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College Basketballs Breakout Stars

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Beginning in September and running up until November 10th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today is the day where we work through a list of the college basketball stars that you’re going to find out about this season.

The so-called ‘Breakout Players’.

To be frank, we don’t really have a criteria for this.

As long as you weren’t one of the two or three best player on your team the previous season, or if you were and you just weren’t anything close to a national name, you qualify.

We’re not really all that strict around these parts.

As always, feel free to let us know where we erred in the comments or @CBTonNBC on twitter.

Nothing brings me more joy.

CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke
Donte DiVincenzo (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova: DiVincenzo is the biggest reason that I’m not that worried about Villanova trying to replace Josh Hart this season. I don’t know that he turns into the player Hart was this year, but he’s already proven that he had the ability to be an explosive scorer – he reached double-figures 14 times and scored at least 19 points four times coming off the bench – and he has the kind of toughness and defensive intelligence that he fit in with Villanova seamlessly on that end of the floor as well.

The only real concern about having DiVincenzo on this list is how good Villanova will be. They’re quite deep on the perimeter and return Phil Booth from injury. He could end up being a much-improved player with a markedly better season and end up with numbers that don’t look all that dissimilar from this season’s.

CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue: For my money, Edwards is one of the most underrated players in the country. A 6-foot-1 lead guard, Edwards has yet to find himself in a starring role on a big stage. He played with De’Aaron Fox and Jarred Vanderbilt on the EYBL circuit. He played with Caleb Swanigan as a freshman and still managed to average 10.3 points in 23 minutes. But he made the cut for Team USA for the U19 World Cup, and he was arguably Purdue’s best player as they earned a silver representing America in the World University Games. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t turn into Purdue’s leading scorer this year.

TYLER COOK, Iowa: Seeing as Cook was Iowa’s second-leading scorer at 12.3 points last season, it might be silly to rank the 6-foot-8 sophomore among the nation’s breakout stars, but I firmly believe that this is the year that Cook goes from being good as a freshman to being a legitimate star in the Big Ten. I don’t know if he ends up being a first-team all-Big Ten player – with Ethan Happ, Michigan State’s front line and another player on this list in Justin Jackson – it will be tough competition for that spot. But, as I said on the Big Ten preview podcast, I think Iowa has a chance to sneak up on people, and my feelings on Cook are a major reason for that.

Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview
IOWA CITY, IA – JANUARY 12: Forward Tyler Cook (Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

V.J. KING, Louisville: Someone is going to have to step up for the Cardinals this season with Donovan Mitchell – and Rick Pitino – gone, and King is my pick to be that guy. At one point in time, King was considered a five-star prospect, although his impact as a freshman was somewhat limited. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s versatile and, according to reports coming out of Louisville, he’s added some strength and look to be in line for a big year.

RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga: Gonzaga has a number of players that could end up being lumped in on this list – specifically, Killian Tillie is a guy with NBA upside – but Hachimura is the guy I think explodes onto the season. He’s an incredible story, a 6-foot-8 Beninese-Japanese hooper that arrived in the States last season speaking very little English. He’s got all the tools – the size, the 7-foot-2 wingspan, the athleticism, the mobility, the perimeter skill, the three-point range – he just needed a year to get acclimated to a new culture, a new style of play and, frankly, a new language. After a standout showing in the U19 World Cup, Hachimura looks poised to make Gonzaga fans forget that Zach Collins went from sixth-man to one-and-done lottery pick with a quickness.

Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 

JUSTIN JACKSON, Maryland: I think Jackson made the right decision to come back to school, as he has a chance to put up some impressive numbers now that a ball-dominant Melo Trimble is gone. A 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and three-point range, Jackson is everything you want out of a small-ball four in basketball today. Look for him, and for Kevin Huerter, to have big years for the Terps with a distributor like Anthony Cowan running the show.

TEMPLE GIBBS, Notre Dame: Players develop in the Notre Dame system more than just about any other college program in the country. Gibbs played limited minutes as a freshman, as Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem dominated those perimeter roles, but with Notre Dame needing bodies, the younger brother of a pair of former Big East stars – Ashton and Sterling Gibbs – don’t be surprised to see T.J. grow into a major role for what should be a really good Notre Dame team.

MALIK NEWMAN, Kansas: Have you forgotten about this guy? He was a top ten recruit in the Class of 2015, but had one uninspiring year at Mississippi State — 11.8 points, not good enough to go one-and-done in a pitiful draft class – before transferring out of the program. He wound up at Kansas and, after sitting out last season, looks primed to lead the Jayhawks in scoring as a redshirt sophomore.

Top Lead GuardsTop Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men
Dewan Huell (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

DEWAN HUELL, Miami: Huell is a former five-star prospect that should take over the role of Miami’s best big man. With Kamari Murphy gone, the Hurricanes are going to need someone to play the role of shot-blocker, rebounder and roll-man in ball-screens actions. Huell should be able to thrive doing all of those things.

