While looking forward to the upcoming college basketball season a collection of writers here at Rant Sports will be compiling a series of pieces looking at the top breakout candidates from multiple conferences. Today, I look ahead to the rejuvenated Pac-12 conference.
So, with further ado, let’s look at the Top 10 Breakout Candidates-Pac 12 for this upcoming season:
10. Allen Crabbe- California Golden Bears- Crabbe is one of the top scorers returning to the Pac-12 this season and plans to pick up right where he left off. Crabbe averaged 15.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks per game last season, and is looking to improve upon those numbers. Crabbe is a very good three-point shooter, an exceptional wing player, and a very skilled shot blocker. Crabbe, now in his junior year, will be looked at along with teammate Justin Cobbs to lead the Cal Bears to an NCAA tournament bid.
9. C.J Wilcox- Washington Huskies- Last season Wilcox averaged 14.2 points per game, ranking 7th in the Pac-12 conference, and like Crabbe, it is going to be sort of hard to improve, and be a “breakout” candidate based on last year’s numbers. Since Wilcox is sort of an under the radar type of player he definitely can be a huge surprise to fans this season. Wilcox has the skills to improve off of his 14.2 average last season, that is if he can stay healthy this year. Last January, Wilcox had to be limited due to a stress fracture in his left femur. If Wilcox can stay healthy he possesses the talent to improve on the offensive end, he ranks 5th all time in school history with 136 three-pointers made, and the size, 6-foot-5, 195, and quickness, to be a shut down guard.
8. Chasson Randle- Stanford Cardinal- Randle averaged 14.0 points, on 47.9% shooting, during Stanford’s five-game run to capture the NIT title last season. Still, though coaches are expecting more out of Randle who also was named to the 2011-2012 Pac-12 All- Freshman Team. Randle was a four star recruit out of high school, No. 78 overall, and is an explosive scoring point guard that is absolutely perfect for the sort of system that Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins run. If everything clicks in his second year at Stanford then Randle could very well be looking at a first-round selection in next years NBA draft.
7. Dwight Powell- Stanford Cardinal- Hey what do you know, two Stanford players in a row! Coming out of high school Powell was a five-star recruit, 25th overall, and was a very sought after big man. Powell has been compared to Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas and possesses the sort of versatility to a huge difference maker for the Cardinal. Last season Powell averaged 5.8 points, and 4.6 rebounds per game, expect a huge spike in production this season from Powell as he could just now be putting all of his skill together, and figuring this basketball thing out.
6. Andre Roberson- Colorado Rams- Although Roberson has not had all of the hoopla that Blake Griffin did while at Oklahoma, they do have on thing in common that not many people have noticed. Roberson is a bad, bad man when he is attacking the basket. Go on to YouTube and look up “Andre Roberson poster” and you will sure to get a few videos of vicious Roberson dunks. But, like Griffin, Roberson has had many people wondering if he can create any sort of offensive game for himself outside of hustle plays, and dunks. Last year, Roberson averaged 11.6 points, and 11.1 rebounds per game, if he can develop any sort of offensive game then he will be almost unstoppable to handle.
5. J.T Terrell- USC Trojans- It’s not too often that people pair together breakout candidates, and USC. It’s also not too often that players transfer from Wake Forest to USC, oh wait yeah it is. Anyways, Terrell comes to the Trojans off a pretty good 2010-11 season for the Demon Deacons, in which he averaged 11.1 points per game. Terrell also shot nearly 36% from downtown and has range that even puts some NBA players to shame. Terrell gets put into a perfect situation to explode offensively as USC head coach Kevin O’Neill will allow Terrell to take over control of the Trojan’s offense, thus allowing Terrell a looser chain to do as he pleases offensively.
4. Roberto Nelson- Oregon State Beavers- Nelson, a sixth man who played in all 36 games last season, and averaged 9.3 points per game last season, is stepping into some pretty big shoes. Nelson is being asked to replace Jared Cunningham, the Beavers’ first first-round draft pick since 1995, and assume a very key role in the Beavers’ offense. When given significant playing time, like he was given in last year’s Pac -2 tournament, Nelson produces. Stepping into the starting line-up this season will allow Nelson to significantly improve upon that 9.3 points per game average from last season.
3. Nick Johnson- Arizona Wildcats- Johnson, similar to Roberson, has always been an athletic player. Johnson has always tried to get away from was the simply athletic label, and he might just now be doing that. Last season, Johnson averaged 9.0 points, and 3.2 rebounds per game. He possesses superior speed, and athleticism that allows him to guard either guard spot, and be very disruptive. Word has been floating around that Johnson has been working extremely hard on his jump-shot this off-season, and that it is significantly improving. If that is indeed true then the Pac-12 is going to be in for a lot of trouble this upcoming season.
2. Larry Drew II- UCLA Bruins- Drew II could of definitely been No.1 on this list, due largely in part to the fact that he was essentially a bust at North Carolina, and had to transfer to UCLA for a new beginning. Drew’s transfer wasn’t all about production, the fact that many people at North Carolina had called Drew’s maturity into question was also another key factor in Drew deciding to transfer. This upcoming season for UCLA is huge, maybe bigger than any previous season under the Ben Howland era, and if UCLA fails to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, with a top-three recruiting class, there might be drastic changes in Westwood. Drew II may get a chance to show his new maturation if he is indeed given the opportunity to lead this immensely talented UCLA team.
1. Brock Motum- Washington State Cougars- Number one on my list of breakout candidates is probably, for non die-hard Pac-12 basketball fans, the best kept secret in the entire Pac-12. The Cougars don’t exactly get a lot of national exposure, not to mention the fact that they weren’t that good last year, so that may be another contributor as to why not many people know about Motum. Last season Motum averaged 18 points, and 6.4 rebounds per game on on 55.4% shooting from the field, and 39.7% percent from the three-point line. In case you didn’t know Motum is a 6-foot-10, 245 lb. forward. There is a legitimate argument to the point that Motum should have been the 2011-12 Pac-12 player of the year, and this season may be a little harder to accomplish that feat, what with the great talent coming into UCLA and Arizona. Still, though the scariest thing about Motum is that while he averaged 18 points per game last season, he still has the room to get significantly better, and with him heading into his senior season that just may be the case. Expect a huge year out of Motum.
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