College Basketball's Top 50 Impact Players for the 2012-13 Season

Danny FlynnSenior Analyst INovember 9, 2012

College Basketball's Top 50 Impact Players for the 2012-13 Season

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    It only takes a quick glance at the list of players picked in the 2012 NBA draft to realize that college basketball has lost a ton of star power.

    Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tyler Zeller are just some of the high-profile players from last season who have made the move up to the pro ranks.

    There are very few proven stars left in the college game, but that’s what makes this upcoming season so interesting. In today’s current “one and done” culture, every year, new players rise up and become household names, and this year should be no different.

    To celebrate the official start of the 2012-2013 season, here’s a look at college basketball's top 50 impact players.

1. Cody Zeller, C, Indiana

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    After enduring some dark days in recent years, there are once again high hopes surrounding the Indiana basketball team following last year's 27-9 campaign that resulted in a trip to the Sweet 16. Some are even saying that this could be the season that the Hoosiers make it back to their first Final Four since 2002. 

    Much of the optimism has to do with the return of the team's leader, Cody Zeller, who has been hailed as the best returning player in the country and a potential top-five pick in the 2013 NBA draft. 

    Zeller deserves the hype he's getting after the performance he had last season, when he averaged 15.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. 

    The former Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year has already made his home state proud with an outstanding first season. Now, the 7'0" sophomore will be looking to take his game to an elite level this year.

    The athletic big man is a tough, intelligent and highly motivated team leader, who looks like he's capable of being the centerpiece of a true championship contender. If Zeller turns out to be as good as advertised, and if the rest of the Hoosiers can feed off his energy, then there's no limit to what Indiana can accomplish this season. 

2. Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton

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    Doug McDermott was overshadowed by Harrison Barnes when the two played together at Ames High School in Iowa, as Barnes was rated as the top overall recruit in the country. However, McDermott ended up having a more impressive season last year than his more heralded former high school teammate. 

    Following a tremendous freshman campaign, in which he set a Missouri Valley Conference record for points by a freshman and earned the league's Newcomer of the Year award, McDermott took his game to an even higher level as a sophomore in 2011-12. 

    The 6'7'' small forward averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and he helped guide the Bluejays to a 29-6 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. 

    McDermott is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous offensive players in college basketball. Ultimately, he's got a chance to become the same type of mid-major folk hero as former BYU star Jimmer Fredette was back in 2010-11.

3. Pierre Jackson, PG, Baylor

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    Baylor lost a ton of talent from last year's team, including three NBA draft picks—Perry Jones, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller. However, the Bears may still be able to make a serious run at a Big 12 title this season if PG Pierre Jackson can step up and put the team on his back. 

    In his first season at Baylor, Jackson averaged 13.8 points and 5.9 assists per game. The scary part is that may have only been just a taste of what's to come. 

    The former junior college star, who helped lead College of Southern Idaho to a NJCAA Division I national championship in 2010-11, didn't seem to have much trouble adapting to Big 12 competition last year. 

    Now that Jackson's gotten his feet wet in the conference and proven that he can handle himself, the 5'10'', 180-pound senior seems like he's ready to contend for Big 12 Player of the Year honors this season. 

4. C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State

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    NC State hasn't won an ACC championship since the Jim Valvano era back in the late 1980s. However, there are many who believe that the Wolfpack are ready to finally break through and climb back to the top of the conference this season. 

    To truly contend for a league title, Mark Gottfried's squad is going to need another huge year out of budding star C.J. Leslie. 

    Leslie is a former 5-star recruit who really matured and came into his own last season following an inconsistent freshman campaign. The lanky, yet very athletic 6'9'', 200-pound forward averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds, and he was a big reason why the Wolfpack made a run to the Sweet 16. 

    The extremely gifted junior has a chance to not only be the top player in the ACC this season, he could contend for National Player of the Year honors if he plays up to his potential and leads NC State to a conference championship. 

5. Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

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    Michigan has made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament in three out of the five years that John Beilein has been in charge in Ann Arbor. However, the Wolverines have yet to make it to the Sweet 16 during Beilein's tenure. 

    That could change this season, especially if PG Trey Burke has the type of season that many are anticipating. 

    Burke put together a fantastic freshman season in 2011-12, averaging 14.8 points and 4.6 assists per game. Following his encouraging debut, Wolverines fans are now hoping that the 6'0'' sophomore will take the next step toward stardom this year. 

    If Burke can continue to mature and develop into a true team leader, there's no telling just how far Michigan could go this year. 

6. Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State

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    The rise of Murray State was one of the biggest stories of last season. The Racers sprinted out to a 23-0 record before ultimately ending up with a 31-2 mark and an appearance in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament by season's end. 

    PG Isaiah Canaan, the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year, received much of the credit for the team's success, and deservedly so. Canaan was one of the top scorers in the country, averaging 19 points per game. 

