College Basketball: 15 Good Players Set to Become Great in 2012-13

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2012

College Basketball: 15 Good Players Set to Become Great in 2012-13

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    It's always fun to see which college basketball players have breakout years, and for the 2012-13 season, there are several role players who could become top-tier performers.

    Some ballers rise to greatness because of offseason improvements, and others actualize their potential because they finally get a chance to contribute.

    Premiere programs like Ohio State, Syracuse, and North Carolina all have returning players who are poised to be stars in their respective conferences. But programs like Xavier, Marquette, and New Mexico also have diamonds in the rough.

    Take a look at this group of good players who are set to become great in 2012-13.

Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee Volunteers

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    Tennessee got a boost of energy and production last winter when Jarnell Stokes joined the team after graduating high school early.

    With a full offseason of training and building chemistry with the team, Stokes will impose his will on the SEC next year.

    He's built like a freight train and has a nose for the ball. Stokes proved to be one of the Volunteers most valuable players last year, with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 20.6.

    Double-doubles should become a regular occurrence for him next year and beyond.

James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina Tar Heels

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    With the bulk of North Carolina's front-line talent heading to the NBA, James Michael McAdoo will step up for Roy Williams next season.

    McAdoo has the motor, athleticism, and sky-high potential that coaches love to see in a big man. He was a single-digits type of contributor for most of his freshman year, but toward the end of the season, his impact increased.

    Tar Heels fans should get excited about his sophomore year. He'll use his strength and athleticism to relentlessly crash the boards and score second-chance points, and his upgraded offensive skills will make him a threat on every possession.

    McAdoo's minutes may nearly double next year, so he'll soon be on everyone's radar.

Dezmine Wells, Xavier Musketeers

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    He's just 6'5", but Xavier Musketeers wing Dezmine Wells has the strength and explosiveness of a power forward. Want proof? Here's some rim-rocking evidence.

    Wells was an immediate contributor his freshman year, using his athleticism to finish plays and crash the boards. He also has a decent outside shot that he utilizes sporadically, and his improvement in that area will help his versatility moving forward.

    With more minutes and trust, Wells will be a force in all phases of the game. He has the potential to be a star at Xavier in the near future.

Cory Jefferson, Baylor Bears

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    Cory Jefferson didn't see the floor much throughout his first two years in Waco, but Baylor Bears fans will be pleasantly surprised with the results once he gets to run.

    He made the most of his scant playing time last year, and that should give coach Scott Drew confidence in Jefferson now that he needs him. With Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy, and Quincy Miller gone, the frontcourt's effectiveness is in his hands.

    Jefferson converts at a high percentage, brings his rebounding mitts to every stint, and plays exceptional defense.

    He could be a great candidate for Big 12 Most Improved Player next year.

Keith Appling, Michigan State Spartans

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    After a solid sophomore season, Michigan State guard Keith Appling is ready to take the reins in East Lansing and become one of the best floor generals in the Big Ten.

    The departure of Draymond Green makes Appling the go-to guy for the Spartans, and Tom Izzo will continue to mold the young point guard into a prolific player. He showed extraordinary skill at times last year, but struggled with consistency.

    Look for Appling to break out of his sophomore shooting slump and dish more assists per contest. His efficiency and consistency are going to determine how far the Spartans go next year.

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse Orange

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    2012-13 will be the year that Michael Carter-Williams goes from benchwarmer to crowd-pleaser. 

    The 6'5" Syracuse point guard waited his turn behind Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, and now he's ready to join Brandon Triche in the Orange backcourt.

    Carter-Williams has excellent court-vision and nice touch on his passes. His length will help him out both as a distributor and as a defender.

    He's not going to take over the country overnight, but he could emerge as one of the best point guards in the Big East next year.

Tony Snell, New Mexico Lobos

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    New Mexico Lobos guard Tony Snell improved substantially from his freshman to sophomore year, and Steve Alford is hoping for even more development heading into his junior year.

    The 6"7" wing has become a dangerous scorer and a reliable shooter for the Lobos. With Drew Gordon heading to the NBA, New Mexico will need Snell to help fill the void.

    He excelled in the Mountain West tournament last year, especially in the later rounds against UNLV and San Diego State. But then he disappeared in the Big Dance.

