Looking Forward: Who will be the Breakout Stars of the 2016-17 season?

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs. 

In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players headed for a breakout year.

Donovan Mitchell, Louisville: Mitchell is a guy that I loved coming out of high school and that showed some serious promise late in his freshman season, including a 17 point outburst at Duke. He averaged just a relatively inefficiency 7.4 points last season, but he is a strong, athletic combo-guard that is an ideal fit for the system that Rick Pitino runs on both ends of the floor. We have Louisville as a preseason top ten team, and one of the biggest reasons for that is that we expect Mitchell to become a borderline first-team All-ACC caliber player.

Tyler Lydon, Syracuse: I think Lydon, who averaged 10.1 points as a freshman, is one of the most enticing prospects in college basketball this season. He’s a 6-foot-9 forward with a 7-foot wingspan and the ability to both protect the rim (1.8 bpg) and hit threes (40.1% 3PT), which makes him a pretty snug fit in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. The issue with Lydon is that he’s still a bit of a tweener: He’s not quick enough or skilled enough to be a three but he weighs 200 pounds soaking wet and can’t handle the physicality of the paint in the ACC just yet. As he gets stronger, he’ll only become more intriguing as a prospect, as bigs with the ability to protect the rim and stretch the floor become more and more in demand.

JaQuan Newton, Miami: Newtown spent his first two seasons in Coral Gables playing behind Angel Rodriguez and Shelden McClellan, which is part of the reason that his numbers weren’t really all that impressive (10.5 ppg, 2.8 apg). That doesn’t change the fact that his skill-set as a point guard is exactly what Jim Larrañaga looks for. He’s a scorer and a playmaker that thrives in high-ball screen actions, and while he’s more of a slasher than either Rodriguez or Shane Larkin, he will get plenty of chances for the ‘Canes next season.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Nigel Hayes was Wisconsin’s leading scorer and Bronson Koenig was the guy that hit the biggest shots in the biggest moments, but there were many times last season where Happ was actually Wisconsin’s best player. Throw in the fact that he’s the kind of skilled big man that the Badgers have had so much success with over the years, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see him build on the 12.4 points and 7.9 boards he averaged as a redshirt freshman last season.

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Indiana's OG Anunoby (3) dunks in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Michigan in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Michigan won 72-69. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Indiana’s OG Anunoby (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby, Indiana: Bryant is the obvious pick here. He’s a star freshman and potential lottery pick that played well down the stretch and is returning to school. Anunoby, however, is the guy that could end up being the best all-around player on the Hoosiers next season. He averaged just 5.8 points this past season, but there are reasons for that: he got limited minutes before James Blackmon’s injury and his role is similar to that of Troy Williams. He is a versatile, athletic forward that can guard multiple positions and isn’t as much of a liability offensively as he’s been made out to be. If he can build of the strong finish he had to the 2015-16 season, Anunoby could follow a similar career-arc to that of Victor Oladipo: Unheralded recruit-turned-first round pick.

Markis McDuffie, Wichita State: With the Shockers losing Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker to graduation after what felt like a 17-year career in Wichita, Gregg Marshall is going to have to find someone to replace that production. McDuffie should end up being that guy. He averaged 7.4 points in 18 minutes as a freshman, but as a 6-foot-8 wing with three-point range, he was still more of a prospect than a player last year. The Shockers are going to inevitably take a step back this season — which says more about how good they were with VanVleet and Baker than anything else — but don’t be surprised when McDuffie keeps them atop the Missouri Valley and within range of an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

London Perrantes, Virginia: The rest of the guys that write for this site disagreed with me on Perrantes. They said he’s already too good to be considered for this list; he averaged 11.0 points and 4.4 assists while shooting 48.8 percent from three on a team that’s been top five in the country the last two seasons. But here’s my thinking: Perrantes has never been the stars of the Wahoos. He’ll be a four-year starter, but Joe Harris, Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill have been the big names. Perrantes, however, has a proven track record of hitting big shots and he can do many of the things on the offensive end that Brogdon did this past season, which is why this is the year that Perrantes goes from a name we know to a star on an Final Four contender.

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Edmund Sumner and Kaiser Gates, Xavier: Sumner was one of the most tantalizing freshmen in the country last season, a 6-foot-6 point guard that flashed serious ability in-between freshman mistakes. He could end up being a first round pick in 2017. Gates may be the more important player here, however. With Jalen Reynolds and James Farr gone and Trevon Bluiett still weighing his professional options, Gates becomes a valuable front court piece. His improvement will correlate with how good Xavier ends up being next season.

