One of the things that drives me crazy with preseason coverage is lists of potential breakout players. The problem is that no one defines what "breakout" menas. This year, for example, people are just throwing out long lists of names (all the hits!), double checking to make sure that Montrezl Harrell is on the list, and then moving on. I've seen players who were on their All Conference teams listed as potential breakout players (and no, I'm not linking to Bleacher Report).
So how do I define who should be eligible? It's simple. The player cannot have played half the team's minutes the previous season, and that cannot be due to injury. In other words, they spent more time on the pine than they did on the court.
Got it? Got it.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Everyone expects big things out of Montrezl Harrell this year, including me. I won't waste your time re-hashing what we all know about Harrell, instead I'll just insert a word of caution. Harrell was a very low volume player last year (16.8% of the possessions when he was on the court), and it's rare that a low volume guy suddenly becomes a high volume guy. The problem was that he essentially had one move – the dunk. If he couldn't get to the rim, the Cardinals just reset their offense. He's not adept at passing out of the post and he's an average offensive rebounder for a guy built to offensive rebound. However, in International play this summer he did appear to have refined his game a bit. And with his athletic gifts, "a bit" might be all he needs to break out.
Aaron Thomas, Florida State
Leonard Hamilton loves big shooting guards who can guard the opposing point guard. He's had Michael Snaer in the role for four years, and now it's Thomas's turn. His defensive skills will keep him on the floor, but his offensive skills will be what people notice. He's a slasher who loves to get to the rim (41% of his shots were at the rim, best of any FSU guards). He took 22% of the shots when he was on the floor as a freshman, and now that he understands the system he should be able to take some of the heat off of Okaro White. Expect a lot of double teams on White this year, and expect Thomas to benefit.
Perry Ellis, Kansas
The freshman class at Kansas will be getting all of the press, but it's Ellis – their most experienced player in Self's system – who will be called upon by his coaches to help lead this young team. Ellis hardly played at times last year, but then shined on a big stage with his 23 point, 6 rebound performance against Iowa State in the Big 12 semis. Bill Self has stated that Ellis didn't really start playing instead of thinking until season's end, and now that will carry over into a big sophomore campaign.
Mitch McGary, Michigan
I hadn't even considered that McGary would be eligible for this list, but lo and behold he only played 48.8% of the minutes last year. He became a national fan favorite in the beginning of last year's NCAA tourney run when he had 21 and 14 against VCU, and 25 and 14 vs Kansas. Since he's a big white dude, announcers love throwing out big white dude terms about his "grit" and "toughness" and a bunch of other nonsense. The bottom line is that he's a very skilled big man who is just learning how to be effective at his position.
LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
Ross's career has been slow to get started at Ohio State, but expect his junior year to be a big one. Academic issues derailed his freshman year, and then he developed into a solid role player as a sophomore. Now, with Deshaun Thomas gone, he has the opportunity to be the guy. Last year he made 52% of his 2s and 39% of his 3s, which is a deadly combo for a 6-8 player.
Melvin Johnson, VCU
Hey Melvin, stop jacking 3s. Melvin Johnson was a fairly efficient player despite shooting just 28% from beyond the arc. He did it by making 48% of his 2s, 78% of his free throws, and not turning the ball over. He also fits in well defensively, forcing turnovers on 2.8% of opponent possessions. He needs to rebound and get better at drawing fouls, but not many freshman can take 25% of the shots when they're on the floor, and still post an oRtg of 101.8. He's not the most talked about amongst the VCU players, but he's the one I'll be keeping an eye on.
Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga
With the emergence of Kelly Olynyk, Karnowski didn't get many minutes as a freshman. But now Olynyk and Elias Harris are gone, meaning that Sam Dower and Karnowski need to step up whether they're ready or not. Karnowski is an absolutely massive player (listed at 7-1, 305) who won't post eye popping scoring numbers, but he can do two things that the Zags will need. One, he can hold down the middle of an otherwise small defense. And two, he should be one of the better offensive rebounders in the conference. He'll extend possessions for the Zags and get them plenty of easy buckets.
Michael Carrera, South Carolina
Carrera is refreshing to watch as he's a player that expends full energy on every play. He was limited down the stretch last year due to a cracked pelvis (which he played through) but he still continued to play hard and put up impressive numbers. He drew the 2nd most fouls/40 in the SEC, and made 74% of his free throws. He was also the best defensive rebounder in the conference, and No. 2 on the offensive glass. Now that he's healthy, expect a double-double sophomore campaign.