Which lesser-known players are primed to break out? Check out our list below as we identify 20 under-the-radar breakout players heading into the 2017-18 CBB season. In no particular order …
Khalil Iverson, Wisconsin: With four new starting spots open following four key departures, Greg Gard needs fresh blood to emerge for the Badgers and Iverson fits the bill. The burly wing averaged 7.9 points last season in the games where he logged 20 or more minutes and appears primed to emerge as a starter for Wisconsin this season.
Tyrique Jones, Xavier: A walking Adonis, Jones averaged 7.0 rebounds in the three games last season where he logged over 20 minutes. Chiseled at 6-foot-9 and now a year older and more mature, this New England native should pick up some of the slack on the boards that was left behind following RaShid Gaston’s departure.
Isaiah Moss, Iowa: Fran McCaffery needs a wing to emerge in his starting lineup following the loss of Peter Jok and Moss could wind up being that guy. The 6-5 wing averaged 6.5 points as a freshman and had four games last season where he made three or more 3-point shots.
Joe Toye, Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew quietly returns several proud veterans from last year’s team that lost to Northwestern in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and Toye is part of that group. The 6-7 wing averaged 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 21.1 minutes last season and should be able to expand those numbers next season. Toye has made incremental progress throughout his collegiate career and that will likely happen again in 17-18.
Stan Robinson, Rhode Island: A former top-100 recruit, Robinson has the inside track to be Dan Hurley’s “small ball” power forward next season. The former Indiana guard can defend multiple positions at 6-4 and averaged 9.8 points last season in games where he played 20 minutes or more. Another thing to remember about Robinson? He was arguably Rhode Island’s best player when it lost to Oregon in the Round of 32, scoring 22 points on 12 shots.
Damion Moore, Temple: Mississippi native logged double-figure minutes in four of the Owls’ last eight games as a freshman and should be ready for a bigger piece of the pie as a sophomore. The 6-11, 225-pound center has good size and also understands what he can and can’t do on the basketball court. For a cagey veteran like Fran Dunphy, that goes a long way.
Solomon Young, Iowa State: Steve Prohm needs people to emerge following the loss of his top four scorers and Young will likely be one of those people. The 6-8 big man showed flashes last season in spot minutes off the bench and tallied 18 points and 12 rebounds in a game at Kansas State in February. The Cyclones need him to be a regular factor if they’re going to surprise people next season in the Big 12.
Tariq Owens, St. John’s: A human pogo stick, the 6-11 Owens had 10 games with four or more blocks last season and emerged as one of the top rim protectors in the Big East. Now a fourth-year junior, Owens will never sport the look of a bruiser, but has the length and bounce to eventually be an all-conference caliber frontcourt player. After totaling 5.2 points and 5.2 rebounds last season, the former Tennessee Volunteers player could flirt with being a “nine-and-nine” guy if he can stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble.
Josh Cunningham, Dayton: Anthony Grant inherits a team that lost four of its top five scorers, but he also inherits Cunningham. The transfer from Bradley has double-double potential and would have been one of the top frontcourt players in the Atlantic 10 last season if he was healthy. It says here he should live up to his billing next year and be an anchor for the Flyers to lean on as they transition from Miller to Grant.
Aaron Falzon, Northwestern: The forgotten piece in the Wildcats program didn’t play during Northwestern’s most successful season in school history, but he’ll be a national name as Chris Collins attempts to coach in his second straight NCAA Tournament. The 6-8 sharpshooter made 63 3-point shots two years ago as a freshman and even though Falzon didn’t play last year, he’ll be a key piece as Collins hopes to stretch things out from the 4 spot.
Leron Black, Illinois: Black showed more offense last season (8.1 points) than he did during his first two years in Champaign, and Brad Underwood should help him augment that area of the floor even more. An offensive-minded coach who’s always trying to identify new ways to score, look for Underwood to attempt to use Black in different ways as he aims to be a double-figure scorer with regularity in 2017-18.
Lamont West, West Virginia: Bob Huggins loses over 10.0 rebounds from his lineup following the losses of Nathan Adrian and Elijah Macon, which means West will have ample opportunity to eat glass as a sophomore. The 6-8 sophomore had 15 points in 15 minutes during last March’s NCAA Tournament victory over Bucknell and earned raved reviews during the offseason from many in Morgantown. If West can learn to rebound the way Huggins wants him to, he’ll be an All-Big 12-caliber player.
Schadrac Casimir, Iona: The 5-10 guard averaged 14.5 points and made 94 3-point shots during the 2014-15 season, but hasn’t regained the same form over the past two years due to a lingering groin injury. That should change next season. Finally healthy, Casimir is ready to again take his place among the best guards in the MAAC as he aims to lead Tim Cluess’ program to its fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last eight years.
Brandon Walters, Middle Tennessee: How will Kermit Davis replace Jacorey Williams? This guy is a good bet. Walters averaged 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Blue Raiders in two NCAA Tournament games and has a chance to be Middle Tennessee’s primary post option next season.
Donta Hall, Alabama: Most of the interior chatter regarding the Crimson Tide entering the upcoming year may focus on Ohio State transfer Daniel Giddens from the periphery, but those inside Alabama’s program absolutely love Hall. The 6-9 big man averaged 6.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks last season as a sophomore and could log close to a double-double as a junior. This is one piece of the Crimson Tide’s revival that has somewhat been swept under the rug — until now.
Justin Bassey, Harvard: Bassey didn’t get the same attention as other members of Harvard’s star-studded recruiting class, but he showed more than a few flashes as a freshman. The 6-5 wing had 13 points in a late season loss at Princeton and figures to be a major contributor as a sophomore. This kid isn’t getting the same amount of ink as Bryce Aiken, Seth Towns or Chris Lewis, but there’s a strong chance that Bassey winds up as a starter in 2017-18 for the favorite to win the Ivy League.
Elijah Thomas, Clemson: With Sidy Djitte no longer cemented in the pivot, Thomas should blossom for the Tigers next season. A former top-50 recruit coming out of high school, the 6-9 Thomas has deceptive skill level for someone his size and could develop into an All-ACC-caliber performer. Expect a big year for Thomas under Brad Brownell.
Norense Odiase, Texas Tech: Injuries have stunted Odiase’s growth in each of the past two seasons, but if he’s healthy, then Chris Beard has a real force on the interior. After redshirting last season, this 6-9 big man is ready to give the Red Raiders another presence in the paint to go with Zach Smith and DePaul transfer Tommy Hamilton. Odiase averaged 8.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 18.5 minutes two years ago when Texas Tech reached the NCAA Tournament under Tubby Smith.
Ronnie Harrell, Creighton: With Cole Huff no longer cemented at power forward, Harrell’s time is now to make a major impact. A former top-100 recruit, the 6-7 Harrell needs to live up to the billing he showed prior to arriving in Omaha. After only making a combined 13 3-point shots during his first two years of college basketball, Harrell needs to stretch the floor from the 4 spot if the Bluejays are going to have a chance to make a run at the top half of the Big East standings.
Jair Bolden, George Washington: The Colonials will have several new faces next season after losing three of their top four scorers, but Bolden is back and that should be a great thing for Maurice Joseph. George Washington’s newly minted head coach needs a perimeter player to emerge alongside Yuta Watanabe and Bolden is likely to be the guy. After averaging 4.8 points as a freshman, this shifty guard should double that total as a sophomore.
Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.