Jalen Adams, UConn: It took some time, but Adams eventually started to resemble the kind of ball-dominant lead guards — Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier — that the Huskies have won big with in recent years. With Sterling Gibbs and Daniel Hamilton out of the picture, Adams is going to be the guy running the show for the Huskies. My only concern here: This may end up being a year premature.

Tyler Davis, Texas A&M: Davis is a throwback big man — a physical low-post presence that has no qualms with doing his damage three-feet from the rim. He showed flashes as a freshman, but with Danuel House and Alex Caruso graduating, expect to see Billy Kennedy run more of his offense through Davis this season.

Eric Davis Jr. and Kerwin Roach Jr., Texas: As freshman, Davis and Roach both showed flashes of being the kind of super-athletic, three-point marksmen that had success playing the wing for Shaka Smart at VCU. With Isaiah Taylor off to the professional ranks and UT’s dearth of bigs graduating, these two will be asked to play a major role for the Longhorns.

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Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) goes after a rebound against North Carolina A&T during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, in West Lafayette, Ind. Purdue won 81-40. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Purdue center Isaac Haas (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

Isaac Haas, Purdue: Haas was super-productive and efficient while splitting time with A.J. Hammons at the center spot last season. With Hammons gone, don’t be surprised to see Haas become the guy that Purdue’s offense runs through next season. At 7-foot-2 with good feet, a soft touch and an understanding for post-positioning, he’s a nightmare to deal with.

George King, Colorado: In reality, we’re a year too late with King. He averaged 13.6 points and shot 45.6 percent from the floor last season. But with Josh Scott gone, King will play an even bigger role offensively. He may end up being a first-team All-Pac-12 player.

Chimezie Metu, USC: At 6-foot-11, Metu is the kind of athlete that should thrive in Andy Enfield’s uptempo system. He averaged 6.4 points and 3.6 boards in 18 minutes as a freshman, but with a year’s worth of time spent in a college weight room, Metu should be able to handle the rigors of the post in the Pac-12 better this year.

Shake Milton, SMU: Milton averaged 10.5 points and shot 42.6 percent from three as a freshman last season for the Mustangs. With Nic Moore and a slew of talented bigs departing the program, Milton is going to be one of the guys that Larry Brown asks to carry the water for his team.

Jacob Evans, Cincinnati: Evans averaged 8.4 points as a freshman and played his best game — 26 points, nine boards — in their NCAA tournament loss to Saint Joseph’s. With Cincy losing some pieces up front, Evans will have an even bigger role next season.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan St snaps 2-game skid

michigan state basketball
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats BC 73-58

virginia tech basketball
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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.


At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.


Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.

Miles Kelly leads Georgia Tech to 79-77 win over rival Georgia

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 02 Northeastern at Georgia Tech
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ATLANTA – Georgia Tech’s Miles Kelly hit another winning shot against a state rival.

Terry Roberts endured a nightmarish final minute for Georgia.

Kelly hit a long 3-pointer and then a drove for the game-winning floater with 23 seconds remaining as the Yellow Jackets rallied to beat Georgia 79-77 on Tuesday night.

Kelly hit the winning shot in similar fashion against Georgia State on Nov. 12. He did it again to beat the Bulldogs, finishing with a team-high 17 points after failing to score in the first half.

“I’m going to continue to keep shooting, no matter how many times I miss,” Kelly said.

Roberts missed a 3-pointer, turned the ball over twice with bad passes, and was called for an offensive foul as he was trying to drive for the basket that would’ve sent the game to overtime.

“A tough finish for us,” Georgia first-year coach Mike White said. “We were in position to steal one on the road.”

A pair of second-chance buckets seemingly put Georgia (7-3) in control with a 77-73 lead.

The Bulldogs wouldn’t score again as Kelly led the comeback for the Yellow Jackets (6-3) – with a big assist from Roberts.

He had a chance to essentially seal it for the Bulldogs, but his jumper beyond the arc clanked off the rim.

Georgia Tech grabbed the rebound and raced down the court, where Kelly swished a 3 from well behind the stripe that brought Georgia Tech within a point with about a minute left.

Trying to work the ball inside, Roberts made an ill-advised entry pass that was deflected and stolen by Deivon Smith, setting up Kelly’s drive for the basket that put the Yellow Jackets back ahead,

Roberts tried a drive of his own, only to have it blocked by Jalon Moore. Georgia retained possession, but Roberts’ inbounds pass was stolen by Moore, who was fouled and made one of two free throws.

Roberts took the ball again and hurriedly dribbled toward the basket, only to be called for an offensive foul when he sent Smith flying.

