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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.

No. 19 Wichita State upends No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (AP) — Dave Stallworth was running the show the last time Wichita State beat a Top 5 team on the road. Landry Shamet took the lead as the Shockers did it again 54 years later.

This one, too, will be a reference point, given all that was at stake.

Shamet scored 19 points, and No. 19 Wichita State ended the nation’s longest home-court winning streak, beating No. 5 Cincinnati 76-72 on Sunday to leave the American Athletic Conference race wide open.

The Shockers (21-5, 11-3) beat a Top 5 team on the road for the first time since 1964. They led most of the way, building an 11-point lead midway through the second half and holding on. Shaquille Morris’ dunk with 5 seconds left finished it off.

The Shockers ran onto the floor for congratulatory chest bumps. Coach Gregg Marshall got a celebratory dunking in the locker room, leaving his light-colored shirt clinging to him.

“It’s tremendous,” Marshall said. “Look at my shirt. College basketball has such tremendous parity. The games are decided by great players making great plays. Landry is a tremendous player.”

The Bearcats (23-4, 12-2) had won their last 39 home games. In their first real home challenge of the season, they wound up playing catch-up and coming up short. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten a ranked team all season, falling to 0-3 with losses to Xavier and Florida.

Cincinnati and Wichita State were expected to contend for the title in the Shockers’ first season in the AAC. Wichita State gave itself a chance with a solid all-around game led by its point guard. Shamet had 16 points in the first half, when the Shockers shredded the nation’s second-ranked defense to take control.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was bothered by his team’s “gross, mind-boggling defensive breakdowns,” including allowing the Shockers to get open for those two late layups. Wichita State shot 53 percent from the field, getting open 3-pointers in the first half and layups in the second half.

“We’re just not in a good place right now,” Cronin said. “I hadn’t slept much. We’re not in a good place for a lot of reasons.”

Wichita State closes the regular season by hosting Cincinnati on March 4. Houston (21-5, 11-3) also is in the running for the league title after beating Temple on Sunday.

The Shockers hit seven of eight shots during a 17-3 run that gave them a 34-23 lead. Cincinnati responded by turning up its full-court defense, forcing three quick turnovers, and going on a run that cut the deficit to 42-40 at halftime.

The Shockers showed a little defense of their own, forcing five turnovers while rebuilding their lead to 59-48 with 11 minutes left, matching its biggest of the game. Cincinnati closed to 72-70 on Trevon Scott’s dunk with 13 seconds left, but the Shockers scored on a pair of inbound passes by Landry, the last a full-court heave to Morris for a dunk that provided the final margin.

“This is what we do,” said Austin Reaves, who made the first of the two decisive layups. “We stick together on the road.”

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers needed a win to maintain their chances of a regular season title, and they got it with another good showing on the road. The Shockers are the most successful road team in the nation over the past five years at 47-8, including 7-2 this season.

“This is like our 50th red-out or white-out or black-out,” Marshall said. “We feel comfortable when that happens.”

Cincinnati: The Bearcats moved into the Top 5 even though they hadn’t beaten a ranked team all season. Losses at Houston and at home to Wichita State left them prepared for a plummet.

“As it gets later in the season, every team is better,” said Jacob Evans III, who had 16 points. “It’s not the beginning of conference or the season. Every team knows us well. We’ve got to be able to go to second options when they take away the first ones.”

NO LONGER A SWEET HOME

The Bearcats hadn’t lost at home since a 77-70 defeat against Temple on Dec. 29, 2015. They went 18-0 at Fifth Third Arena last season and were 13-0 at Northern Kentucky’s BB&T Arena, where they’re playing this season while their on-campus arena is renovated.

LONG TIME NO SEE

The Shockers and Bearcats played regularly as members of the Missouri Valley Conference from 1958-70, but it was their first game since 1981.

TOP 5 HISTORY

It was only the fourth time the Shockers have beaten a Top 5 team on the road. They beat No. 5 Oklahoma A&M in 1954 and topped No. 3 Loyola in 1963 and again in 1964 behind Stallworth.

TOUGH WEEKEND IN CINCY

Cincinnati had two teams in the Top 5, and both of them lost at home over the weekend. No. 4 Xavier lost to No. 3 Villanova 95-79 on Saturday at Cintas Center.cincinnati

Andy Kennedy resigns from Ole Miss effective immediately

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Andy Kennedy announced that, effective immediately, he will be stepping down as the head coach at Ole Miss. Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The reason is simple: Kennedy wanted to “relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players” and he did not believe that last week’s announcement that this would be his final season in Oxford accomplished that.