    The 6'1'', 195-pound senior flirted with the idea of leaving school early for the NBA. But ultimately, he made the right decision to return for one more year and try to prove to scouts that he's a legitimate first-round talent. 

    Canaan now has the spotlight shining on him this season. It will be interesting to see if he can lead Murray State to another conference championship and another NCAA Tournament berth before he heads off to the pros. 

7. Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky

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    It will probably be another decade before we see another freshman have the type of impact that Anthony Davis had at Kentucky last season. Still, there are definitely a few talented true freshman who have the chance to quickly become celebrated stars this year.

    It just so happens that the top must-watch freshman resides in Lexington yet again. 

    Although center Nerlens Noel received more publicity as the top-ranked prospect of the 2012 recruiting class, it's actually Alex Poythress who should be the biggest impact player for Kentucky this season. 

    Poythress is a versatile forward who has the size and the skills to play either the 3 or the 4. No matter where he lines up, however, he's truly a lethal offensive weapon. 

    The 6'7'', 239-pound freshman averaged 28 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game during his senior year at Northeast High School in Clarksville, Tennessee, earning the state's Mr. Basketball and Gatorade Player of the Year honors for his performance. 

    The McDonald's All-American may not be the same caliber of difference-maker as Davis was last season. Nevertheless, Poythress still has the potential be an instant sensation for the Wildcats this season. 

8. C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh

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    The many fans who claimed they were shocked and stunned when Lehigh upset Duke in last year's NCAA Tournament probably hadn't been paying much attention to just how good C.J. McCollum is. 

    The fact that McCollum dropped 30 points on the Blue Devils that night in the 75-70 victory wasn't really all that surprising, considering he had already established himself as one of the most dynamic players in the country. 

    Last year, McCollum earned Patriot League Player of the Year honors for the second time in his career after averaging 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. More importantly, he helped lead the Mountain Hawks to a 27-8 record, a conference championship and their first ever win in the NCAA Tournament. 

    Some expected the 6'3'' shooting guard to strike while the iron was hot and make the leap to the NBA. But instead, McCollum decided to return for his senior season, which is great news for Lehigh and very bad news for the rest of the Patriot League. 

9. Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

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    Kansas has won eight straight Big 12 titles. For the Jayhawks to keep that streak going, they're going to need center Jeff Withey to step up and become a star and a true team leader this year.

    Withey is certainly capable of putting the team on his back just as Thomas Robinson did last season when Kansas made a run all the way to the NCAA championship game. 

    The 7'0" senior was an absolutely dominant shot-blocker last year, swatting away a Big 12-leading 140 shots and setting an NCAA Tournament record with 31 rejections in the postseason. 

    With Robinson gone, the question is: Can Withey become a bigger offensive threat than he was last year, when he averaged just nine points per game?

    If he can develop a more well-rounded offensive game and continue to dominate in the paint as a shot-blocker, Kansas will have a great opportunity to win its ninth straight conference championship and make a run back to the Final Four. 

10. DeShaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State

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    Ohio State has had plenty of high-profile players during Thad Matta's tenure in Columbus, including NBA first-round picks such as Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Jared Sullinger.

    This season, the Buckeyes will once again have one of the best players in the country, DeShaun Thomas, who has the potential to be Matta's next big export to the NBA.

    Thomas is coming off a terrific sophomore season in which he averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. 

    The 6'7'', 215-pound forward is an explosive athlete who shows great touch and feel as a shooter.

    Now that he'll have the opportunity to step out of Sullinger's shadow, Thomas should really be able to make a name for himself on the national scene, especially if he can lead Ohio State to a Big Ten title. 

11. Phil Pressey, PG, Missouri

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    Kentucky may be the reigning SEC champs, but John Calipari and the Wildcats better be prepared for a serious challenge for the this year's conference crown from newcomer Missouri.

    The Tigers will look noticeably different from last year, when they won 30 games before being shocked by No. 15 seed Norfolk State in their first game of the NCAA Tournament. However, the return of PG Phil Pressey gives the team a much-needed leader to rally around. 

    Pressey is the only returning full-time starter from last year's squad. But the talented point guard should have no trouble adapting to a lineup that will have plenty of talent with the return of Laurence Bowers, who missed last season with a torn ACL, and the addition of Alex Oriakhi, a transfer from UConn. 

    The 5'11'', 175-pound junior is a natural born leader who possesses great vision and passing ability, which he displayed last season when he averaged 6.4 assists per game. 

    Missouri will have a lot of jelling to do early on in the season, but Pressey should be the stabilizing force who helps keep the team glued together during its inaugural season in the SEC.

12. Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

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    NBA scouts are already buzzing about the potential of North Texas forward Tony Mitchell.

    Mitchell was the only freshman in the country who averaged a double-double last season. His average of 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and three blocks per game helped him become an immediate star in the Sun Belt Conference.

