SchuZ's ACC College Basketball Breakout Candidates
With nearly all the top transfers this year committed, rosters are starting to be solidified for next season. Some schools intended to open up minutes for young players to take their next step, while others will be given a chance to make a jump earlier than expected after having potentially disappointing offseasons in the portal and not landing a veteran that will play over them. Either way, new college basketball stars will be born this year, and I think that it's time to start identifying who those players are.
Over the next month, I will be sharing who I view as breakout candidates from my top ten college basketball conferences. The ACC will kick off this series.
Boston College: Quinten Post
After spending his first two collegiate seasons at Mississippi State, Quinten transferred to Boston College where he had his best season to date averaging 9.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 1 BPG while shooting just over 50% from the field in only 21.4 minutes per game. Per 40 minutes, Quinten averaged 17.6 PPG, 10 RPG, 1.9 BPG, and just over one steal and assist per game. With James Karnik running out of eligibility, only freshman Armani Mighty stands over 6-10 on the Eagles roster clearing the way for Quinten to jump in both minutes and production this year.
Clemson: Ben Middlebrooks
While many did not expect Ben Middlebrooks to have much of an impact last season after reclassifying and joining the team prior to the season, he ended up appearing in 26 games and started in four of those. His numbers may not stand out, but over the course of the season, there was a clear improvement. The Tigers are losing Naz Bohannon, which frees up 21.2 minutes per game, and I expect Ben to soak up the majority of those minutes at power forward and play alongside PJ Hall and Hunter Tyson in the frontcourt.
Other Candidates: Ian Schieffelin and Chase Hunter
Duke: Jeremy Roach
This may be one of the easiest breakout predictions to predict as Jeremy Roach showed what he is capable of throughout Duke’s Final Four run. The junior guard only averaged 8.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, and 3.2 APG last season, but as one of only two rotational players returning from last year's Blue Devils team, Jeremy will be in charge of running the show this year at the point.
Florida State: Naheem McLeod
Florida State had a down year that season due to many injuries throughout the year and one of those injuries was to 7-4 center, Naheem McLeod. Naheem flashed his potential multiple times throughout the 18 games that he played in and should be expected to head into the season as the starting center at full health.
Other Candidates: Cam’Ron Fletcher and Jalen Warley
Georgia Tech: Deivon Smith, Miles Kelly & Deebo Coleman
I am extremely high on Josh Pastner’s trio of guards in Deivon Smith, Miles Kelly, and Deebo Coleman that I had to pick all three as breakout candidates. With Georgia Tech losing Michael Devoe, Jordan Usher, Khalid Moore, and Bubba Parham, over 38 points per game will need to be made up and the trio of young guards should be ready to take over.
Louisville: Sydney Curry & El Ellis
Sydney Curry emerged as a fan favorite and a cornerstone of the Cardinals’ future by the end of last season and should head into next season as one of the top players for Kenny Payne in year one. While Sydney is the easy choice here, I also believe that El Ellis will have just as big of a breakout season as the lead guard for Kenny Payne after having to deal with a crowded backcourt last season that caused him to play out of position.
Other Candidates: Jae’Lyn Withers
Miami: Anthony Walker
Miami returns all-conference guard Zay Wong and replaces nearly every roster opening with an equal talent or an upgrade via the transfer portal or their 2022 recruiting class. The only player that Jim Larrañaga did not look to replace was leading scorer Kameron McGusty, and there was a reason behind that as Anthony Walker will be heading into his fourth year in the program and has shown flashes that he will be ready to take over a starting role for the Hurricanes.
NC State: Ebenezer Dowuona
Kevin Keatts is only returning five players from last year's 11-21 roster and one of those players is Ebenezer Dowuona, who was asked to play a much larger role than expected last season after Manny Bates missed the majority of the season due to injury. While he may have not been ready for that role last year, playing those minutes prepared him for this year where I expect him to take a big jump in all areas of his game as well as continue to be the Wolfpack’s best shot blocker.
Other Candidates: Ernest Ross and Dusan Mahorcic
North Carolina: Puff Johnson
After battling injuries throughout the majority of his two years at Chapel Hill, Tar Heel fans finally got to witness what Puff was capable of as he stepped up and played a critical role in North Carolina’s March run. The level of his breakout will be determined by whether or not the Tar Heels land Pete Nance. Either way, Puff will be ready to contribute at a high level as a starting forward or as the first guy off the bench.
Other Candidate: Dontrez Styles
Notre Dame: Nate Laszewski
While many are already well aware of who Nate Laszewski is, I still believe that he will have a breakout year heading into his final year of college eligibility. Nate had a career year as a junior but took a step back last year due to the Fighting Irish’s plethora of scoring options. With Paul Atkinson deciding to not utilize his extra year of eligibility and Notre Dame not landing anyone to replace him via the portal, Nate is now the only player standing over 6-9 for Mike Brey this year and should be the go-to guy in the frontcourt.
Pitt: William Jeffress
William Jeffress was a popular breakout candidate for Pitt last year but did not live up to the expectations. While I know that some have fallen off of the former four-star recruit's hype train, it is important to remember that William just turned 19 years old, which is younger than some incoming freshmen. While Jeff Capel has done a solid job at rebuilding this year's roster with talent, the one position that is up for grabs is at small forward, where I expect William Jeffress to finally make that jump and secure his spot in the starting five.
Other Candidates: Nate Santos
Syracuse: Benny Williams
This may be a common choice here as Benny Williams was hyped up all offseason heading into last year, but once the season came, Benny did not receive the minutes that many expected for him. Unlike many freshmen that enter the transfer portal after not receiving the minutes that they expected as a freshman, Benny chose to remain bought into Jim Boeheim and his plan for the talented sophomore and I think that he will reap the rewards from doing so.
Virginia: Reece Beekman
Reece Beekman will be heading into his third year at Virginia and should be ready to make a huge jump this year. He has already cemented his name as one of the top defenders in the country, but he has also made strides on the offensive side as well. Tony Bennett has a team that should be firmly in the mix for a top-six seed in March, but their ceiling could be determined by how much of a jump their all-conference defensive team selection makes.
Virginia Tech: Darius Maddox
Darius Maddox became a reliable option that Mike Young could trust in the rotation last season. With a starting spot up for grabs on the wing heading into the season, the third-year talent should be ready to win over the job for the Hokies. The jump that the 50.6% three-point shooter from last season makes will determine how high the ceiling is for this year's Hokies squad.
Other Candidate: Sean Pedulla
Wake Forest: Davion Bradford
After spending his first two seasons at Kansas State, Davion Bradford transferred to Wake Forest following the firing of Bruce Weber. While I believe that he still would have panned out had Bruce Weber remained the Wildcats' head coach, transferring to Wake Forest could not have been a better fit for the 7-0 talent. Steve Forbes helped fellow 7-0 center Dallas Walton have a career year last season and I expect even more this year and long-term with Davion due to his youth and three years of eligibility remaining.
Other Candidate: Damari Monsanto
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