Marching to Vegas: Who Will Break Out Along the Way?Posted by AMurawa on November 7th, 2013
To date we’ve prognosticated on the known. We know that UCLA and USC have new coaches and that Mike Montgomery has a track record of winning almost regardless of the talent on his roster. It’s clear to us that Arizona has a very talented group because they’ve been talented in the past. Same goes for Oregon and its army of transfers. We can say that Washington has a good shooter in C.J. Wilcox because we’ve seen him shoot well. Through these good-as-known pieces we’ve come to conclusions on the inconclusive: preseason rankings, All-Conference Teams, Best This and Best That. But what about what we maybe don’t know? What of the unknown? Those elements of a season and team that we like to call “breakouts” (with apologies to puberty). First, let’s try to define what exactly that means; a difficult task considering it’s a subjective, predictive analysis we’re about to embark upon. A breakout player or team exceeds general expectations. Sure we can expect a sophomore to improve over his freshman season. But if he puts up 3.4/0.8/0.7 as a freshman and then 12.7/3.9/4.3 as a sophomore? Well then we can say that Russell Westbrook broke out. So which players across the conference have we seen glimpses of brilliance, flashes of genius, doses of effective?
When the Pac-12 Microsite brain trust threw out our list of five breakout players, the composite five resulted in – shocker – five sophomores (actually it was six as teammates Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson tied and David Wear received votes and was the only non sophomore on the list). Like the aforementioned Westbrook scenario, the following players fit pretty neatly into a familiar mold. This naturally makes sense as we have just a small sample size by which to judge them. Players often make their biggest statistical leap from freshman to sophomore year; having gained that ever precious “experience.” Here’s how our voting shook out along with their inaugural season outputs:
Naturally, the first thing to take away from this is that we collectively voted the worst offensive player on this list as the player most likely to break out. There’s a reason they call us the smartest microsite. Beyond that, however, is the fact that Tyrone Wallace’s low offensive output (at least by rating) suggests he also has the most room for growth. Many will also cite that Wallace is a dynamic and terrific defender but, to be honest, we don’t notice breakout defensive stars unless their name is Arsalan. Additionally, and I believe this to be one of the most important points to discovering breakout players, is his role will definitively increase. Gone is Allen Crabbe and his 27 percent usage rate. That’s a lot of touches coming the way of different Bears and Wallace – who was already starting a season ago – should get the lion’s share of them [insert play on words with “lion’s share” with “bird” because of Jabari Bird]. Wallace is going to get his shot (no pun intended) and unanimously we like his chances of breaking out. And the Wallace story isn’t unique to this Berkeley product.
I think, with regards to our list, this sudden influx of shots, also applies to Xavier Johnson. No, the departed Andre Roberson didn’t take that many shots, but enough to allow this athletic wing to easily grow his role. What’s more is Johnson is going to have one of the best guards in the country handling the ball and taking the majority of defensive attention. As will (transition music) Josh Scott. This is a mutually beneficial relationship. Or really just two players poised to have very big seasons at the hands of an outstanding point guard. Did you follow Carrick Felix’s trajectory? He was putting up 8/3/1 in his two Tempe seasons without Jahii Carson. With Jahii? 15/8/2 and a second round NBA Draft pick. Having a great point guard can go a long way, which leads me to our second leading vote getter: Brandon Ashley. Arizona lost three of its four leading scorers from a year ago and so Ashley would obviously seem to be the benefactor in usage. But that’s not why I’m so high on his potential to break out. The former five-star recruit is now going to have the shifty, crafty, pass happy, TJ McConnell laying the ball into Brandon’s lap for easy buckets. Sure Ashley has individual ball skills – he had the second highest ORtg on the above list and an outstanding 53.4% eFG – but McConnell is going to make life that much easier.
Remaining on our list, as underclassmen, are Kyle Anderson and Brandon Taylor. I’ll start with Slo-Mo (Anderson for those of you unfamiliar with the nickname) whom I find to be an interesting pick for a breakout player. After all, the kid nearly averaged a double-double last year and was Second Team All-Conference. What is he going to break out of? Well being a forward that’s for starters. Most signs point to Kyle being the versatile point-forward many had thought he came to UCLA to be. I believe this shift in responsibilities is an opportunity for Anderson to become an even more dynamic player; the kind of player that has had some people putting him in the All-American conversation. On the other hand, Brandon Taylor will not be an All-American. But the Utah guard very well could prove to be a damn fine ball player as he demonstrated down the stretch last season. Larry K and his team return just 40 percent of their minutes played from last year and so Taylor is going to be relied up, heavily, to carry the burden of… leadership? Indeed on this roster Taylor qualifies as a veteran and lots of times veterans can have big seasons. There is coach’s trust and a whole lot of other intangibles that would suggest he’s already been there and done that. We, of course, know Taylor really hasn’t accomplished anything. But who are we to judge?
And last, but certainly not least, is UCLA’s David Wear. As stated, he’s the lone upperclassman on this list, and that intrigues me. We’ve seen David for three seasons now, isn’t he about who he’s going to be by now? The easy answer is: maybe. I don’t foresee usage increasing – it’s decreased over each of his collegiate seasons – as have many of his numbers, particularly during his time in Westwood. As for breakouts I’m not sure how poised he is. But he’s a senior. It’s his final rodeo and he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. He and Travis were McDonald’s All-Americans, after all. And it’s the senior that’s my favorite. His eligibility soon to expire, the college game about to end. Quincy Pondexter once did it, can David?