    The 6'8'', 235-pound power forward is a former 5-star recruit, who originally signed with Missouri coming out of high school. However, academic issues forced him to sit out a year. Eventually, the Dallas native ended up back in his home state of Texas, playing for the Mean Green. 

    As far as pure athleticism is concerned, there may not be another forward in the country that can compare to Mitchell. His rare physical tools are certainly eye-catching.

    If Mitchell continues to develop his all-around game, and if he continues to dominate and overwhelm the weaker competition in his conference, he's definitely got the chance to be a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft. 

13. James Michael McAdoo, PF, North Carolina

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    North Carolina will have to figure out how to replace four first-round NBA draft picks—Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller—from last year's 32-6 squad that made it to the Elite Eight. Fortunately for the Tar Heels, they have a potential breakout star, James Michael McAdoo, to rebuild around. 

    McAdoo arrived in Chapel Hill last year as one of the most highly touted prospects of the 2011 recruiting class. But it took some time for the former high school standout to adapt to the collegiate game. 

    The 6'9'', 220-pound sophomore did begin to show flashes of his tremendous physical ability later in the season, however, as he gave fans a glimpse of his enormous potential. 

    There's no questioning the type of talent that McAdoo possesses. The question is, though, is he ready to ascend to star status and be the true face of one of the most prestigious programs in college basketball? 

    If he is, then North Carolina certainly has a shot to repeat as ACC champs, even after losing so much talent from last season.

14. Peyton Siva, PG, Louisville

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    Louisville will enter the 2012-13 season as the most loaded team in the Big East. The Cardinals will be the clear-cut favorite to win the conference, and they'll be considered one of the top contenders to make it to the Final Four. 

    The face of Rick Pitino's talented squad will be PG Peyton Siva. 

    Although he was hampered by an ankle injury early on last year, the 6'0" playmaker, once he was fully healthy later in the season, shined, averaging 13.7 points, 5.7 assists and 6.2 rebounds in the Big East Tournament and 9.4 points and 6.2 assists in the NCAA Tournament. 

    Siva was a major key to Louisville's run to a Final Four last season, and the senior will once again play a crucial role in the Cardinals' quest to get back there in 2013. 

15. Mike Moser, PF, UNLV

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    After transferring from UCLA to UNLV following his freshman year, Mike Moser managed to revive his college career in a big way last season. 

    Moser earned the Mountain West's Newcomer of the Year award after putting up 15 double-doubles and averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in 2011-12. 

    The 6'8'', 210-pound junior was one of the key factors for the Rebels' success, as he helped guide the team to a 26-9 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. 

    Not only is Moser a legitimate All-American candidate, he's also got the potential to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft. 

16. Aaron Craft, PG, Ohio State

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    DeShaun Thomas may be the most talented player that Ohio State has this season. But the team's leader and its true heart and soul is PG Aaron Craft. 

    Craft is the catalyst to the Buckeyes' offensive success, and he's also one of the best individual defenders in the country. Last season, the 6'2'' junior averaged 8.8 points, 4.6 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.

    With Craft running the show, Ohio State's offense ranked second in the Big Ten, averaging 74.7 points per game. 

    The former 3-star recruit from Findlay, Ohio, has turned out to be a major steal for Thad Matta and the Buckeyes.

17. Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA

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    Following a run of three straight Final Four appearances from 2006-2008, UCLA has taken a big step back in recent years. Last season, the Bruins finished with just 19 wins and missed out on the postseason for the second time in three years.

    What made things worse was that coach Ben Howland had to deal with accusations that he had lost control of the program. The tumultuous season has surely taken a toll on Howland and his remaining players. However, there is reason for hope and optimism in Westwood once again.

    This year, the Bruins brought in one of their best recruiting classes of the Howland era. The centerpiece of that group is Shabazz Muhammad

    Muhammad has had to deal with injuries and an NCAA investigation this offseason. But once he finally does hit the court at Pauley Pavilion, he'll have the chance to show why he was considered to be one of the top overall prospects of the 2012 recruiting class. 

    The 6'6'' swingman is the type of electric star that can help revitalize the struggling program. 

18. Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

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    There aren't many proven upper-echelon players in the Big East this season. But one player who has the chance to have a breakout campaign and become one of the top performers in the league is Georgetown's Otto Porter. 

    Although he failed to receive much substantial recruiting interest from big-name schools during his days at Scott County Central High School in tiny Sikeston, Missouri, Porter came to Georgetown last year and showed that he could be an instant impact player in one of college basketball's top power conferences. 

    As a freshman, the 6'8'' small forward averaged 9.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, and he played an integral role in helping Georgetown win 24 games. 

    Now, with veteran starters such as Jason Clark, Henry Sims and Hollis Thompson all gone, the Hoyas are definitely Porter's team this season. It will be interesting to see just how far he can take them. 

19. Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke

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    Mason Plumlee could have joined his brother Miles in the 2012 NBA draft. But instead, Plumlee made the wise decision to return to Duke for his senior year. It could end up being a decision that really pays off for Plumlee, as he now has the opportunity to prove to NBA scouts that he is indeed worth a first-round draft pick. 

    Last year, the 6'10'', 235-pound power forward had a strong junior campaign, averaging 11.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. However, he still has room to improve his overall offensive game. 

    If he shows more aggressiveness and trust in his offensive skills, Plumlee has a chance to be one of the most dominant big men in the country this season. 

20. Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

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    Nerlens Noel has some big shoes to fill, taking over at center for the departed Anthony Davis, who was last year's National Player of the Year and the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NBA draft. 

    It would be foolish to expect the same type of historic campaign from Noel that we saw from Davis last season. However, the freshman big man still has plenty of hype and expectations to deal with. 

    Noel was rated by many scouting services as the top overall prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, and he's already being talked about as a top candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NBA draft. 

    Obviously, that's a lot of pressure to put on a young 18-year-old's shoulders, but the 6'10'' shot-blocking specialist certainly has the elite skills it takes to be Kentucky's next big star. 

21. Kenny Boynton, SG, Florida

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    Florida had one of the highest scoring offenses in college basketball last season, averaging 75.9 points per game. The Gators' leading scorer was SG Kenny Boynton, who averaged 15.9 points per game. 

    Boynton showed noticeable improvement as a shooter following an encouraging sophomore campaign in 2010-11, and he proved that he could be counted on to be the team's go-to offensive weapon. 

    The Gators lost their two other key guards from last year—Bradley Beal and Erving Walker—who averaged a combined 26.9 points per game. Luckily, though, Boynton should be able to handle carrying the offense once again in 2012-13, and he should thrive in his role as the team's key senior leader. 

22. Lorenzo Brown, PG, N.C. State

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    The return of C.J. Leslie isn't the only reason why so many people are jumping on the NC State bandwagon. The Wolfpack also have another potential star in Lorenzo Brown, who's one of the most talented guards in the nation. 

    Brown took over the point guard duties in Raleigh last season and had no trouble running the offense. He averaged 12.7 points and 4.5 rebounds and ranked second in the ACC with 6.3 assists per game. 

    The 6'5'', 186-pound junior can shoot and distribute the ball with great efficiency and consistency, and he's not too shabby on the defensive end of the court either. 

    Last year, NC State ranked third in the ACC in scoring, averaging 72.9 points per game. This season, the Wolfpack should be the top scoring team in the league if Brown continues to develop as expected. 

23. Trevor Mbakwe, PF, Minnesota

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    Minnesota coach Tubby Smith is on the hot seat this season, since he hasn't been able to produce a single NCAA Tournament victory during his five years at the helm. It's a good thing for Smith that he'll have one of the Big Ten's most talented players, Trevor Mbakwe, to rely on for this make-or-break season. 

    Following an impressive junior campaign, in which he averaged 13.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, Mbakwe missed most of last season with a knee injury. Fortunately, the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility, and luckily, he wasn't booted from the team following a DUI arrest. 

    After experiencing an unfortunate injury in 2011, Mbakwe caught two lucky breaks this offseason that allowed him to continue being a Gopher. Hopefully, he appreciates the opportunity and makes the most of his senior season.

24. Michael Snaer, SG, Florida State

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    Florida State has had to replace four starters from a team that went 25-10 overall and 12-4 against ACC competition last season. However, the Seminoles do return their most important player from last year's squad, Michael Snaer. 

    Snaer is one of the best defensive players in the country, and last season, he proved that he can be a top-level scorer as well, as he averaged 14 points per game. 

    The 6'5'' senior shooting guard will have to deal with having a lot of youth and inexperience surrounding him this season. Nevertheless, Snaer should still be able to excel in his role as the team's go-to scorer and defensive leader. 

25. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

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    Besides having one of the most awesome names in college basketball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also happens to be one of the most gifted players in the country. 

    Pope arrived at Georgia last year with high expectations to live up to, as he was considered to be one of the best overall prospects of the 2011 recruiting class. 

    The 6'5'' shooting guard immediately showed why he was so highly regarded during his days at Georgia's Greenville High School. As a freshman, Pope averaged 13.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, and he displayed an impressive ability to score from almost anywhere on the court. 

    Now, Pope will be the undisputed leader of a Georgia team that will be looking to improve on last season's disappointing 15-17 record. 

26. Elijah Johnson, PG, Kansas

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    Last season, Kansas relied on a steady veteran point guard, Tyshawn Taylor, and a dominant frontcourt player, Thomas Robinson, to make a huge run all the way to the NCAA championship game. This season, the Jayhawks will likely follow a similar type of strategy for success, even though both Taylor and Robinson have departed. 