CASSIUS WINSTON and JOSH LANGFORD, Michigan State: So this is the one I really had to think twice about. Michigan State is the team I have picked to win the National Championship this season, but it’s their back court – it’s Winston and Langford – that is what gives me doubt about that pick. To keep it short and sweet, this duo was not good enough last season. Langford wasn’t aggressive enough as a scorer while Winston, as creative as he was with the ball, turned the ball over on 26 percent of his possessions.

As the saying goes, the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores, and that’s why I have them on this list. I think that, under the tutelage of Tom Izzo and with the amount of attention this front court is going to get, that they should be somewhere between just fine and thriving this season. And if they are, if they end the season in the conversation for the best back court in the Big Ten, then the Spartans should not only be a favorite to win come Selection Sunday, they should be the favorite.

JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati: This might be jumping the gun a year for Cumberland, as he’s going to have to battle with Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington and a kid that averaged 23 points at Sacred Heart for shots and touches. But he’s instant offense, someone that averaged 8.6 points in 19 minutes as a freshman.

KAMERON MCGUSTY, Oklahoma: McGusty’s name is one that keeps popping up in conversations with people in and around the Big 12. He averaged 10.9 points as a freshman and, this season, he’ll have the luxury of getting to play alongside Trae Young, a guy who should be a focal point of the defense.

JUWAN MORGAN, Indiana: Someone is going to have to step up and be the guy for Indiana this season, and assuming that Morgan can find a way to remain healthy throughout the year, I think that it will be him. Archie Miller has had a ton of success with tweeners in the past, guys who don’t necessarily fit into a position mold but that have some versatility and know how to play. That’s Morgan.

D’MITRIK TRICE, Wisconsin: Let’s assume that Wisconsin ends up being an NCAA tournament team this season. They’re going to need someone to step up and provide some offense alongside Ethan Happ. I think it will be Trice, the younger brother of former Michigan State guard Travis Trice, a coaches son and a guy that flashed some big-game ability.

KYLE GUY, Virginia: Guy is a former five-star recruit that has never seen a shot he didn’t like. With Virginia hemorrhaging seniors and transfers in the last two years, Tony Bennett is left with a young-but-promising group. I think Guy will be the one that comes out of that in a starring role.

VIDEO: Mike Brey celebrates Maui win shirtless

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Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey celebrated his team’s win in the Maui Invitational by going shirtless in the team locker room:

This came after Brey spent the entire tournament coaching in shorts and a t-shirt:

Mike Brey (Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

I think it’s safe to say Brey enjoyed himself on the islands.

No. 13 Notre Dame lands come-from-behind win to beat No. 6 Wichita State in Maui

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Notre Dame led twice during Wednesday night’s Maui Invitational title game.

At 4-2, and, after Martinas Geben hit the second of two free throws with 2.3 seconds left, at 67-66.

That score would end up being the final, as the 13th-ranked Irish erased a 14-point second half deficit to knock off No. 6 Wichita State and bring home that Maui trophy.

Bonzie Colson led the way with 25 points and 11 boards while Matt Farrell chipped in with 15 points, four assists, four boards and three steals. Geben chipped in with 12 points, including those two free throws that served as the eventual game-winners.

Beyond the simple fact that they did it against one of the best teams in the country, what makes this comeback so impressive is that the Irish didn’t rely on a flurry of threes to change the course of the game. This comeback came through grit, toughness defensively and, if we’re being honest, a little bit of luck.

With less than 20 seconds left on the clock and the Irish down by three points, Colson airballed a pretty good look at a three from the top of the key. On the ensuing inbounds, Farrell stole the ball and happened to find Colson under the rim for a layup. The lead was cut to one, and Wichita State proceeded to miss the front end of a one-and-one after being fouled.

The ball once again ended up underneath Notre Dame’s basket, but this time it was the Irish ball, and after a gorgeous inbounds play, Geben headed to the line for two shots. The first shots somehow managed to go down after bouncing off the back of the rim, the backboard and the front of the rim twice.

And with that, Notre Dame would get off of the islands with another quality win for their résumé and a title to their name.

No. 8 Kentucky finally has it easy against Fort Wayne, 86-67

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Nick Richards had career highs of 25 points and 15 rebounds, and 70 percent first-half shooting propelled No. 8 Kentucky to an 86-67 rout of Fort Wayne on Wednesday night.

Kentucky’s 19-of-27 shooting before halftime countered the Mastodons’ eight 3-pointers that kept them close for a while. Once Fort Wayne started missing, it couldn’t match the length or speed of the young Wildcats (5-1), who eventually led 78-48 with 6:50 remaining on the way to their most decisive win this season.

Richards thrived in both halves and on both ends, making 9 of 10 from the field and all seven free throws for his first career double-double. The 6-foot-11 freshman’s previous highs were 10 points against Utah Valley and nine rebounds against Kansas last week.

Quade Green, Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander each added 11 points as Kentucky shot a season-best 33 of 55 (60 percent) and dominated the rebounding 44-21.

