Purdue two nights earlier). When the Jayhawks drove to the basket, it was Jordan Bell (11 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks) who either blocked or altered their shots.

However, the Ducks not only left the door open for the Jayhawks, they held it open. Kansas’ comeback attempt was a mix drink that was equal parts KU putting the clamps on defensively, Oregon playing a bit of hero ball, and the Ducks playing not to lose instead of to win. Up six with less than two minutes remaining, and Dorsey (27 points) buried a dagger 3-pointer that all but sealed the win — and a spot in next week’s Final Four — for the Ducks.

Oregon will play the winner of the South region, which will either be No. 1 North Carolina or No. 2 Kentucky on Saturday.

 

VIDEO: Jordan Bell’s spectacular chase-down block

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Oregon big man Jordan Bell has been the best player on the floor for the Ducks against Kansas, totally changing the way that Kansas wants to play with his defense.

As of the time of this posting, he had nine points, 11 boards, seven blocks and three assists, but his impact is not solely limited to the shots he swatted — every Kansas player that gets into the lane is very aware of the fact that Bell is lurking around the rim.

The thought of him changes shots.

The best block he’s had today came midway through the second half, when he snuffed out a dunk attempt from Landen Lucas with an impressive chase-down block:

No. 1 Gonzaga reaches first Final Four with win over No. 11 Xavier

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It took 18 long years, but after Gonzaga exploded onto the national scene with a Cinderella run that came one possession short of the Final Four in 1999, after the program followed up that run with back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 as a double-digit seed, after 19 straight trips to the NCAA tournament marred by moments of unfathomable heartbreak, the nation’s preeminent mid-major success story is finally headed to the Final Four.

What will the ‘Gonzaga is overrated’ crowd say now?

Armed with a roster that included a pair of blue-chip guards in their back court, a trio of high-major transfers and a McDonald’s All-American and future first round pick coming off the bench, Mark Few knocked off No. 11 seed Xavier, 83-59, on Saturday night to win the West Region and punch his first ticket to the final weekend of the college basketball season. Nigel Williams-Goss led the way with 23 points, eight boards and four assists and Johnathan Williams III, who was named the region’s Most Outstanding Player, added 19 points and nine boards as Gonzaga buried 12 threes and jumped out to an early lead they would never relinquish in a game that never felt like it was in doubt.

And with that, the monkey on Mark Few’s back is now gone.

“It means everything that we could deliver for guys like this,” Mark Few said after the game. Few had been the winningest NCAA tournament coach without a Final Four on his résumé. “They believed in us when they came. This is what we wanted to do and set out to do, and these guys were unbelievable. I could not be happier for all these guys, all our former players and all of Zag Nation.”

Whether or not that monkey was deserved is a fair question to ask. Gonzaga has had an incredible amount of success in the NCAA tournament. They’ve won at least one game in 16 of the 19 NCAA tournaments, including this year, that they’ve been a part of, including five of the six years in which they were a double-digit seed. In 13 of the previous 18 NCAA tournaments they played in, they advanced as far or further than their seed suggested they should have. Only five times did they lose to a team that was seeded lower than them. They’ve won 17 WCC regular season titles and 15 WCC tournament titles during that span.

What they’ve done, the consistency of the success that they’ve had, is not something done easily.

And it’s not something that should be overlooked when you consider where this program was in the early 90s. When Few was hired as an assistant coach in 1990, Gonzaga was thought of as the worst job in the WCC. The program, located in Spokane, Washington, which isn’t exactly a hotbed for recruiting, had never been to an NCAA tournament. The school didn’t even have a weight room for the team.

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

“Players would sign out sweats and jerseys at the beginning of every school year and turn them back in nine months later,” wrote Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg earlier this week. “Sneakers were the only gear players received new, but obtaining a fresh pair typically required proving the old ones had a hole in the bottom.”

Within five years, Gonzaga was in the NCAA tournament. Within nine years, they had won the league and reached the Elite 8. Within 15 years, the school opened up a sparkling, $25-million, 6,000-seat arena, chartering flights for road games and recruiting trips.

Today, Gonzaga is arguably a top ten program in the sport

It is, quite literally, college basketball’s best rags-to-riches story.

They shouldn’t need this to justify their standing in the sport. Few shouldn’t need this to legitimize himself as something more than a coach feasting on a conference that can’t compete.

“My legacy is I guess built on a lot of other things,” Few said on Friday. “It’s built on the respect my players have for me and how they feel about they were treated and coached and developed and all that.”

“I’m schlepping along right now like vastly far behind my father who is 54 years a Presbyterian minister, man. He’s saved thousands of souls. He’s helped hundreds and thousands of people through all their tough times, you know. And that’s kind of the legacy that I’m looking at.”

But that’s not how our sport works.

March means everything.

If you can’t win on the biggest stage, if you don’t have that level of success when all eyes turn to college basketball, then everything you did during the previous four months is written off.

It’s not fair.

But that’s just how it is.

And now, nearly two decades removed from their introduction into the national consciousness, Gonzaga’s detractors no longer have that leg to stand on.