CBSSports Top 30 under-the-radar players

by | College Basketball Recruiting Blogger
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You might not know who Deonte Burton is yet but Jeff Borzello says you will soon. (US Presswire)  
You might not know who Deonte Burton is yet but Jeff Borzello says you will soon. (US Presswire)  


Even the most casual college basketball fan knows the best players in the country this season. Just a cursory look at our preview each day would give you the top-100 players, All-America teams, top-50 players at each position, all-conference teams, etc.  

That’s just the way things go. They’re the players people need to focus on and the players people will see the most this season.   

But come March, what are the major questions everyone has for the experts? Who is this year’s Cinderella? Who’s the new Stephen Curry or this year’s C.J. McCollum? Ohio’s D.J. Cooper had a relatively down junior season, but his 40 points and 12 assists during two first-weekend upsets has people back on the bandwagon. The small-conference players who carry their teams to a couple of upset wins in March go down in Big Dance history.   

As a result, we need to figure out these potential Cinderella heroes in advance so you can follow them throughout the season.   

Note: Players in the six BCS-affiliated conferences could not be included. Also, players ranked on our top-100 list are ineligible for inclusion. And common sense is a factor, too; no, Khem Birch is not an under-the-radar player. Why? He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. 

2012 Preseason Top 30 under-the-radar players
1. Deonte Burton, G, Nevada
Last year’s WAC Player of the Year has a new conference to conquer with the Wolf Pack moving to the Mountain West. Burton will look to excel despite the stiffer competition. He has a knack for getting into the lane and creating contact and has become a better long-range shooter as his career has progressed.
2. Kevin Dillard, G, Dayton
In a league filled with very good point guards, Dillard might be the best. He had an excellent summer, participating in the LeBron James Skills Academy in July. Dillard is a very good playmaker, ranking in the top 20 nationally last season in assists. He loves to have the ball in his hands, and he upped his scoring production toward the end of the season.
3. Colt Ryan, G, Evansville
One of the best shooters in the country, Ryan is a candidate to lead the nation in scoring this season. He is deadly from behind the arc, and is also tough to defend because of his ability to knock down contested shots. Moreover, he uses his 6-foot-5 size to make plays against smaller defenders. Ryan put up more than 20 points per game last year.
4. Kwamain Mitchell, G, Saint Louis
Mitchell is going to miss at least six weeks after undergoing foot surgery but is still one of the best players in the Atlantic 10. He makes plays at both ends of the floor and is a guy who likes to have the ball in his hands at the end of games. Mitchell went for 22 points against Memphis in the NCAA tournament. Expect more performances like that.
5. Kerron Johnson, G, Belmont
Johnson went into the team’s Round of 64 game against Georgetown looking to put himself on the national map but struggled mightily in a Bruins loss. This year, Johnson is ready to take the next step. He’s a very good playmaker who can get into the lane against most defenders. He is also a solid defender.
6. Ryan Broekhoff, F, Valparaiso
If not for Ray McCallum, Broekhoff would be the best player in the Horizon. The Australia native can score in a variety of ways, expanding his game to become a consistent 3-point shooter last season. He’s also good around the rim, and defends the rim. The Crusaders enter the season as the league favorite; can Broekhoff get to the tournament?
7. Semaj Christon, G, Xavier
The first freshman on this list, Christon is one of the best newcomer point guards in the country. He will have to be ultra-productive for the Musketeers this season, and he looks to be up to the task. Christon is extremely athletic and has high-level speed with the ball in his hands. Good luck keeping him out of the lane.
8. Anthony Ireland, G, Loyola Marymount
Although Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and BYU will get most of the attention from the WCC, Ireland can hold his own against anyone. He dropped 23 against Kevin Pangos and the Zags; 27 against Matt Carlino and BYU; and 16 and seven assists against Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s. He can also distribute the ball effectively.
9. Jake Cohen, F, Davidson
After beating out teammate De’Mon Brooks for the league’s Player of the Year honors, Cohen broke out on the national stage, going for 24 points and 10 boards in a loss to Louisville in the NCAA tournament. He’s an inside-outside scorer who has become increasingly difficult to guard as he improves his all-around game. 
10. George Beamon, G, Manhattan
One of the best scorers in the country, Beamon reached double-figures in every game last season. He also picked up his game toward the end of the season; in the five games leading up to a CIT loss to Fairfield, Beamon averaged 26.4 points per game. He’s a knockdown 3-point shooter, and also utilized his length to be a factor on the glass.
11. Alec Brown, C, Green Bay
A future NBA prospect, Brown need only put on some weight before becoming a truly dominant performer inside. He’s 7-foot-1 and has been more aggressive around the rim. He continues to improve his all-around game, and is also going to be one of the best shot-blockers in the country this season. Averaged 17 and 11 in the final three games.
12. James Ennis, G, Long Beach State
With the 49ers losing Casper Ware, T.J. Robinson, Larry Anderson and Eugene Phelps, coach Dan Monson needs someone to step up offensively. That man should be Ennis, who scored in double-figures despite being a secondary option. He can knock down outside shots but is also adept at driving to the lane and playing in transition.
13. De’Mon Brooks, F, Davidson
Pairing with Jake Cohen up front has given Davidson one of the best mid-major frontcourts in the country. Brooks is more versatile than Cohen, given his ability to go off the bounce in addition to knocking down shots from the arc. He averaged 19.0 points per game in the five games leading up to the NCAA tournament.
14. Ian Hummer, F, Princeton
One of the more productive all-around forwards in the country, Hummer expanded his offensive game last year to include perimeter shooting. He is an excellent passer out of the post and the top returning scorer and rebounder in the Ivy League. Harvard is the defending champion, but Hummer has the ability to carry the Tigers to the Big Dance.
15. Zeke Marshall, C, Akron
A former top-100 recruit, Marshall has steadily improved at both ends of the floor since arriving on campus. He seems poised for a breakout season. He’s a dominant shot-blocker but needs to become more aggressive on the glass and at the offensive end. At 7-feet tall, Marshall should be tough to guard in the Mid-American.
16. Andrew Lawrence, G, Charleston
Coming off a summer in which he represented Great Britain in the Olympics, Lawrence could be primed for a big-time senior season. He takes care of the ball and knows how to get his teammates involved. Moreover, he has consistent 3-point range and can get into the lane and absorb contact.
17. Kendall Williams, G, New Mexico
One of the more underrated point guards on the national level, Williams will need to become more of a scorer this year with Drew Gordon no longer with the Lobos. He is a good 3-point shooter, and is also effective at drawing fouls. He’s quick with the ball and also defends. Offensive consistency will be the key.
18. Julian Boyd, F, LIU Brooklyn
His status for the season was up in the air heading into October, but his suspension was reduced to two games – and he’s now the Northeast Player of the Year favorite once again. He’s a dominant inside force, using his strong upper body to control the interior at both ends of the floor. Boyd racked up 14 double-doubles and scored in double-figures in all but one game.
19. Chris Udofia, F, Denver
His numbers aren’t as eye-popping as some of the other guys on this list, but he consistently makes an impact at both ends of the floor and is extremely efficient. He passes the ball well, blocks shots, rebounds – and still finds time to average nearly 15 points a game. Udofia is tough to defend because of his energy and nonstop motor.
20. D.J. Seeley, G, Cal State Fullerton
Seeley’s offensive exploits were overshadowed by Long Beach State’s cadre of players and UC-Santa Barbara’s scoring duo. However, he’s now the big-time scorer in the Big West. He is a lights-out shooter from behind the arc, and is also able to get by his defender and score in the lane or get fouled.
21. Devon Saddler, G, Delaware
One of the best scorers in the mid-Atlantic region, don’t be surprised if Saddler’s points go down this season. He’s an excellent playmaker, but he has to take higher-percentage shots and share the ball a bit more. With that said, when he gets going, Saddler is nearly impossible to stop offensively. The Blue Hens could make some noise this season.
22. Langston Galloway, G, Saint Joseph’s
On a team filled with productive players up and down the roster, Galloway might be the best. He’s one of the best 3-point shooters in the country, but is also an effective rebounder and ball-handler. While he’s not the most explosive athlete in the world, Galloway was able to blow up for 30 points three times last season.
23. Robert Covington, F, Tennessee State
While Murray State – and now Belmont – will get the preseason attention, Covington is hoping to lead Tennessee State to the NCAA tournament. He’s nearly impossible to guard, given his ability to score and rebound around the rim, and consistently knocks down shots from the perimeter. Covington continues to get better.
24. Shane Gibson, G, Sacred Heart
The second-leading returning scorer in the country, Gibson is an absolute nightmare to defend. He scored at least 11 points in every game, and even had 41 against Mount St. Mary’s. Despite taking a high percentage of shots, he shot 51 percent from the field and consistently scored against defenses that were focused on him.
25. Eric Ferguson, F, Georgia Southern
If Ferguson plays like he did in the final two games of the season – averaging 23.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks – this could be too low of a ranking. He might be the most talented player in the Southern this season. He also had a stellar summer at the LeBron James Skills Academy, and could be primed to really break out.
26. O.D. Anosike, F, Siena
The nation’s top returning rebounder, Anosike is a 20-15 threat every night. Last season, he “only” averaged 15 and 12.5, but those numbers could be even better this season. He racked up 23 double-doubles on the season and improved his scoring consistency as the season progressed. He rarely gets into foul trouble, and has a high motor.
 27. Keith Rendleman, F, UNC-Wilmington
UNC-Wilmington can’t play in the NCAA tournament this season, and there was talk Rendleman might redshirt. But he will suit up for the Seahawks – and don’t expect his motivation to wane at all. He’s not a flashy guy, but Rendleman just puts his head down and goes to work. He had 16 double-doubles and works hard on the offensive glass.
 28. Jamal Olasewere, F, LIU Brooklyn
Slightly overshadowed by Julian Boyd, he combines with his frontcourt mate to form the highest scoring duo in the country. Olasewere is more versatile than Boyd, creating matchup problems all over the court with his athleticism and speed. He shot better than 57 percent from the field and almost averaged a double-double.
29. Lamont “Momo” Jones, G, Iona
No Scott Machado and no Mike Glover could mean more points for Jones. With that said, will he be able to keep all the surrounding talent happy as well? He’s a confident player who is tough to stop once he gets rolling. Jones has experience on talented teams, helping lead Arizona to the Elite Eight two seasons ago.
30. Torrey Craig, F, USC-Upstate
For standing just 6-foot-6, Craig is an impossible matchup. He can go off the dribble, knock down shots from 3-point range, and was also second in the conference in rebounding. Defensively, he blocks shots and plays the passing lanes. Craig is the focal point of opposing defenses, but he has shown the ability to make tough shots from anywhere.
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