Looking back on the 2012-13 college basketball season, we saw players from across the country have breakout seasons. They stepped up and took a variety of opportunities to show what kind of game they really had.
As we look ahead to next season, some of those players may not fulfill their fans' hopes or the projections of their coaches.
Here are seven of last year's standouts that won't meet expectations in 2013-14.
LaQuinton Ross has been working hard, and patiently waiting his turn over the last two seasons in Columbus. While other Top-100 recruits might expect instant playing time and guaranteed minutes, Ross has had to pay his dues and earn his opportunities to play.
As a freshmen, he struggled with academic issues, and then was chained to head coach Thad Matta’s bench. He only played 35 minutes over nine games, scoring 18 points for the entire 2011-12 season.
This past year, as a sophomore, Ross had a solid year, averaging 8.3 points while playing less than 17 minutes per game.
The breakthrough moment came for the 6’8” combo forward during this year’s NCAA tournament.
In Ohio State’s four-game run to the Elite Eight, Ross averaged 15 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. More importantly, Ross hit big shots when the Buckeyes needed buckets.
In their Sweet 16 victory over Arizona, he hit the game-winning three-pointer with two seconds left on the clock.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State’s leading scorer from 2012-13, is no longer around. The Buckeyes need to replace his 20 points per game, and there’s a good chance that one of the players that Matta will be counting on heavily is Ross.
Is he ready? Can he consistently deliver offensive production on a nightly basis, in what is the most competitive conference in the country?
It is definitely a long way for Ross to progress. Not too many players can move from being a reserve coming off the bench, to replacing the Big Ten scoring champ’s production.
Georges Niang had a surprisingly good freshman season for the Iowa State Cyclones. He was named to the Big 12's All-Rookie team. The 6’7”, 245-pound forward averaged 12 points per game (No. 14 in the Big 12), shot 51.5 percent (No. 5) from the field and knocked down 39 percent of his threes (No. 7).
At the beginning of last season, NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster raised an awfully big question: “Is Georges Niang the next Doug McDermott?” Dauster talked about how it took a little while for Niang:
...to convince high-major recruiters that he was a guy that could play in a conference like the Big 12. Part of the reason is that he’s not all that tall (he’s listed at 6-foot-7) and he’s not overwhelming gifted athletically. But he’s a smart player. He’s got terrific footwork and post moves, he knows how to pass and how to gain position, he boxes out, he defends...
Niang’s freshman season took off after he put up a career-high 19 points (on 6-of-9 shooting; 3-of-5 from beyond the arc) and grabbed six rebounds in a mid-February drilling of TCU.
From that time on, Niang scored in double-figures in all but two of Iowa State's remaining 11 games. He scored 19 points two more times during the season (against Kansas in the Big 12 tournament, and against Notre Dame in the opening round of the NCAA tournament).
One of the biggest challenges for Niang as he approaches his upcoming sophomore season will be his role on Fred Hoiberg’s 2013-14 Cyclones. Instead of being a complementary contributor, Niang will need to shoulder more responsibility in the ISU offense.
Four of Hoiberg’s top six scorers from last year were seniors. That means that 47.2 points have left town and are not coming back.
Without a doubt, Iowa State’s opponents will focus much more attention on shutting Niang down this season.
Patric Young has always been recognized as a physical freak.
Ever since he arrived in Gainesville three years ago as a chiseled freshman, Young has effectively played the role of powerful enforcer. He has clogged the lane and protected the rim, providing the Gators with a one-man interior defensive presence.
Now, going into his senior season at Florida, Young has finally been identified as one of the best big men in the country, according to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan. The 6’9”, 249-pound post player is listed as a second-team preseason All-American.
Brennan noted that: "Young had an excellent 2012-13, adding offensive efficiency (including 58.6 percent shooting inside the arc) to his usual diet of rebounds and blocks (he blocked 6.9 shots per 100 possessions)."
However, head coach Billy Donovan has many more frontcourt options this coming year than usual. Returning with Young will be shutdown defender extraordinaire, Will Yeguete.
GatorNation’s Michael DiRocco reported that Yeguete just had his second knee surgery this year. His recovery is projected to be four months.
Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6’8” SF from Virginia Tech, was a starter for the Hokies and a 2012 ACC All-Freshmen selection. He averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in his one and only year playing in Blacksburg.
Where Harris really shines is on the defensive end, a trait that must have Billy Donovan smiling for ear to ear. Elected to the SEC All-Defensive team player at South Carolina in 2012, Harris averaged 2.3 blocks per game, second in the SEC only to future number one NBA draft pick and block guru Anthony Davis at Kentucky.
With all of these frontcourt alternatives, one of two results is likely.
All of this talent could push Young to finally become the dominant force that everyone has anticipated. Because he will not be the only player to do work down low, he will be freed up to become an overpowering beast on the block.
Or, all of this talent will allow Donovan to rotate multiple players in the post, diminishing the opportunity that anyone, including Young, has to become a star.
While he sincerely considered entering the 2013 NBA draft, Fair decided that fine-tuning his game and working towards graduation were better choices for him. CBS Sports.com’s Matt Norlander reported that Fair “was seen as a fringe first-round pick at best.”
He is listed on ESPN’s 2013-14 preseason All-American list as an honorable mention. Fair definitely could be in line for consideration for the ACC preseason first team list.
