The top 25 college basketball players with something to prove this season

Every season of college basketball provides a cluster of veteran players who become stars, guys who are asked to do more and thus find themselves competing not just for NCAA Tournament inclusion, but also all-conference accolades and even, sometimes, vaulting onto NBA mock draft boards.

With that in mind, we're looking at 25 players who need to prove their value next season -- and have the talent to do so. Here the under-the-radar studs, all of whom that averaged less than 10.0 points last season. 

Despite limited impact last season, we can still identify 25 players who can, and should, become breakout players in 2017-18. Here they are listed in no particular order:

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga: Barely earned playing time on a team that made the national title game, but on the heels of his incredible performance at the FIBA World Cup, in U19 play, there is big-time buzz about Hachimura's season forthcoming. He averaged 20.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists while playing for Team Japan. He'll be a sophomore, and should be the next big thing down low for a program that put many forwards into the NBA.

Mikal Bridges, Villanova: Talk to scouts and you'll discover that no player on this list has draft stock as high as Bridges. He's been a rangy, sufficient piece for Villanova the past two years. Now it's time for him to be opportunistic. With Josh Hart gone, the door is open for Bridges to be the team's leading scorer.

Marques Bolden, Duke: Bolden certainly has something to prove. He was a five-star, top-15 recruit, a player who a year ago was slotted into the top 20 of many mock drafts. But he was lost defensively as a freshman, and his development stalled due to injury.

Wenyen Gabriel, Kentucky: The only UK player returning who earned minutes last season. He has big-game potential, and because -- even though he's just a sophomore! -- he's the veteran voice, Calipari will lean on him more. NBA guys are keeping a close eye on his development.

Luke Maye, North Carolina: The man responsible for hitting the winning shot vs. Kentucky in the Elite Eight, the bucket that catapulted Carolina closer to clinching a championship, will have a much bigger role in 2017-18. Maye is an interesting player because he's broad-shouldered, has a square shot, can bang down low and is still scratching the surface of his potential.

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Ukranian Svi Mykhailiuk has improved each season he's been at Kansas.  USATSI

Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas: The Ukranian shooting guard has been touted as an NBA player for four years now. It hasn't happened. Entering his senior season, this should be his moment to finally become a very good college player. He made 15 3-pointers his freshman season, 31 as a sophomore, 70 as a junior. Do we hear 100 for 2017-18?

Zach Brown, Wichita State: Wichita State coaches believe he's a top-three defender in all of college basketball. He's also going to become the Shockers' third-best player this season, contributing in myriad ways around Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie.

Payton Pritchard, Oregon: Like Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura, Pritchard played exceptionally well at the FIBA World Cup in June. He's a sophomore and he'll have controls on Oregon's offense. This should be the start of a steady three-year run in Eugene for him.

De'Anthony Melton, USC: Last year's freshman class was so loaded, Melton's contributions were often overlooked. But we had him ranked in our top-10 freshman performers even in January. Now he's got a dynamic roster around him; the Trojans boast talent that few other teams in college hoops can square up with.

Kyle Guy, Virginia: Another sophomore (it's going to be a good second-season class in college hoops, even with all the frosh who left) ready to make a huge leap. Guy was seventh in the country in 3-point percentage last season (49.5). Expect a stronger mid-range game from him, and with that, an arsenal that will come off well in the ACC.

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Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston showed signs of promise as a freshman.  USATSI

Cassius Winston, Michigan State: A sophomore point guard with an instinct for angles, maturity to handle leading this team, which will be highlighted by superstar Miles Bridges. Winston is set up to be a four-year reliability for the Spartans. This year marks the beginning of the next very good era under Tom Izzo.

Dakota Mathias, Purdue: Losing Caleb Swanigan means a lot of players will have to pick up the slack. Vince and Carsen Edwards (unrelated) will continue to do well, but get ready for an onslaught of 3s from Mathias, who made 72 of his 159 attempts last season, making him the best 3-point shooter on a team filled with good options beyond the arc.

Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati: Bulky man with a long-range game, the kind of player that Mick Cronin was long looking for. Cincinnati is no longer just a defensive force. Thanks to Cumberland (a 65-percent shooter from 2-point rang), the Bearcats are coming off their most efficient offensive year in the Cronin era.

Kevin Huerter, Maryland: Could explode into a 20-point-per-game player this season. Opposing coaches told CBS Sports that Huerter showed flashes of being more talented and reliable than Melo Trimble. We project Maryland as a top-four team in the Big Ten next season.

Marcus Lee, California: In a tough spot. Transferred out of Kentucky because he was losing minutes, and now he's on a total construction project after Cuonzo Martin left Berkeley for the Missouri job. If anything, Lee might rack up huge numbers to salvage an interesting college quest for happiness.

Khadeem Lattin, Oklahoma: Lattin is entering his senior season. It's finally time to prove it. He's been an unselfish player, and now the Sooners need him to be a top-10 guy in the conference if they're to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid. Might be the best rebounder for his size next season in the sport.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Arizona: Allonzo Trier and DeAndre Ayton are the bigger pieces, but Arizona fans know that the Wildcats have been at their strongest under Sean Miller when he has a point guard who is coachable and pass-first. The Wildcats are loaded next season, but being championship-level includes having the right guys in the right spots, and Jackson-Cartwright fits that mold.

Dewan Huell, Miami: A 6-11 sophomore, Huell's work ethic has earned rave reviews from the coaching staff, who told CBS Sports that they expect a significant bump up from the big man. We peg Miami as the best team in the ACC, in good part because Huell can make for a great second option to the ultra-athletic Bruce Brown.

Kerwin Roach Jr., Texas: The high-flying dunking freak needs to pop in his junior season to help elevate Texas out of the Big 12 basement. The Longhorns were a letdown (11-22) last season. Roach makes watching college basketball more fun. Pogo stick bounce!

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Syracuse big man Taurean Thompson has improved on the offensive end for the Orange. USATSI

Taurean Thompson, Syracuse: A lean, 6-10 power forward with intriguing potential, Thompson could go from 9.2 points to 16 or 17 points per game this season. The Orange are fairly young. Thompson's also an ideal, wingspan-friendly defensive fit in Jim Boeheim's 2-3 scheme.

D'Mitrik Trice, Wisconsin: Will start at point guard for Bucky, taking over for fan favorite Bronson Koenig. Trice shot 42 percent from 3 in spot duty last season. If Wisconsin is to keep its 16-year streak of finishing in the top four in the Big Ten, Trice has to make a jump.

Omer Yurtseven, NC State: He was a victim of over-hype last season. Yurtseven was a late qualifier, played in 22 games, and didn't fit well into Mark Gottfried's plans. This after he was projected as a 2017 NBA pick last October. Now he starts anew. Few players have as much to prove next season as Yurtseven, who is from Turkey.

Temple Gibbs, Notre Dame: Bonzie Colson will get most of the attention, as he should (he's a safe pick for preseason First Team All-America), but keep an eye on Gibbs. He's just a sophomore, and he's going to get a lot more playing time. Mike Brey will need him to bump his 3-point percentage up from 32, closer to 40.

Stanford Robinson, Rhode Island: A terrific physical specimen, someone who is going to be overshadowed by E.C. Matthews but nonetheless will be nearly as responsible as Matthews for getting the Rams back to the NCAA Tournament. Robinson is one of those pound-for-pound wrecking balls. No fear.

Leron Black, Illinois: Brad Underwood has a full-fledged rebuild on his hands in Champaign, so Black -- the returning player with more minutes than anyone else on the roster -- could potentially be a big-numbers guy on a team that fights to reach the NIT.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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