“It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Yherefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that “clean breaks” are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”

On Saturday, Ole Miss lost by 17 points at Mississippi State. That came two days after Kennedy went viral for a brutally honest criticism of what his team was going through.

“I can’t get to them,” he said. “I can’t reach them.”

It’s sad that this is the way that it had to end for the best basketball coach that Ole Miss has ever had. But it had to be done.

No. 12 Duke beats No. 11 Clemson as defensive resurgence continues

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Grayson Allen finished with 19 points, four assists and four steals, scoring 17 of his points in the first half, and Wendell Carter added 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks as No. 12 Duke won their fourth straight game without Marvin Bagley III, 66-57.

No. 11 Clemson was short-handed as well, and that’s something that needs to be noted. Not only are they playing without Donte Grantham, who tore his ACL earlier this year, but Shelton Mitchell was not in the lineup after suffering a nasty concussion at Florida State on Wednesday.

The Tigers were a No. 3 seed when the bracket reveal occurred last Sunday, but like Ohio State and Oklahoma, they have now lost back-to-back games; 11 of the top 16 teams have lost a game in the last week.

But the story here more than anything is Duke.

Yes, Allen finished with 19 points and continues to play well without Bagley on the floor. Getting him into a rhythm is critically important for this team. He was averaging 14.7 points in 24 games with Bagley. He is averaging 22.3 points in the last three games that Bagley has missed, and that does not include the 37-point outburst he had when Bagley went down with an injury against Michigan State.

Coach K also has had a chance to develop some confidence in his bench. Javin DeLaurier had 10 boards on Sunday. Marques Bolden didn’t play a done of minutes, but he still finished with five points, three boards and a pair of blocks. He was, generally speaking, a positive influence on the game.

But here is the most important and perplexing nugget: Duke, for the third straight game, was excellent defensively. They’ve now allowed fewer than 1.0 points-per-possession in each of the last three games. They are clearly not the same time offensively without Bagley’s presence on the floor, but it is impossible to ignore what they have been defensively in the last 10 days without him.

To put it into context: For all the talk about how much of a problem Duke’s defense has been, the Blue Devils are now ranked 43rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. They were 79th after they lost to North Carolina, the last game that Bagley played. Villanova, who many believe is the best team in the country when healthy, is 42nd.

The question we need to ask is whether or not that will continue once Bagley makes his return.

Because the only thing standing between Duke and a Final Four is their inability to defend.

No. 8 Ohio State falls at No. 22 Michigan, Michigan State moves into first in Big Ten

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After all of the drama and the speculation about whether or not Ohio State or Purdue was the best team in the Big Ten, water has seemingly found its level.

On Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor, No. 8 Ohio State lost their second straight game, falling 74-62 at No. 22 Michigan and allowing No. 2 Michigan State — who had one of college basketball’s greatest comebacks on Saturday at Northwestern — to slide into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with just one week left of the regular season.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 17 points while Jordan Poole added 15 off the bench in the win.

The Wolverines did a good job of slowing down Ohio State’s all-american forward, Keita Bates-Diop. KBD finished with 17 points and seven boards, but he shot just 5-for-17 from the floor. Jae-Sean Tate led the way with 20 points and 15 boards for the Buckeyes.

There was a special moment before this game even started as Austin Hatch, a two-time survivor of plane crashes that killed his entire immediate family, took part in the team’s Senior Day.

VIDEO: Michigan celebrates plane crash survivor Austin Hatch’s Senior Day

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If you don’t know the story of Michigan senior Austin Hatch, you should.

He’s survived two plane crashes in his life. The first, in 2003, robbed him of his mother, 11-year old sister and five-year old brother. In 2011, to celebrate his commitment to the Wolverines, Hatch’s father flew them up to the family’s vacation home, but the plane crashed into a garage killing Hatch’s dad and his stepmom and leaving Austin critically injured.

He had a severe brain trauma, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken collarbone, and in order to manage the swelling in his brain, he was put into a medically-induced coma for eight months.

He managed to return and even played for the Wolverines during the 2014-15 season, but he eventually made the decision to retire from basketball at the end of the year. He did, however, remain a part of the program and on Sunday, during Michigan’s Senior Day, he warmed up with the team and was introduced to the crowd as a starter and no, I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying: