Predicting a Breakout Star From Each Power Conference

Posted by Ryan O'Neil on October 19th, 2018

In every Power 6 conference, there’s an established hierarchy in which the league’s most notable teams comfortably reside. In the ACC, there’s Duke, UNC, and Virginia. The Big East championship has in recent years gone through the Villanova Wildcats. In the Big Ten, Michigan State, Michigan, and Purdue have controlled the conference since former Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan’s retirement a few years back. Kansas has won the Big 12 regular season championship 14 years in a row. Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA have had a relative stranglehold on the Pac-12 for seemingly decades. In the SEC, Kentucky has been without question the league’s best team since John Calipari arrived in Lexington. But with the new season comes the possibility that the traditional powers may be toppled.  In this article, I’m going to identify one player from every power conference league who has the ability to lead his team to a surprise finish in the standings.  There’s just one rule — he can’t be a freshman.


Ky Bowman (USA Today Images)

  • Ky Bowman, Boston College. Boston College’s junior point guard often looked like the Eagles’ best player last season, even though he played in the same backcourt as eventual lottery pick Jerome Robinson. Bowman, an under-recruited prospect from North Carolina, is a great athlete whose best game last year included 30 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists against Duke. He’s dynamic in the pick and roll, and he has the ability to score at all three levels of the floor. An athlete that makes NBA scouts salivate, Bowman is especially nasty in transition. If he can become more consistent in his approach this season, Boston College is going to surprise some teams in the ACC.

Big East

  • Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s. Ponds was a first-team Big East performer last season for St. John’s after dropping at least 30 points on six separate occasions. Possibly no game better demonstrated his scoring ability than when he put up a whopping 44 points on a 16-of-23 shooting performance against Marquette. The arrival of Mustapha Heron from Auburn this season should take some of the offensive pressure off of Ponds by allowing him more space to operate. The Red Storm were a thorn in the side of several ranked teams last season, a trait that should become only more prominent with a more mature Ponds and Heron in the backcourt.

Big Ten

Kaleb Wesson (USA Today Images)

  • This moves away from the pattern of picking dynamic guards, but Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson is a post player who has the opportunity to dominate the Big Ten on the interior this season. A member of last year’s All-Freshman team, Wesson averaged 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in a highly efficient role (123.2 ORtg). Given the Big Ten’s tendency toward a slower pace (30th nationally), a post player with good hands and a soft touch around the basket is extremely valuable. The sophomore can score with his back to the basket, and he’s even capable of facing up if he catches it in the post.

Big 12

  • Matt Coleman, Texas and Lindell Wiggington, Iowa State. Although Wiggington is certainly the more dynamic player, there are real questions about the Cyclones’ ability to compete in the Big 12 this year. Coleman, on the other hand, is a steady point guard, who, with an improved outside jump shot, could turn the Big 12 on its head this season. With the steadying presence of Dylan Osetkowski, the athletic Kerwin Roach, and the big Jericho Sims coming back to Austin, the Longhorns could be poised to have their best season since Shaka Smart arrived three years ago. Wiggington is an athletic guard who relentlessly attacks the basket; if Virginia transfer Mariol Shayok can match his production from the ACC, he may serve as a formidable complement to Wiggington.


  • Cal’s Paris Austin is the only transfer on this list. The redshirt junior arrives in Berkeley from Boise State, and is likely to be the Golden Bears’ starting point guard from day one this season. His skill set is as a steadying point guard with particular proficiency in the pick-and-roll. Austin averaged 12.2 points and 3.0 assists per game as a sophomore for the Broncos, but if he’s to really improve he’s going to need to shoot the ball better from three-point land. He enters the Pac-12 as only a 23.2 percent career long-range shooter.


  • Tremont Waters, LSU, is the simplest choice on this list. Standing at only 5’11”, Waters could possibly be the most exciting player in the country. He’s lightning quick with the handle to match, but he must improve his overall play-making and ball-protection to truly make the leap. Point guards are the most influential players in college basketball, and his veteran experience will be crucial if the Tigers want to knock off Kentucky and Tennessee this season.
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