It’s become a common post to write this time of year – projecting which players are going to make the jump from little-known role player to big-time contributor. And it’s probably so commonly written because it is just a darn fun thing to take a guess at. It’s not like predicting which freshmen are going to succeed, which you are basing either on performance in games played at a different level or sometimes sketchy scouting reports. And it’s not like picking All-American teams from the cream of the crop. The only tricky part about the emergent player game is that it’s a little tricky determining who is eligible for such a title. So, for the purposes of this exercise, let’s only looking at returning players who earned less than 50 percent of their team’s minutes last season. That eliminates guys like Ike Iroegbu from Washington State, who should step into a greatly increased role post-Davonte Lacy. Also gone is Rosco Allen from Stanford, who is bound to score more than the 7.3 points per game he averaged last year, if only because somebody on that team HAS to score. Also, in the interest of playing fair, we’re going to eliminate Savon Goodman (47.2% of Arizona State’s minutes) and his 11.2 PPG and 7.6 RPG averages from last season, since he didn’t gain eligibility until the semester break. Still, we’ve got plenty of candidates remaining, so let’s look at five picks to take a big leap in the PAC.
Dominique Collier, Sophomore, Colorado – Collier had a frustrating freshman season. First, he got suspended for the first two games of the season for an offseason incident. Then, he struggled with a lingering ankle injury that bothered him throughout the preseason. When he finally got on the court, he occasionally showed flashes of potential before injuring his wrist and missing a couple more games. When he returned, he pressed and frittered away another month before finally turning it on down the stretch. Some of the numbers are still ugly: 9.8 points per 40 min, a nearly 1:1 assist-turnover ratio and 26.9 percent shooting from long range. But on a team lacking proven perimeter playmakers, Collier is a guy who has showed an ability to get to the rim and convert. There are definitely plenty of areas of his game to be cleaned up, but he’ll have the opportunity to earn a much bigger role this season. With a boosted confidence, he could be the missing piece that vaults the Buffaloes back into postseason contention.
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