But one of the challenges that the 6’8" forward will face in his senior season is that he will be the primary defensive target of every team that Syracuse faces.
The Orange lost three quality starters in senior Brandon Triche, as well as Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland (both early entrants into the 2013 NBA Draft). This talented trio represented 55 percent of last year’s offense.
While Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has recruited well over the years, replacing all three perimeter starters is a challenge for any team. The Orange could have to resort to using a very long, but very young, lineup that features rising sophomore Jerami Grant, along with incoming freshmen Tyler Ennis and Tyler Roberson.
In order to move up from second team All-Big East to first team All-ACC, Fair will need to show that he is not a classic tweener. He must once again demonstrate his ability to step outside and knock down shots from downtown.
From his sophomore to junior seasons, Fair improved his beyond-the-arc shooting from 25 to 46.9 percent. If that ends up being a one-year increase, it will hurt the team and his rep.
Fair’s return to campus was good news for the ‘Cuse. But he will have a huge task ahead to fulfill the giant expectations of the Orange nation as they move into what should be the most competitive conference in the nation in 2013-14.
Before Luke Hancock played a single minute for the Louisville Cardinals, the former George Mason transfer was selected as a co-captain, along with Peyton Siva, for the 2012-13 season.
Chelsea Allen of The Louisville Cardinal student newspaper quoted U of L head coach Rick Pitino who explained why Hancock was given that honor: "He’s one of our better basketball players, but that’s not why he’s been named co-captain. It’s because his leadership abilities really stick out."
Hancock had a run-of-the-mill 2012-13 regular season, averaging 8.1 PPG and 2.6 RPG. But, when the Cardinals needed him to step up, the 6’6” wing from Roanoke, VA delivered.
He scored in double figures in six of the Cards last eight games of the regular season and the Big East tournament. When it came to crunch time during March Madness, Hancock took over.
At the Final Four in Atlanta, Hancock was automatic, shooting 11-of-15 from the field, including 8-of-10 from beyond the arc. He scored 20 in the national semifinals against Wichita State, and then 22 in the championship game against Michigan.
For his impressive performance, Hancock was named the 2013 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
After such an amazing finish to Louisville’s championship run, the expectancy for Hancock to continue performing at this same level is undeniable. No one, including Hancock, will be content with him returning to a level of unevenness, especially since he is again one of the Cardinals co-captains.
The question is, how will Hancock function as one of the defending champion's primary players? There’s a good chance that he will start alongside All-American candidates Russ Smith and Chane Behanan, and rising super sophomore Montrezl Harrell.
Will he settle back into a support role or step up into a captain’s leadership role?
If everything would have gone as expected in Westwood last season, three things would have happened.
(1) the Bruins would have hoisted another national championship banner in Pauley Pavillion, (2) the entire 2012 recruiting class would be near the top of ESPN’s Chad Ford's Top 100 prospects for the 2013 NBA Draft and (3) Ben Howland would still have a job.
Since none of those things, happened, Kyle Anderson will be back for his sophomore season at UCLA.
He did a little bit of everything for the Bruins’ in his freshman season. He was UCLA’s leading rebounder (8.6 RPG), No. 2 in assists (3.5), No. 2 in steals (1.8) and No. 4 scorer (9.7).
As he returns for his sophomore season, Anderson was selected by ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan as a 2013-14 preseason All-American honorable mention.
It’s hard to say where the multi-talented Anderson will be utilized in new head coach Steve Alford’s system. He played mostly PF last season. However, with Shabazz Muhammad’s departure for the 2013 NBA draft, Anderson could slide back over to the wing and fill the small forward role.
It is also possible that with Larry Drew II’s graduation, Anderson could even do some part-time duty at the point. One thing that is for sure is that this Bruins team is looking for a leader.
For Anderson, some questions arise.
Is it possible that his position flexibility makes him the proverbial Jack of all trades, but a master of none? Or, instead of being a blessing that makes him a star, could Anderson’s versatility be his curse?
Marshall Henderson raised expectations and eyebrows in Oxford in his first year playing for Ole Miss. He led the Rebels to their first SEC tournament title since 1981, and their second ever.
He also successfully commanded the troops in their first NCAA tournament win in 12 years. He was the SEC's leading scorer at 20.1 PPG, and he managed to get under the skin of just about any opposing fans that Mississippi played against in 2012-13.
What a season!
The 6'2" gunslinger fired up more shots from beyond the arc (367 during the regular season) than anyone else in the country. There's nothing that suggests that Henderson will reduce that number as a senior.
Even though he was only classified as an honorable mention, Rebel nation’s hopes and anticipations about the upcoming season will be astronomical and OTT. They very well could be counting on Maravich-like numbers from Henderson.
He might be more than willing to oblige them with the number of shots that he launches. However, it is hard to imagine Henderson satisfying Ole Miss' masses unless he improves on his individual stats, and the team goes further than they did last season.
It is possible that Henderson could exceed his individual output from last season while the Rebels fall short of their 27-9 record, SEC tournament championship and 2013 March Madness performance.
If they do, will the blame fall on Henderson? And will he offer up the same double-barreled salute that he gave the crowd in Kansas City following Ole Miss’ round of 32 loss from this last March?