It’s getting darker earlier, temperatures are dropping, and PBR cans are moving back in to the college campuses they left just months ago.
Can you smell it?
No, I’m not talking about college football, who cares about that? Especially when college basketball is just around the corner!
So this corner might be a little bit longer than the ones you’re accustomed to turning, and maybe more people care about college hoops’ pigskin pigmented cousin than I gave credit for, but the 2014-15 college basketball season promises to be as exciting as any season in recent memory, for a plethora of reasons.
One of the main things I’m excited for is the return of sophomore players who didn’t get to fully prove themselves in their first season. Whether it was because they were fighting for minutes, not quite ready to contribute, or figuring out what role they best fit, there were a number of highly touted freshmen last season who displayed enough to leave us very excited to see what they’re capable of in larger roles.
In my first entry of this two part series, I focused on five sophomore guards (next week will be forwards and centers) who I think are primed to breakout this upcoming season. Just to be clear, I left guys like Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Isaiah Taylor, and Marcus Foster off of my list because I feel that they’ve already broken out.
Kasey Hill, Florida, PG
5.5 ppg 3.1 apg 1.6 TPG
Assuming the position of floor general in Gainesville this upcoming season will be Kasey Hill, who came to Billy Donovan and Florida last season as the number 10 recruit in the country. The biggest thing working against the 6-foot-1 point is that he’s filling Scottie Wilbekin’s shoes, and taking over on-court coaching duties for a team that on average has won 30 games per season over the last four years will lead to mighty high expectations. With that said, Hill looked every bit the part of a good facilitator last season, averaging a higher assist percentage than Wilbekin, while playing hard-nosed defense and grinding out important minutes for a team that played in a lot of big games. I don’t know that Hill will blow anyone away with his scoring next season, but he should unquestionably be the leader of a Florida team that should still make a push for the postseason.
Terry Rozier, PG/SG, Louisville
7.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 37% 3FG
Few players in college basketball have been as heralded this summer as Louisville guard Terry Rozier, which is great because Rick Pitino’s going to need at least one of his guards to step up big time this year in the absence of Russ Smith. Much like Kasey Hill, Rozier has awfully big shoes to fill, but having reportedly added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, and with the potential to possibly double his minutes from his freshman season (18.9), there’s a good chance he comes through for the Cardinals. Already an astute defender, especially in Pitino’s press, Rozier struggled to find rhythm shooting the ball last season, but showed the ability to convert from distance, hitting 37-percent of his three’s. However, with more minutes will come more steady opportunity to score, and despite shooting 40-percent from the field last season, Rozier proved that he can be an efficient scorer, shooting 55-percent (48-88 in 10 games) in games that he scored double figures.
Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas (ESPN 14 in 2013 class)
9.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.5 APG
It was hard to be a freshman at Kansas last season if your name wasn’t Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. Well, kinda. Coming into Lawrence as the 14-ranked prospect in the 2013 high school class, expectations were high for the 6-foot-5 Wayne Selden Jr., and while a nagging left knee injury may have limited him last season, the excuses have run dry for the do-it-all combo guard. Sure, Bill Self has another very talented freshman class coming in this season, with a couple of players who could even overshadow Selden, but Self’s comments about a point guard by committee with Selden’s abilities to play both as a facilitator and off the ball could really help him elevate his game this season. Selden seems very focused and confident heading into the season, which is a great sign for one of this young team’s leaders.
Nigel Williams-Goss, SG, Washington (ESPN 19 in 2013 class)
13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.4 APG
Huskies’ guard Nigel Williams-Goss almost didn’t make this list because he had too good of a freshman season, but the way non UCLA/Arizona Pac-12 teams get slept on, I wanted to make sure you were all given fair warning about this stud. Williams-Goss lived up to his top-20 (19 according to ESPN’s Class of 2013) prospect billing by averaging 13.4 points, 4.4 assists, and 4.4 rebounds as a freshman, and was apparently a superstar at this Summer’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp, where he competed with several of the nation’s top floor generals including North Carolina’s Marcus Paige and Wichita State’s Fred VanVleet. Williams-Goss has his eyes set on helping Washington make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, and as a versatile scorer who just so happens to play with a pass-first mindset, I don’t think we should count him or his Huskies out this season.
Deonte Burton, SG, Marquette
6.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.5 APG
Marquette guard Deonte Burton is a rare college shooting guard in that while he can no doubt stroke it from the perimeter, he might be at his best as a bruiser playing near the basket on the offensive end. In just 12.6 minutes per game as a freshman, Burton managed to average 6.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game, which translates to a 22.1/6.9 line over 40 minutes. And while I’m not saying he’s the next DeJuan Blair by any stretch – sorry, maybe Marquette fans prefer Jae Crowder – I think that with more minutes, which he’s a lock for this year with Davante Gardner and now Todd Mayo both gone from the program, he’ll be able to put up some big numbers and prove himself as a big time player for the Golden Eagles.