    Instead of Robinson, it will be center Jeff Withey who will be expected to dominate down low, and instead of Taylor, it will now be Elijah Johnson running the show from the point guard position this year. 

    Johnson has slid over from shooting guard after averaging 10.2 points and 3.5 assists per game in 2011-12.

    The 6'4'' senior was arguably the team's best player during the latter part of last season, and he displayed all the necessary tools needed to run the offense effectively. Johnson is an athletic and intelligent combo guard who has the shooting skills and passing prowess to develop into a dynamic offensive leader this season. 

27. Le'Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State

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    Le'Bryan Nash arrived in Stillwater last year with some pretty high expectations to live up to, since many scouting services rated him as one of the top prospects in the 2011 recruiting class. 

    Nash had moments of greatness and moments of struggle during his freshman season, but overall, he put together a solid performance, as he averaged 13.3 points and five rebounds per game. 

    The athletic sophomore swingman will now be looking to establish himself as one of the best players in the Big 12 in 2012-13. To do that, Nash has to work on being a more consistent shooter and being a more well-rounded offensive threat. However, he's obviously got the skills to be a star. 

    After a disappointing 15-18 campaign, Oklahoma State will now be looking to put together a bounce-back season this year. If Nash turns out to be the player that many thought he would be back when he was coming out of Lincoln High School in Dallas, the Cowboys should be able to break the 20-win mark and contend for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. 

28. BJ Young, SG, Arkansas

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    Arkansas has not made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2008. But after four seasons of missing out on postseason play, the Razorbacks look like they have a legitimate chance to make a run at a tournament berth this year. 

    Whether the team ultimately earns an invitation will likely depends on just how good BJ Young turns out to be. 

    The gem of Arkansas' 2011 recruiting class enjoyed a tremendous freshman season. Young shot over 50 percent from the field and averaged 15.3 points per game. 

    The 6'3'' sophomore shooting guard has the chance to be one of the most productive scorers in the country this season. If Young plays up to his potential, the Razorbacks will definitely find themselves in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth. 

29. Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas

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    Myck Kabongo's future at Texas is still a bit hazy at this point. The talented young point guard is currently being forced to sit out while the NCAA conducts an investigation into his relationship with an agent and the accusation that he received improper benefits. 

    If Kabongo is ultimately declared eligible, it will be a huge boost for a Longhorns team that is already trying to figure out how to properly replace last year's leading-scorer J'Covan Brown. 

    Kabongo had an encouraging, yet inconsistent freshman campaign in 2011-2012. The speedy 6'1'' guard averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 assists per game in his first season, but his shooting was very erratic, especially later in the year. 

    Still, the former 5-star recruit is obviously loaded with potential. If he ends up being cleared to play by the NCAA, Kabongo could have a huge, breakout sophomore campaign. 

30. Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State

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    San Diego State has made it to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, and the Aztecs look like they're destined to continue that streak this season. 

    This is one of the best teams that coach Steve Fisher has had during his tenure at the Mountain West school. The leader and focal point of the talented group will be last year's Mountain West Player of the Year, Jamaal Franklin. 

    Franklin is coming off a spectacular sophomore campaign in which he averaged 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. The 6'5'' shooting guard is one of the most lethal scorers in the country, and when he's in rhythm, he's almost impossible to stop. 

    The Mike Moser-led UNLV Runnin' Rebels may enter the season as the favorite to win the conference championship. However, Franklin and the Aztecs are definitely going to give them a tough fight. 

31. Christian Watford, PF, Indiana

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    Christian Watford hit the most memorable and most chill-inducing buzzer-beater of the 2011-12 season, when he nailed a three-pointer as time expired to beat No. 1-ranked Kentucky 73-72 last December. 

    That may have been the biggest shot that Watford hit all season, but it certainly wasn't the only big contribution that he made for the Hoosiers. 

    The 6'9'' senior averaged 12.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and shot 43 percent from behind the arc last year.

    Watford will now, once again, team with Cody Zeller to give Indiana one of the strongest frontcourt combinations in the country for the 2012-13 season. 

32. Adonis Thomas, SF, Memphis

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    Memphis ended last season in very disappointing fashion with a loss to Saint Louis in the Round of 64 of the NCAA Tournament. However, there's still reason to believe that the Tigers can bounce back and be the best mid-major team in the country this year. 

    Josh Pastner has had plenty of talent at his disposal during his first few years at Memphis, but he's also had to deal with plenty of youth and inexperience as well. This season, he'll have some talented veterans that he can rely on to lead the way. 

    The most intriguing returning player the Tigers have is Adonis Thomas. 

    The former McDonald's All-American turned in a strong effort as a freshman last season, averaging 8.8 points per game. But he still obviously has plenty of room to grow. 

    Thomas is one of the most athletic and physically gifted players in the country. If he can make the most of his natural ability this season, the 6'6'' sophomore has a chance to be the biggest star in Conference USA.

33. Matthew Dellavedova, PG, Saint Mary’s

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    St. Mary's had to cross the Pacific Ocean to reel in Matthew Dellavedova, an Australian native who played for the Australian Institute of Sport. But it turned out to be a recruiting trip that was well worth the travel expenses. 

    Dellavedova has been a full-time starter for the Gaels since his freshman year in 2009-10. Over the last three seasons, he's been one of the most productive players in school history. 

    Last year, the 6'4'' senior had the best performance of his career, averaging 15.5 points and leading the West Coast Conference with 6.4 assists per game. That effort helped him earn the league's Player of the Year award.

    The talented point guard helped the Gaels capture both the WCC regular-season and tournament championships, which is the first time the team has managed to win both in the same year.

    After leading the Australian national team to the quarterfinals in the 2012 London Olympics over the summer, Dellavedova has now returned to Moraga to try to help St. Mary's repeat as conference champions in 2012-13. 

34. Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

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    The other piece of Michigan's talented backcourt is SG Tim Hardaway Jr. 

    Hardaway will rejoin PG Trey Burke to give the Wolverines one of the strongest guard combinations in the country once again in 2012-13. 

    The son of former five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway has clearly inherited many of his father's athletic gifts and instincts for the game. Last season, Hardaway averaged 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, and he played a critical role in Michigan's run to the NCAA Tournament. 

    The 6'6" junior should provide plenty of highlights and thrills once again this year, as he teams back up with Burke to form the type of dangerous offensive duo that no opponent will want to have to face.

35. Ray McCallum, PG, Detroit

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    When he was coming out of Detroit Country Day School as a highly touted recruit back in 2010, Ray McCallum had the chance to play for plenty of prestigious powerhouse schools such as Arizona, Florida and UCLA. However, McCallum instead chose to play for his father, Ray Sr., at the University of Detroit. 

    It's turned out to be a great fit, as McCallum has developed into the best overall player in the Horizon League after just two years. 

    The 6'3'' junior averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, four assists and 1.6 steals per game last season. He helped guide the Titans to a 22-14 record, a Horizon Tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. 

    McCallum has legitimate NBA-caliber talent. If he has another big season and leads Detroit to the postseason yet again, the highly productive point guard could ultimately end up as a first-round pick in next year's NBA draft. 

36. Solomon Hill, SF, Arizona

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    Sean Miller made waves on the recruiting trail this year by signing one of the top-ranked classes in the country. It's a group that includes highly touted prospects such as Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski and Grant Jerrett.

    All three players will make an instant impact for Arizona this season. However, the real key to the Wildcats' success will be returning veteran leader Solomon Hill. 

    Hill is coming off a spectacular season in which he averaged 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. While his numbers were solid, Hill's true value was that he provided the emotional stability for a team that had to deal with plenty of off-the-court distractions. 

    The 6'7'' senior is a consummate team player who will provide Arizona's young talented freshmen with the proper guidance and leadership they need.

37. Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee

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    Last year, Tennessee managed to surpass modest preseason expectations during Cuonzo Martin's first season in charge in Knoxville. The Volunteers quieted many of the doubters who said that they would finish near the bottom of the SEC, as they went 19-15 and made it to the second round of the NIT. 

    Jarnell Stokes was one of the Tennessee players who really turned heads in 2011-12. Stokes was one of the most productive freshmen in the conference, averaging 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

    Sadly, however, a wrist injury limited him to just 17 games of action. 

    Now that Stokes is healthy, the 6'8'' sophomore forward is ready to establish himself as one of the top all-around players in the SEC this season. He's also prepared to lead the Volunteers on a charge back to the NCAA Tournament. 

38. Keith Appling, PG, Michigan State

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    Michigan State lost its best player from last year's squad, small forward Draymond Green, who led the team in scoring and rebounding and ended up as a second-round pick in the 2012 NBA draft. 

    The good news for the Spartans, however, is that they once again are stocked with plenty of talent and the type of pieces to build a Big Ten title contender out of. 

    The player that everyone will have their eye on in East Lansing this season is point guard Keith Appling. 

    Appling endured a bit of a sophomore slump last season, shooting just 42 percent from the field, but he still managed to average 11.4 points and 3.9 assists per game. 

    The 6'1'' junior has shown that he can be a scorer, a creator and a distributor. But it remains to be seen whether he's ready to become a true team leader, now that Green's gone. 

39. Allen Crabbe, SF, California

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    Cal returns three starters from last year's team that won 24 games and made it into the NCAA Tournament. But none of them are as important as Allen Crabbe. 

    Last season, Crabbe led the Golden Bears with 15.2 points per game and he was one of the top overall scorers in the Pac-12.

