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 2016-17 college basketball season. In no particular order…
Kyron Cartwright, Providence: Ed Cooley has been known for developing players during his time with the Friars and Cartwright looks to be next in line. With Kris Dunn and Junior Lomomba no longer a part of Providence’s back court, this 5-11 guard should be in position to have a massive junior season. Cartwright averaged 5.9 points last year, but don’t be shocked if he doubles that average in 16-17.
Marcus Sheffield, Stanford: Rosco Allen’s decision to leave school for the NBA leaves a scoring void for the Cardinal and opens the door for Sheffield. A 6-5 wing with tremendous versatility, this kid should emerge into a household Pac-12 name next season.
Mitchell Solomon, Oklahoma State: Brad Underwood has the personnel in place to have an overachieving first season in Stillwater, but he needs quality mileage out of Solomon in the post. The 6-9 big man averaged 3.7 points and 3.9 rebounds last season; if he doubles those numbers then the Cowboys should be right in play for an NCAA bid.
Galen Robinson, Houston: Pass-first point guard did yeoman’s work for the Cougars last season as a freshman and should be even better as a sophomore. With Ronnie Johnson no longer in Houston’s program, Robinson is now Kelvin Sampson’s sole focal point at the most important position on the floor.
Johnny Williams, VCU: 6-1 point guard altered the Rams’ fortunes last season when he entered VCU’s starting lineup and allowed JeQuan Lewis to slide off the ball. A self-professed workaholic, Williams has the chops to remind fans in Richmond of former Rams’ floor general Darius Theus in what will be his first full season as a starter.
Steve Enoch, UConn: Kevin Ollie needs a pure power forward when he wants a traditional piece next to Amida Brimah and that’s going to be Enoch. After averaging just 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds last year as a freshman, the 6-10, 245 pound four-man is line to do work in 16-17.
Dom Uhl, Iowa: There’s no time like the present for Uhl, a player that’s been labeled with great potential since the moment he stepped foot on the Hawkeyes’ campus. The 6-8 forward should get regular minutes as a starter following Jarrod Uthoff’s departure and is in prime position to expand on his production from last season (6.0 points, 3.6 rebounds).
Markis McDuffie, Wichita State: The Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker era is officially over, which means a new face has to emerge for the Shockers. A former top-50 recruit, McDuffie has all the requisites to become Wichita State’s main face after averaging 7.4 points last season as a freshman.
Levan Alston, Temple: With this team’s perimeter beyond depleted following injuries to two projected starters (Josh Brown, Trey Lowe), Fran Dunphy needs Alston to be both productive and consistent. A Philadelphia native, the man they call “Shizz” has to take a major step forward if the Owls are to have a chance to be competitive in the American Athletic Conference.
Chris Clarke, Virginia Tech: 6-6 forward is the perfect type of player for Buzz Williams and had a strong freshman season (8.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) despite missing 12 games mid-year due to injury. What’s in store for Clarke as a sophomore? A place among the top front court players in the ACC and a real chance to be a part of a team that reaches the NCAA Tournament.
Admon Gilder, Texas A&M: A former top-50 recruit, Gilder can play either guard spot and knows how to score the ball from all areas on the floor. With Anthony Collins and Alex Caruso no longer in the Aggies’ program, Gilder is in prime position to put his stamp on Texas A&M’s perimeter.
Zach Smith, Texas Tech: After being a capable role player on an NCAA team last season, Smith is ready to challenge for all-conference honors in 16-17. 6-8 and agile, this junior could very well emerge as the Red Raiders’ best all-around player during Chris Beard’s first season in Lubbock.
Zylan Cheatham, San Diego State: Like a Swiss army knife ready to handle multiple tasks, Cheatham affects the game in a plethora of ways. A strong athlete and capable rebounder, this 6-7 wing averaged 7.9 points and 5.4 rebounds last season in just 20.8 minutes. Expect Cheatham to be a major cog in the Aztecs’ attack moving forward.
Josh Reaves, Penn State: Good players always get better when they play with other good players and that’s exactly what’s going to happen with Reaves. The Nittany Lions welcomed the best recruiting class in school history to campus this fall headlined by top-50 point guard Tony Carr — a player who should regularly set the table for the 6-4 Reaves to finish in transition.
Matt Farrell, Notre Dame: New Jersey native played an average of 26.8 minutes during four NCAA Tournament games last March with an average of 6.5 points. Farrell has the poise, savvy, and steadiness that Mike Brey loves coaching and should have a bigger piece of the pie following Demetrius Jackson’s departure.
Horace Spencer, Auburn: Bruce Pearl’s squad needs a front court player to step forward next season and Spencer is the likeliest candidate. The 6-9 big man needs to be an “eight and eight” guy if Pearl is to accomplish his goal for 2017 — to have Auburn in some sort of postseason tournament.
Matisse Thybulle, Washington: 6-5 wing averaged 6.2 points and 3.2 rebounds in 24.1 minutes last season as a freshman all while gaining valuable experience as a starter. Lorenzo Romar rebuilt the Huskies’ program a year ago with a strong first-year class and it says here that Thybulle will make Washington’s biggest jump among its sophomores.
Malik Ellison, St. John’s: Everyone associated with the Red Storm program raved about Ellison’s progress over the summer and he should be in position to start as a sophomore. If Chris Mullin can get reliable minutes from Ellison then St. John’s will have a capable fourth guard to go with Marcus LoVett, Federico Mussini, and freshman Shamorie Ponds.
Sam Miller, Dayton: 6-9 and skilled, Miller can hurt opponents either inside or out. A capable face up player with a great feel, this seems destined to be a key piece for the Flyers in 16-17. Miller averaged only 9.9 minutes last season as a freshman — a number that could potentially double during the upcoming year.
Dererk Pardon, Northwestern: Burly big man had several strong games as a freshman, including a 28-point, 12-rebound performance at Nebraska. With Alex Olah no longer in the Wildcats’ program, look for Pardon to emerge in Evanston.
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.