College Basketball’s Breakout Stars

Associated Press
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Here are fifteen players poised to have major breakout years in college basketball in 2015-16: 

Grayson Allen, Duke

The easiest pick ever. Allen was a McDonald’s All-American that was on the wrong side of a playing time crunch, got his chance late in the season and capitalized, lighting Wake Forest up for 27 points before playing his way into the conversation as a potential early-entry candidate with his performance in the Final Four. The only thing that concerns me about this pick is that the Blue Devils have been experimenting with Allen at the point, which is not his natural position. He’s a team player, so he’ll do it no questions asked, but playing out of a position is a good way for a sophomore to see his production and efficiency capped.

Kam Williams, Ohio State

Williams is a bucket-getter, a big time scorer that has spent his first two seasons in Columbus redshirting and playing behind D’angelo Russell. In 15.7 minutes last season, the 6-foot-2 Baltimore native averaged 5.3 points. With Russell and Shannon Scott gone, Williams is a guy that could being the beneficiary of those extra possessions. He’ll be streaky at times, but when he gets going, watch out.

Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin

I’m not sure if Koenig technically qualifies for this list, as he kind of had his breakout season in the second half of last year. A junior, he took over the starting point guard role for the Badgers when Trae Jackson went down with injury and never looked back. This year, with all that the Badgers lost, Koenig will have a chance to be more of a focal point offensively. If Wisconsin is going to finish in the top four in the Big Ten — something they’ve done in each of Bo Ryan’s 14 seasons as head coach — this guy will be a big reason why.

Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

This pick may not seem to make sense given the fact that he may end up being the fourth option offensively on his team. But here’s the thing about Ulis: he’s a prototypical point guard, a throwback kind of dude that’s going to be way more important to Kentucky than his stats will suggest on both ends of the floor. I think the public at large, and not just Big Blue Nation, will see that this season.

Dillon Brooks, Oregon

Brooks was a revelation as a freshman, enrolling in college a year early to become one of the better newcomers in the Pac-12. He averaged 11.6 points, numbers that will go up this season with leading scorer Joseph Young graduating and Dylan Ennis and Jordan Bell out with foot injuries. I think Brooks has a chance to be a first-team all-Pac 12 player this season.

Josh Hart, Villanova

Hart is the typical power wing that Jay Wright has been so successsful with over the years. He’s a better scorer than he gets credit for and is a terrific defender and offensive rebounder. Everyone is going to talk about Villanova’s guards — Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson — but Hart should end up being an all-Big East player this season and could end up their most valuable player.

Ben Bentil, Providence

Bentil was fantastic for the Friars for stretches late in the season. With LaDontae Henton and Carson Derosiers graduating and Paschal Chukwu transferring to Syracuse, there will plenty of opportunities available for Bentil, who will be the major beneficiary of Kris Dunn’s play making ability.

Malik Pope, San Diego State

Pope has worlds of potential. He’s a 6-foot-10 small forward that’s athletic and has three point range. It’s been a long time since he was completely healthy for an entire season, and as a result, his consistency has suffered. If Pope can managed to stay out of the trainer’s room for a full season, we could be looking at SDSU’s next lottery pick.

Patrick McCaw, UNLV

Everyone talks about Dave Rice’s ability to reel in five-star recruits from all over the country, but perhaps his best find in recent years has been McCaw, a 6-foot-5 guard that graduated from Montrose Christian. McCaw has impressed early this year after averaged 9.6 points and 2.7 assists as a freshman.

Patrick McCaw (AP Photo)
Patrick McCaw (AP Photo)

Jalen Reynolds, Xavier

Reynolds is an athletic, 6-foot-9 power forward that played behind Matt Stainbrook and averaged 9.9 points and 6.1 boards in right around 20 minutes last season. As Xavier’s go-to low-post option playing a more significant role this season, Reynolds should be in for an uptick in production.

Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt

Baldwin was arguably the most underrated freshman in the SEC last season, averaging 9.4 points, 4.4 assists and 4.1 boards for a Vanderbilt team that won eight of their last ten in the regular season. We expect the Commodores that be top 15-good this season, and if they do, a large part of it will be because of Baldwin’s improvement.

Abdul-Malik Abu, N.C. State

Abu is a prototype college four, a powerfully athletic, 6-foot-8 dunking machine that threw down his fair share of posters last season. As the rest of his game catches up to his athleticism, and with more playing time available to him this year, Abu could end up being the best big man on the Wolfpack and a borderline all-ACC player.

Isaac Copeland, Georgetown

Copeland has a ton of ability and is a perfect fit for what John Thompson III wants out of his fours — he can shoot, he can put the ball on the floor, he can cut to the rim. Copeland has a little bit of Hollis Thompson in his game. As a freshman, he put together some big time performances, although he was far too inconsistent. Don’t be surprised if Copeland is in the conversation for all-Big East by the time the season ends.

James Webb III, Boise State

Webb’s inclusion on this list isn’t because I think he’s going to greatly improve on the 11.6 points and 8.0 boards he averaged last think. He’s here because I think people are going to end up paying quite a bit more attention to him this year. He’s got a chance to be a first round pick come June.

Daniel Hamilton, UConn

Hamilton, a top 15 recruit in the Class of 2014, entered UConn with the reputation for being a gunner. Then the 6-foot-7 small forward went out and averaged 10.9 points, 7.6 boards and 3.7 assists as a freshman. He’s got a real shot at being the AAC Player of the Year this season.

AND HERE ARE SEVEN MORE TO KEEP IN MIND: 

  • Nate Mason, Minnesota: Mason emerged as the second-best guard in Minnesota’s back court last season, and with Dre Mathieu and Andre Hollins gone, he’ll be the guy running the show this year.
  • Vince Edwards, Purdue: If Edwards can become a more consistent perimeter shooter, he can make the Boilermakers a very dangerous team given the size in their front court. If not, he could lose some minutes to the guys that can better create space.
  • Konstantinos Mitoglou, Wake Forest: Mitoglou is a 6-foot-10 freshman that averaged 9.7 points and shot 38.5 percent from three in his first season in Winston-Salem. He’s a really nice asset for Danny Manning.
  • Brekkot Chapman, Utah: Chapman averaged 5.7 points and shot 44.2 percent from three in 15 minutes as a freshman for the Utes. His shooting ability at 6-foot-7 helps create the space that allows Utah to be effective in pick-and-roll actions.
  • Yante Maten, Georgia: Maten was quite productive in limited minutes as a freshman for the Bulldogs. With Georgia’s front line graduating and with a senior-laden, talented back court returning, Maten is going to play a major role in whether UGA can compete at the top of the SEC.
  • Reid Travis, Stanford: Travis, an undersized four, had a promising start to his freshman season that was interrupted as he battled injury. The Cardinal lose their top three scorers from last year, meaning he will have plenty of opportunities.
  • Jonathan Motley, Baylor: Motley was just a three-star recruit when he arrived in Waco, but the athletic, 6-foot-10 center had some truly dominating performances during the year. Motley, teaming with Rico Gathers and Taurean Prince, will give the Bears one of the nation’s best front lines.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.