Myron Medcalf: What's up, man? It's technically the offseason, but the Watercooler never rests, Eamonn. And it's never too early to talk about next season, right?
I think the 2013-14 field includes a bunch of players who could emerge and surprise us the way Kelly Olynyk did in 2012-13. I mean, Olynyk went from redshirt season to All-American and probable first-round pick.
Who's the next breakout star in college basketball? I think Iowa State's Georges Niang is worthy of this list. He averaged 12.1 PPG last season, and he'll play a bigger role for Fred Hoiberg's squad next season. He's not on many radars right now, but I love his potential.
Eamonn Brennan: Greetings, Myron! Indeed, the Watercooler never sleeps; a couple of days of relative calm were all it took for us to start getting antsy again.
Totally agree on Niang. When I learned our topic for today -- wherein we look around the college hoops landscape for potential breakout All-American candidates -- he was the first player to pop into my head. He's still just under-the-radar enough that he can qualify as a surprise when he turns his vast combination of perimeter skills in a tricky 6-foot-8 frame into a stellar sophomore season. And he'll have plenty of touches, that's for sure.
One other guy who immediately came to mind was Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell. Despite playing with four 1,000-point scorers (or maybe because of it), Ferrell already put up solid numbers as a freshman. With all four of those players gone, he will be the Hoosiers' dominant ball handler and playmaker just in time for that expected frosh-to-soph leap. Everything hinges on outside shooting: If Ferrell can get his ugly perimeter numbers up to even 36 or 37 percent from 3, with that quickness and vision he could be a devastating offensive weapon.
MM: Man, I pegged Ferrell as a future Big Ten player of the year in the Twittersphere, and folks called me crazy. But I'm with you. He played his role to near perfection last season, and that's not easy to do when you're trying to contribute on a team that featured two potential lottery picks and a pair of seniors. But he pulled it off -- as a freshman. Yep, the 3-point numbers have to improve, but there's so much to like about his game. A lot of Jameer Nelson (Saint Joseph's Jameer Nelson) in that young man.
I'll stick with point guards. How many guys could shoot 42 percent from the 3-point line, average 11.9 PPG, shoot 81 percent from the free throw line and essentially go unnoticed? Well, that happened with Kevin Pangos last season.
Gonzaga was so good and deep, and Olynyk was such a star, that it was easy to overlook Pangos. He had a good season that would have stood out on most rosters. Now that Elias Harris has finally exhausted his eligibility after 10 years and Olynyk will probably turn pro, Pangos is all set for a big-time junior season. I think Pangos could be AA material a year from now. Agree?
EB: Shots at Elias Harris, man. That's harsh.
And I agree. The one thing holding Pangos back for me is defense; he's a little weak at the point of attack. Other than that, he can do just about anything on the offensive end, with the possible exception of dunking. He's the real deal.
While we're on the subject of the WCC, allow me to officially nominate BYU's Tyler Haws. Haws came back from his LDS mission three seasons after his true freshman year (2009-10) and looked like he'd never missed a practice. He shot 51 percent from 2, 38 percent from 3 and 88 percent from the free throw line and made the best forgotten would-be game winner of the year just before Matthew Dellavedova's much more famous 40-foot leaner. He'll have just as many touches, and probably much more attention, in his junior season.
And here's one more from a school and program we could hardly call "overlooked" but a player who people don't quite properly evaluate: Davante Gardner. I already love Gardner's game, and if he puts the finishing touches on this season, look out.
MM: No disrespect to Harris. Just seemed like he played forever, right?
I like your picks. Haws? I'll take him, especially since both Saint Mary's and Gonzaga are resetting rosters and losing so much talent. I like Gardner, too. You and I both know, however, this projection is connected to how he conditions his body in the offseason. Nothing wrong with a big, big man. But he could really work some of that weight off and become a more explosive threat in 2013-14 for Marquette.
LSU's Johnny O'Bryant is another big man to watch. The 6-9 forward recorded 15 double-doubles last season (15th nationally). The Tigers could enter 2013-14 with one of the nation's top frontcourts as five-star recruit Jarrell Martin enters the mix, and they could contend for their first NCAA tourney bid since 2009 if O'Bryant plays to his potential. He has a lot of it.
EB: I just feel for Harris and his fellow four-year brethren, because we say we want kids to stay in school and develop and then when they do we act like they're Basketball Van Wilder. It's always funny, but I feel bad. Insert frowny face here.
I like O'Bryant, so I'll see you and raise a Jahii Carson. This season, the Arizona State freshman almost single-handedly revitalized a team that was among the worst in the country a year prior and made it a legitimate bubble outfit. Next season he'll be even better -- his team will, too -- and it's hardly a stretch to assume Carson could get some player of the year run before all is said and done.
MM: Point taken on Harris. Meant no harm. Probably a joke that should be retired ... like every other joke I've used for the past decade.
I like the Carson pick. He was actually on my "I know he shouldn't leave, but I won't be surprised if he does because this draft is so wide open" list. He'll be listed on a bunch of preseason All-American teams. Deserves it after that debut.
Another freshman who impressed? Purdue's A.J. Hammons. He displayed glimpses of his talent in spurts last season (see 30-point effort against Indiana in January). If he really gets into great shape this offseason and continues to grow, he'll be a very dangerous NBA prospect and potential All-American next season. He has to be more focused and consistent, but the tools are there. Another guy on my list? Boise State's Derrick Marks. Serious game.
EB: I'm 100 percent with you on Hammons. For being a total giant, the kid moves really well, has good hands and good feet -- all the fundamentals are there. Imagine if he comes back slimmer and with a couple of simple go-to moves in his arsenal? Even if he just crowds the offensive glass and slides over in defensive help, he can be a major force with that size. It's incredibly rare in the college game.
All right, Myron, that's a few of the potential breakout guys we identified off the top of our heads. It's a long offseason. Let's see who hits the sauna-hot gyms the hardest this summer.
Speaking of the gym, I need to go myself. I probably have a few extra "media room pizza" pounds to shed. Maybe I'll do that now? Probably not.
Anyway, farewell, Myron!