The dozens: 12 breakout players for 2012-13

I like definitions. If there are rules, I want to know them. Maybe it’s because I’m an ecologist in my real life but understanding how someone came to a conclusion is critical in how I view those conclusions. And this is why one list annoys me more than any others – the annual “breakout” lists. Eamonn Brennan at Sports Illustrated just released his, and Rob Dauster had his rebuttal at College Basketball Talk. Looking at the original list – Brennan’s – it’s clear that there are no rules on this ship.

In what world does Nate Wolters need to “breakout”? As a junior he played 86% of his team’s minutes, took over 33% of the shots when he was on the floor (24th nationally), was the only player in the nation to average 20/5/5, was an honorable mention on the AP All American list, has been on the 1st Team All Conference for two straight seasons, etc…

So I have no idea what he means by “breakout.”

My trusty Webster’s defines breakout as “of or constituting a sudden increase, advance, or unexpected success.”

Hence: my list. Only this one has rules.

To be eligible players cannot have played more than 50% of his team’s minutes in any season, and the lack of playing time cannot be solely attributable to an injury. Anyone who has played more than this is either a full-time starter or extremely valuable sixth man. And that’s it. That’s the litmus test. Simple, effective.

Here goes (in alphabetical order):

Sean Armand, Iona, Jr (2011-12 stats: 9.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg): For the first nine games last season Armand never played more than 13 minutes. Then he got 27 in a big win over Richmond, made 5-6 3-pointers and scored 17 points. From there it was on – he played more than 20 minutes in 15 of 23 remaining games. He scored 32 against Siena. 25 against Loyola (MD). 22 against Rider. He made 46% of his 3s. And now Iona loses Scott Machado and Mike Glover, and return a loaded back court in Momo Jones, Sean Armand and transfer Curtis Dennis. Armand should get plenty of chances to flash that pure stroke.

Rion Brown, Miami, Jr (7.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg): Brown followed the same trajectory as Armand last season – he began the season on the bench and finished getting over 20 minutes per game for 9 of his final 10. In his first 25 games he was in double figures five times. He matched that in his final six games. He’s a 39% 3-point shooter with good size (6-6) who can be used to cause mismatches.

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, So (2.8 ppg, 2.2 apg): MCW sat on the Syracuse bench due to two things: Boeheim isn’t a big freshman guy, and the Orange back court was absolutely stacked. Now several players have moved on and it’s Carter-Williams turn to take on a bigger role. He should have added bulk to his 6-5 frame by November, and otherwise has the size and athleticism to be a complete freak of a combo guard.

Quin Cook, Duke, So (4.4 ppg, 1.9 apg): Quin Cook never really found his footing last season. He was shut down in August due to a knee injury and wasn’t able to play on Duke’s foreign trip. All of the missed practice time clearly affected his game, as (especially on defense) he was often out of position. With a year under his belt he should be able to beat out Tyler Thornton for the majority of minutes at point. Last year his assist rate (31.5) was nearly twice that of any other player on the roster. Duke doesn’t need a scorer running the show, so expect Seth Curry to move back to where he’s comfortable – firing shots – while Cook keeps everyone involved.

Filip Cvjeticanin, Florida Gulf Coast, So (6.8 ppg, 1.8rpg): You may not be able to pronounce his name, but in the language of basketball he’s a baller. Born in Spain, raised in Croatia, the 6-9 freshman learned to shoot somewhere. Over 76% of his shots were from beyond the arc, and he made 43% of them. As he adds more to his game he’ll be a force in the Atlantic Sun.

Sam Dower, Gonzaga, Jr (8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg): Dower has not-so patiently waited his turn at Gonzaga. Now that Robert Sacre is gone he should get more minutes. The smooth lefty can play away from the basket, and he’s been developing some decent moves down low. He’s a bit foul prone, but also draws a few of his own, and makes 77% once he gets there. In other words, he’s valuable as a pick-and-pop guy, but can do a lot more.

Davante Gardner, Marquette, Jr (9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg): Gardner is the first player to appear twice on this list. I had him last year, and I’m taking him again. At some point Gardner is going to get in shape, and when he does he’s going to wreck shop. The 6-8 banger makes 57% of his 2s, 76% of his FTs, and had a higher FTRate than anyone in the Big East. Also, like many bigs who angle toward 3-bills, he’s immovable on the offensive glass and had the 4th highest OR% in the conference.

Treveon Graham, Virginia Commonwealth, So (7.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg): Graham’s role increased as the season wore on. He wasn’t great scoring the ball (typical of freshman), though he was the best player on the team at drawing fouls. He takes care of the ball. He’s a terror on defense. And he’s set to be a top-three scoring option now that Bradford Burgess is gone.

P.J. Hairston, North Carolina, So (5.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg): At some point last season Hairston forgot how to shoot. He began the season 17-35 on 3s (49%) and finished 21-104 (20%). He has too good of a stroke for that prolonged slump to be anything but lack of confidence. With more reps, he’ll see more shots fall. And as they fall he’ll develop into a college shooter. Expect that to happen this season. At 6-6 he’s a matchup nightmare, and with the departure of the last wave of players he’ll get his opportunity to be the man this year.

Brad Waldow, St. Mary’s, So (8.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg): Brad Waldow began the season getting bench sores, and finished playing >30 minutes in three of his final four games. In those three games he averaged 12 and 9. Now Rob Jones is out at St. Mary’s, and Brad Waldow is in. He’ll be Matthew Dellavedova’s new mate. He made 67% of his 2s last year, and was an elite rebounder. His weakness is free throw shooting.

Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara, So (6.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg): The Gauchos lost three starters from last year’s team, and now it will be impossible to keep Williams off the floor. He had double-digit rebounds five times, and was the best offensive rebounder in the nation, grabbing 22.5% of his team’s misses. It’s unfair to compare anyone with Thomas Robinson, but Williams’ stats look pretty similar to Robinson’s before he busted out.

Kyle Wiltjer, Kentucky, So (4.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg): Wiltjer was the other freshman at Kentucky. He joined fellow Oregonian Terrence Jones at Kentucky, and now will be replacing him. Wiltjer made 43% of his 3s and 82% of his free throws. Once he figures out how to score on the interior, look out. As a sophomore, Wiltjer will be considered a grizzled vet at UK.