    The 6'6'' swingman can play both shooting guard and small forward with equal effectiveness, and he's the type of versatile offensive player who can create plenty of matchup problems for opponents. 

    Crabbe seems like he's ready to solidify his status as not just one of the top offensive players in the conference, but as one of the top offensive players in the country as well. 

40. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State pulled off a huge recruiting coup by landing Marcus Smart, a prized 5-star prospect from Texas, who chose the Cowboys over powerhouses such as Kansas and North Carolina. Smart is a special young player who can come in and immediately change the complexion of the team this season. 

    The 6'4'' point guard drew rave reviews for his performance at the FIBA Americans U18 Championship in Brazil this summer, as he was a big part of the USA team's run to a gold medal. 

    The talented, humble and determined freshman is the type of player that coach Travis Ford needs to resurrect the Cowboys, who suffered through a disappointing 15-18 campaign last year. 

    If Smart turns out to be as good as advertised, he and Le'Bryan Nash have the potential to develop into one of the most powerful one-two punches in college basketball this season. 

41. Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

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    You won't find many shot-blockers in college basketball this season that are better than Louisville's Gorgui Dieng. Last season, Dieng led the Big East with 3.2 blocks per game, and there were 10 games in which he had at least five blocks. 

    The athletic 6'10'' center possesses a huge wingspan that allows him to swat away shots with ease. 

    After showing glimpses of his enormous potential as a freshman, Dieng really came into his own and took his game to the next level in 2011-12. He averaged 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and played a key role for the Cardinals on both ends of the court. 

    The native of Senegal is only starting to tap into his true potential, and this could be the season that he develops into a truly dominant force down low. 

42. Andre Roberson, PF, Colorado

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    Last season, Colorado made its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003 due in large part to the play of Andre Roberson, who helped guide the team on a run to win the Pac-12 conference tournament.

    Roberson averaged a double-double per game (11.6 points and 11.1 rebounds) in 2011-12, and he ended up setting a single-season school record with 401 total rebounds. 

    The 6'7'', 210-pound junior has already established himself as one of the greatest players to have ever taken the court for the Buffaloes, and he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

    If Roberson continues to develop and improve as expected, the highly athletic rebounding machine could eventually end up as a first-round NBA draft pick. 

43. Rodney McGruder, SG, Kansas State

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    Kansas State may have waved goodbye to head coach Frank Martin, who averaged 23 wins in his five seasons in Manhattan. However, the Wildcats are welcoming back their two most important players from last season, Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez. 

    New head coach Bruce Weber molded some great guards during his time at Illinois such as Deron Williams and Dee Brown, and he should do some great work with McGruder.

    The 6'4'' senior is already a proven scorer. Last season, he led Kansas State with 15.8 points and showed that he could hit shots from all over the court. 

    McGruder is the type of dynamic offensive threat and valuable veteran leader that Weber can build a successful tournament contender around. 

44. Brandon Triche, SG, Syracuse

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    Brandon Triche may have been overshadowed by Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters last season. But there's no denying that he was a key factor in Syracuse's 34-3 season, which culminated in a trip to the Elite Eight.

    Triche averaged 9.4 points per game for the Orange, and he provided solid and consistent play on the defensive side of the court as well. 

    The 6'4'' senior is a savvy veteran who knows the ins and outs of Jim Boeheim's system. However, he's now going to be asked to step up and become a more vocal leader this season now that Waiters and Joseph are both gone. 

    If Triche can handle a bigger spotlight role, Syracuse has enough talent around him to make another run at a Big East championship this season. 

45. Jack Cooley, PF, Notre Dame

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    It's easy to take a quick glance at Jack Cooley and instantly see his very similar appearance to former Notre Dame star Luke Harangody. If you didn't know better, you'd probably think the two were brothers, given their uncanny physical resemblance. 

    Cooley still has some work to do if he wants to match Harangody's exploits in South Bend and win Big East Player of the Year honors like his former teammate. But he proved last season that he certainly has the talent to be special. 

    The 6'9'', 244-pound senior put together a breakout campaign, averaging 12.5 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, as he led the Irish to a 22-12 record and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. 

46. Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor

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    Baylor knows what it's like to have a heralded high school big man come to town, get everyone's hopes up and then fail to put it all together and reach his full potential. That's exactly what happened with Perry Jones, who constantly teased fans with his remarkable physical ability for two years, but never actually turned into the type of truly reliable difference-maker that many were expecting him to become. 

    The Bears are hoping that their latest highly touted recruit, 5-star big man Isaiah Austin, will actually live up to his high school hype and not follow in Jones' footsteps. 

    Austin has the type of rare talent and outstanding work ethic to come in and make an instant impact for a Baylor team that will have to rebuild its frontcourt this season. 

    The 7'0" freshman is already being touted as a potential lottery pick for the 2013 NBA draft, because of his rare combination of size, quickness, offensive skills and shot-blocking ability. 