Junior guard John Konchar had 19 points and Bryson Scott 18 for Fort Wayne (3-2), who had won three in a row before losing on 40 percent shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Fort Wayne: A year after upsetting Indiana, the Mastodons led Kentucky 37-36 with 3:51 left in the first half behind 8-of-22 shooting from long range. They went cold from outside and elsewhere after that and the Wildcats pounced to lead at the break and stretch the advantage to 30 points in the second half. The Mastodons’ 12 3-pointers were their third-highest total this season.

Kentucky: Something had to give after all those tense performances and the Wildcats thrived because of their size and best shooting effort this season. Richards couldn’t be stopped on either end, and teammates seemed in sync for the first time. Sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel came up just short of a double-double with 10 rebounds and nine points.

UP NEXT

Kentucky hosts Illinois-Chicago on Sunday to wrap up the Rupp Classic before getting a few days off.

Fort Wayne visits East Tennessee State on Saturday. ETSU lost 78-31 to Kentucky last Friday.

VIDEO: Providence beats Belmont on Kyron Cartwright’s buzzer-beating three

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We got the first wild buzzer-beater of the college basketball season on Wednesday night, as Kyron Cartwright answered a Belmont bucket with 3.7 seconds left by going 94-feet to hit a leaning three at the buzzer:

Providence won the game 65-63.

Cartwright finished with 17 points in the win.

Four Takeaways from N.C. State’s upset win over No. 2 Arizona

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Five games into the Kevin Keatts era and N.C. State already has themselves a signature win.

The Wolfpack upset No. 2 Arizona in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 90-84, sending Sean Miller home without reaching the Final Four once again. Allerik Freeman led the way with 24 points, while Braxton Beverly chipped in with 20 points off the bench and the combination of Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven combined for 21 points and 17 boards.

This wasn’t a fluky win, either.

N.C. State had control throughout. They were up 15-6 before Arizona woke up, they didn’t trail in the first half and they were the ones that made the Wildcats chase them down in the second half. It was quite impressive, as Keatts had this group playing hard and pressing for 40 minutes. It’s been a while since N.C. State fans can say that they’ve seen that.

Here are three things to takeaway from that win.

1. Arizona is going to have some things to figure out on the defensive end of the floor if they want to win a national title: Deandre Ayton is a man amongst boys. In his first college basketball game against competition that actually deserved to be on the same floor as him, Ayton finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds, a performance that makes me so damn excited to see just how good Marvin Bagley III, Miles Bridges and players of that ilk are if Ayton does not end up being the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

Trier struggled in the first half, but he still managed to put together a 27-point performance, with 24 of those 27 coming in the second half. They put up 84 points. That wasn’t the issue.

The 90 points they allowed was.

Even more concerning was the fact that the Wolfpack scored those 90 points on just 73 possessions. The bottom-line is this: That’s not good enough, not when N.C. State is hardly a contender for the Final Four, let alone a national title challenger.

2. Kevin Keatts is making the most of the talent Mark Gottfried squandered: I’m not sure quite how good the Wolfpack actually are. I don’t think it’s possible to tell this early, even after a win over a team like Arizona. But what is undeniable is the simple fact that this N.C. State team plays are and with most passion and intensity than any Mark Gottfried team did.

They look like they are trying. They look like they care. And frankly, that often matters more than the simple stock-piling of talent. There’s no way anyone could look at this N.C. State roster and think that it has more talent on it than, say, a team with Dennis Smith Jr. or a team with T.J. Warren. The Wolfpack may not have a future lottery pick on this roster. But they do have guys that play their tails off, that play as if they have a point to prove and that play as if they are being coached.

It makes you wonder what could have been had Keatts been in Raleigh last season.

3. Braxton Beverly getting ruled eligible is going to be a big deal for N.C. State: Earlier this fall, Braxton Beverly was one of the biggest stories in college basketball, believe it or not. He had transferred to N.C. State from Ohio State after enrolling in summer courses prior to Thad Matta’s firing. He was ruled ineligible for this season with the Wolfpack, and it turned into the cause celebre for college basketball media members looking to circle the wagons and bash the NCAA.

It took longer than it should have, but Beverly was eventually cleared by the NCAA. He’s eligible to play this season, and he just so happens to be the point guy on the N.C. State press and one of their best shooters. He put up 20 points on the No. 2 team in America. I think he’s going to be relevant this season.

4. Arizona’s point guard issues rose to the forefront: When the Wildcats made their push in the second half, they did it on the strength of hustle plays and transition buckets. Jumping passing lanes and going coast-to-coast. Beating N.C. State’s press and getting a layup. Points that came off of offensive rebounds. Where they struggled was with their half court execution. The question with this team entering the season was with the point guard play. Was Parker Jackson-Cartwright going to be good enough to carry this team to a title? I’m not sure we can truly say we got on answer on Wednesday – N.C. State’s pressure, which was ratcheted up by the fact that Arizona couldn’t get a stop, played more of a role than anything – but Jackson-Cartwright certainly did not put in the kind of performance that would make Arizona fans feel comfortable.