Five breakout players for the 2014-15 college basketball season
Jermaine Lawrence (Cincinnati), Mo Alie-Cox (VCU), Cat Barber (NC State), Kasey Hill (Florida) and Zak Irvin (Michigan) keys to their teams' success.
Check out these five breakout players to watch for next season in college basketball:
Jermaine Lawrence, Cincinnati: If the Bearcats want to reach the NCAA Tournament in 2015, they need a major jump out of Lawrence. Cincinnati will graduate both Titus Rubles and Justin Jackson up front and the 6-foot-9 Lawrence is primed to step in to a starting role on the baseline as a sophomore. The skilled forward battled injury and consistency issues this past season as a freshman and only averaged 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15.0 minutes. Lawrence will need to triple that level of production if the Bearcats are to reach the field of 68 for the fifth consecutive year under Mick Cronin. It says here he's more than up to challenge.
Mo Alie-Cox, VCU: A mountain masquerading as a man, the 6-6, 250-pound Alie-Cox is primed to have a major impact next season in the Rams' starting lineup. Big, strong and at times downright nasty, Alie-Cox gives VCU the type of size and intimidation they've lacked at times in the paint over the past few years. The redshirt freshman played his best basketball down the stretch this past season and grabbed 24 rebounds in the Rams' four games during the Atlantic 10 tournament. Look for Alie-Cox to step in for Juvonte Reddic next to Treveon Graham in VCU's starting lineup.
Cat Barber, NC State: There's quick guards in the open floor and then there's Barber. The 6-2 point guard is like a cheetah when he's on the break and he'll be one of the better transition players in the ACC next season as a sophomore. Last season Barber averaged 8.5 points and 3.5 assists in 24.2 minutes but really came on late. Pencil in Barber for 15 and 7 as a sophomore.
Kasey Hill, Florida: The lightning quick point guard will get the keys to the car in Gainesville once Scottie Wilbekin leaves campus. Hill has the requisites to be a terrific collegiate floor general and will be better in an expanded role next season. A jet in the open court, Hill has the ability to affect the game offensively and defensively because of his unbelievable speed on both ends. A terrific distributor, the 6-1 guard had 15 assists in the Gators' first four NCAA Tournament games but still needs to be more of a threat from the outside next season. Hill only made five three-point shots as a freshman and that number needs to go up in his second season of college basketball.
Zak Irvin, Michigan: If Nik Stauskas leaves for the NBA as expected, Irvin will have the opportunity to make the same type of jump that Caris LeVert made from his freshman to sophomore season. The 6-6 Irvin averaged 6.7 points this past year and knocked down 62 three-point shots while shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range. If Irvin winds up starting for the Wolverines in 2014-15, he'll be a double-figure scorer as a sophomore and one of the better players in the Big Ten
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