47. Vincent Council, PG, Providence

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    Since Providence went just 15-17 and won only four Big East games last season, the Friars' talented point guard Vincent Council didn't receive nearly the type of recognition that he truly deserved. 

    Council was one of the most effective offensive players in the country in 2011-2012. He averaged 15.9 points per game and led the conference with 7.5 assists per game. 

    Some would say that the 6'2'' senior's scoring numbers were a bit inflated because he was a great player on a bad team. But actually, that makes what Council did on the offensive end of the court even more impressive, considering opponents usually focused most of their attention on stopping him.

    It's likely that Council will be the face of a Big East basement-dweller yet again this season. But if he puts together another individual performance like the one he had last year, he'll deserve legitimate consideration for the league's Player of the Year award. 

48. Nate Wolters, PG, South Dakota State

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    Nate Wolters garnered some much-deserved national notoriety last season when he led South Dakota State to its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance and its first ever 20-plus win season.

    Wolters led the Jackrabbits in all three major categories, averaging 21.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He ended up earning first-team All-Summit League honors for his performance. 

    The 6'4'', 190-pound senior is one of the most talented mid-major players in the country, and he'll enter the season as the front-runner to win the Summit League Player of the Year award. 

    Now that Oral Roberts has moved from the Summit League to the Southland Conference, the door is wide open for Wolters to lead the Jackrabbits to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. 

49. Durand Scott, SG, Miami

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    Durand Scott has been Miami's most consistent and stable player since arriving in Coral Cables as a highly touted high school recruit out of New York City back in 2009.

    Scott put together another strong campaign as a junior last year, when he averaged 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. However, his suspension in the middle of the ACC Tournament, which stemmed from him receiving impermissible benefits, put a damper on his season and left him with a sour taste in his mouth. 

    The 6'5'' senior shooting guard will likely use it as motivation this season, as he looks to lead Miami into contention for the school's first NCAA Tournament berth since 2008. 

    The ACC lost many of its big-name players from last season, which means Scott will have a great opportunity to shine and prove that he's truly one of the league's top-tier talents this year.

50. Johnny O’Bryant, PF, LSU

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    LSU is likely headed for the basement of the SEC this season, which is a shame, because that means Johnny O'Bryant probably won't get the proper attention he truly deserves. 

    O'Bryant had his fair share of ups and downs as a freshman last season. Overall, though, he showed some tremendous flashes of his prodigious potential, as he averaged 8.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. 

    The former McDonald's All-American packs plenty of athleticism and explosiveness into his 6'9'', 262-pound frame. Plus, he has all the tools to develop into a scary offensive threat.

    While he may still be rough around the edges, O'Bryant certainly has the potential to develop into an All-SEC-caliber performer this season. He may even work his way onto the radar of NBA scouts if he plays well enough. 

50 Other Impact Players to Watch

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    Alec Brown, C, Green Bay

    Alex Len, C, Maryland

    Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

    Anthony Collins, PG, South Florida

    Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

    Brandon Ashley, PF, Arizona

    Brandon Davies, PF, BYU 

    Brandon Paul, SG, Illinois

    Brock Motum, PF, Washington State 

    Chane Behanan, PF, Louisville

    Chasson Randle, SG, Stanford

    Chaz Williams, PG, UMass

    C.J. Aiken, PF, St. Joseph's 

    C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington

    Cleveland Melvin, PF, DePaul

    D’Angelo Harrison, SG, St. John’s

    DeAndre Kane, SG, Marshall

    Deonte Burton, PG, Nevada

    Devon Collier, PF, Oregon State

    Dexter Strickland, SG, North Carolina

    D.J. Cooper, PG, Ohio

    Drew Crawford, SG, Northwestern

    Elias Harris, SF, Gonzaga

    Erick Green, SG, Virginia Tech

    Jared Berggren, PF, Wisconsin

    Jerian Grant, PG, Notre Dame

    Jeronne Maymon, PF, Tennessee

    Joe Jackson, PG, Memphis

    Jordan Henriquez, C, Kansas State

    Joshua Smith, C, UCLA

    Juwan Staten, PG, West Virginia

    Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona

    Kerron Johnson, PG, Belmont

    Kenny Kadji, PF, Miami

    Khalif Wyatt, SG, Temple

    Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA 

    Kyle Wiltjer, PF, Kentucky

    Laurence Bowers, PF, Missouri

    Marshawn Powell, PF, Arkansas

    Michael Dixon, PG, Missouri

    Patric Young, PF, Florida

    Rakeem Christmas, PF, Syracuse

    Rodney Purvis, SG, NC State

    Ryan Harrow, PG, Kentucky

    Sean Kilpatrick, SG, Cincinnati

    Seth Curry, SG, Duke

    Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

    Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

    Steven Pledger, SG, Oklahoma

    Tim Frazier, PG, Penn State