“Just sacrificing my body for the team,” Smith said.

Georgia stole an inbounds pass around midcourt, giving Karlo Oquendo one last shot to launch a 3 that still would’ve won it for the Bulldogs. It bounced off the rim.

The game was tight throughout. Neither team led by more than eight, and a sequence in the second half showed just how tightly these rivals were matched.

With both squads playing at a frenetic pace and showing little regard for defense, the lead changed hands on eight straight possessions as the teams traded baskets.

Stunningly, they combined to score on 19 straight possessions before Georgia’s Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe missed a pair of free throws with 5:17 remaining.


Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came when Georgia Tech football coach Brent Key addressed the crowd at halftime.

Key, who served as interim coach for the last eight games of the season, was introduced Monday as the full-time choice for job.

He fired up the fans by getting them to chant “To hell with Georgia” over and over again. When a smattering of Bulldogs fans responded with barks, Key smiled and egged on the Yellow Jackets crowd to drown them out.

He also declared Georgia Tech to be the “greatest school in the entire state, the entire country,” following up his vow the previous day to not back down from the defending national champion and top-ranked Bulldogs.


Georgia: This will be a tough one to swallow for Roberts, who led his team with 16 points and seven assists. The Bulldogs lost despite shooting 53.4% from the field.

Georgia Tech: Four players scored in double figures, and two others players finished with eight points. But it was Kelly, as usual, who had the ball in his hands at the end of a tight game.


Georgia: After a nearly two-week break, the Bulldogs return to Atlanta on Dec. 18 to face Notre Dame at State Farm Arena in the Holiday Hoopsgiving event.

Georgia Tech: Head to North Carolina on Saturday for the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the struggling Tar Heels.

No. 17 Illinois rallies late, beats No. 2 Texas 85-78 in OT

Illinois v Maryland
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NEW YORK – Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 12 of his 16 points in overtime, including the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3:34 remaining, and No. 17 Illinois rallied to hand second-ranked Texas its first loss of the season, 85-78 on Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

Jayden Epps added 11 points, including the final five points of regulation – a 3-pointer with 35 seconds left and two tying free throws with 8 seconds remaining. Epps then blocked Marcus Carr’s jumper in the lane just before the buzzer to force overtime in an entertaining showdown at Madison Square Garden.

Matthew Mayer, who faced Texas several times at Baylor, tied a career high with 21 points as he made his first seven shots and finished 8 of 10.

Shannon, who missed eight of nine shots in regulation, took over in the extra period to help Illinois (7-2) beat a ranked foe for the second time this season. He opened overtime with a jumper after Marcus Carr was called for traveling and then hit an open 3 from the right wing over Brock Cunningham for a 73-70 lead.

Shannon then converted a reverse layup and finished off a three-point play to make it 77-70 with 2:16 left. Carr hit two free throws to get Texas within one with 1:28 remaining. Jayden Epps hit a layup, RJ Melendez sank two free throws to put Illinois ahead by five, and Shannon made two free throws with 27.7 seconds left.

Timmy Allen scored a season-high 21 points for Texas (6-1), which failed to open 7-0 for the first time since 2014-15. Tyrese Hunter added 10 points but Carr was held to nine points on 3-of-14 shooting as Texas had 12 shots blocked and shot 42%.

Texas took its only double-digit lead when Dillon Mitchell hit a layup with 8:28 left. Illinois cut the lead to 58-56 on a 3 by Melendez nearly four minutes later. After Cunningham hit an open 3 with 4:15 remaining, Si’Jabari Rice made a 3 for a 64-58 lead.

Allen found Cunningham for an open jumper that counted when officials called goaltending on Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins. That gave Texas a 65-61 lead with with 1:51 remaining.

Carr’s rainbow jumper in the lane made it 68-63 with a minute left and Illinois had a 3-pointer by Melendez waved off because it called timeout with 45.3 seconds left. After the timeout, Epps made an open corner 3 with 33 seconds remaining.

Hunter missed the front end of a 1-and-1 to set up Epps’ tying free throws.


Illinois: The Illini continued to struggle with turnovers, committing 17. But only two of them came in the final 10-plus minutes of regulation or overtime. Illinois’ 15th turnover was an offensive foul by Mayer, which sent him to the bench with four fouls with 10:42 remaining.

Texas: The Longhorns had little offense beyond Allen and Hunter. While the duo was a combined 13 of 29, the rest of the team missed 24 of 40 shots.


Illinois hosts Penn State in its second Big Ten game on Saturday. The Illini lost their conference opener to No. 13 Maryland.

Texas hosts Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the Jimmy Blacklock Classic on Saturday.