    Snell's poor finish this spring will fuel his resurgence next year, and he'll be among the best players in the Mountain West.

Ben Brust, Wisconsin Badgers

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    Wisconsin Badgers guard Ben Brust was one of the best bench players in the country last season, and Bo Ryan's system will continue to give him chances to flourish.

    The 6'1" shooter is heading into his junior year, and he'll likely take close to 300 shots, including 180 three-pointers. If he can make close to 40 percent of those, Wisconsin will stay competitive in almost any game.

    His 25-point outburst against UNLV last fall is an indication of what he can do when he gets hot. Coach Ryan and his staff hope to find more ways to get him clean looks next year from long range.

Davante Gardner, Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Big East power forwards beware, Davante Gardner will be in the paint a lot more this season.

    Marquette Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams will count on Gardner to use his 6'8", 290-pound frame to control the glass and convert high-percentage opportunities near the basket.

    Gardner saw less than 20 minutes of playing time per game for Marquette last year, but he managed to be third in scoring and second in rebounds on the team.

    When he gets his playing time up to 25 to 28 minutes, he'll be a threat to post a double-double on any given night. Marquette's competitiveness next season depends on Gardner's production in the middle.

Elijah Johnson, Kansas Jayhawks

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    Kansas Jayhawks junior Elijah Johnson could go from being a key role player to an all-conference performer.

    The ultra-athletic guard was the third wheel on the Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor express, but now is his time to take center stage at Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

    His offensive numbers were good last season (9.6 points, 3.8 assists per game), but they should significantly increase throughout next season. He'll definitely become more of a facilitator in the offense, setting up Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, and incoming freshman Perry Ellis.

Mike Rosario, Florida Gators

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    A couple years ago, Mike Rosario was one of the leading scorers in the Big East for Rutgers. 

    After Fred Hill's dismissal and the guard's subsequent transfer to Florida, Rosario returned as a sparsely-used role player for the Gators.

    He's now ready to re-emerge as a lethal weapon in the Southeastern Conference. Bradley Beal and Erving Walker are gone, so more of the offensive load will be placed on Rosario's shoulders.

    The new Rosario is a more seasoned and more efficient player, geared up to thrive as a better version of the Rutgers star.

Nick Johnson, Arizona Wildcats

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    Arizona graduated a boatload of seniors this spring, so the Wildcats will rely on Nick Johnson to develop and become a multidimensional playmaker for them next fall.

    He has a surplus of explosiveness and athleticism, and I don't think Sean Miller is worried about his scoring potential. It's his development as a point guard that will define how successful he and the Arizona program will be next year.

    Johnson was second on the team in assists in 2012, but the Wildcats would love to see his dimes double from 2.4 per game to five or more.

    Don't be surprised if Johnson becomes a star out west next winter.

Alex Len, Maryland Terrapins

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    The ACC will get a heavy dose of Ukrainian shot-blocking next year as Alex Len progresses for the Maryland Terrapins.

    The 7'1" tower's skill set is still fairly raw, but he'll still be one of the most important players in the country due to his defense and rebounding.

    Bleacher Report's Thad Novak suggests in his Maryland season preview that Alex Len could soon be the best post player in the ACC, and he could have a Meyers Leonard type of breakout year.

    If he does, Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins will be back in the mix in the ACC.

Otto Porter, Georgetown Hoyas

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    Some would suggest that Georgetown's Otto Porter is already a great player. Considering how much he contributes to every aspect of the game, I can't argue.

    I'd just like to assert that he could be a fantastic player and one of the best all-around performers in the Big East.

    As a freshman, Porter displayed a tenacity and work ethic that made him a terrific defender, outstanding rebounder, and reliable scorer. Someone with his combination of intensity and talent is bound to excel.

    His maturity and team-first mentality will help him become a superstar in the conference and keep Georgetown in Big East contention.

Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Lenzelle Smith Jr. was already a key piece of Ohio State's success, but look for him to be a more integral part of the Buckeyes offense next year.

    The 6'4" guard works well in Thad Matta's system and was a big reason for the squad's great chemistry and Final Four run. He moves well without the ball, is extremely adept at using and setting screens, and is an above-average passer.

    This fall, Smith will take a higher volume of shots now that Jared Sullinger and William Buford are NBA-bound.

    He'll team up with DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft to make Ohio State Big Ten title hopefuls again.