Breakout players can turn a good team into a Final Four contender. On this week’s episode of March Madness 365, Andy Katz, along with Turner Sports’ Chad “March Chadness” Aycock, discuss 10 contenders to break out this season.
Katz also ranked his top 20 candidates for the nation’s top shooting guard on this edition of the pod. Pac-12 Network’s Don MacLean and UCLA guard Chris Smith also joined Katz to talk about what the Pac-12 will look like this season.
Here are Katz’s top 10 potential breakout players for the 2020-21 college basketball season:
10. E.J. Liddell, Forward — Ohio State, Sophomore
Though he averaged 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year, Liddell started to shine bright at the end of the season. He dropped 17 points and grabbed 12 boards against a ranked Illinois squad in the second-to-last regular-season game. Injuries throughout Ohio State’s roster will allow the 6’6″ forward to make an immediate impact.
9. M.J. Walker, Guard — Florida State, Senior
Walker will be one of the leaders for the Seminoles with Devin Vassell leaving for the NBA and Trent Forest graduating after last season. Leonard Hamilton will look to Walker to be a reliable scorer as the 6’5″ senior looks to improve upon his 10.6 points per game last season. Katz expects Walker to be FSU’s go-to guy when they need a basket.
8. Paul Scruggs, Guard — Xavier, Senior
Similar to what Walker might be able to do at Florida State as a senior, Katz thinks Scruggs can do for the Musketeers. The 6’4″ guard out of Indianapolis averaged 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season. Look for Scruggs to make a name for himself in a Big East conference that is loaded with talent at the guard position.
7. Scottie Lewis, Guard — Florida, Sophomore
A lot of experts thought Scottie Lewis was going to be one of the few break-out stars from his freshman class last season. But now, with a year under his belt, Katz thinks he’s due for a big sophomore campaign. Lagging a little bit behind his potential his freshman year, where he scored 8.5 points and grabbed 3.6 boards per game, Lewis should come out the gate confident and fired up to have a big sophomore season.
6. D.J. Jeffries, Forward — Memphis, Sophomore
D.J. Jeffries was a part of that heralded freshman class for Penny Hardaway and Memphis last season. Jeffries averaged 10.8 points per game and shot 51 percent from the field with a 39 percent clip from deep. Those percentages bode well for the 6’7″ forward as he’ll continue to get more minutes as the season goes on.
5. Joey Hauser, Forward — Michigan State, Sophomore
Hauser, a transfer from Marquette, has the experience of playing for a big-name school and will have a lot of help on a talented Spartan squad. The last time Hauser was on the floor was during the 2018-19 season where he averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds for Marquette.
4. Andrew Jones, Guard — Texas, Junior
Jones has one of the most compelling stories in college basketball. Having to redshirt two years in a row due to a life-threatening leukemia diagnosis, Jones bounced back nicely last year during his redshirt sophomore season. He’ll look to do even more for the Longhorns this year, as Katz thinks Jones will be a part of a great backcourt at Texas. He averaged 11.5 points per game last season.
3. Matthew Hurt, Forward — Duke, Sophomore
Matthew Hurt is the leading returning scorer for the Blue Devils this season, and with the floor clearing up with Vernon Carey, Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley gone, Hurt could have a big year. Hurt averaged just under 10.0 points per game last season, shot 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from beyond the arc.
2. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Forward — Villanova, Sophomore
Robinson-Earl nearly averaged a double-double during his freshman season with 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, and with Saddoq Bey gone, the floor really opens up for the 6’9″ forward. Paired up with potential Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie as his point guard, Robinson-Earl could be the catalyst the Wildcats need to reach their third Final Four in six years.
1. Drew Timme, Forward — Gonzaga, Sophomore
With Filip Petrsev and Killian Tillie no longer with the Zags, the middle of the floor will open up for Drew Timme. The 6’10” forward averaged 9.8 points and 5.4 boards per game, and as March Chadness pointed out on this week’s pod, if you averaged his minutes out to 40 minutes per game last season, Timme would have put up 19.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. If Timme continues to be efficient with his minutes, then he could be the next star big man for Mark Few and the Bulldogs.
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