This list is in no particular order, as all candidates here have an equal chance of breaking out.
John Hugley – Pitt. Currently sidelined with a sprained knee, John Hugley is that guy. Hugley looked great last year on a highly mediocre Pitt team. This summer was spent training with his high school coach, Chet Mason, and Team USA. If Hugley can stay healthy and this sprained knee does not flair up, Hugley may be integral in deciding if Jeff Capel is back at Pitt next year.
Puff Johnson – UNC. UNC will need a player to slide into the Power Forward role. Do I see Puff Johnson improving to the point where he becomes an NBA starter like his brother? No. Do I see him improving to a starter on a Nation Championship-caliber team? Yes. The biggest issue with Puff may be, with a nickname like that, a real slap to the face of Wiz Khalifa to leave Pittsburgh to play in North Carolina.
Jesse Edwards – Syracuse. As I have previously said, I think Benny Williams will not turn the corner this year. However, Jesse Edwards will. Syracuse fans may have been watching him in the NBA Summer League this year if not for his wrist injury. Edwards may be the most under-the-radar big man in the entire country entering the season.
Kadin Shedrick – UVA. Starting roughly 50% of games for UVA last season, this experience should allow Shedrick to flourish as one of the big men Tony Bennett will lean on for defense. At 6’11”, Shedrick’s defense may be the X-factor for UVA with how deep the league is in big men this year.
Jalen Warley – FSU. If Warley can increase his 3-point percentage from 30% last year, the depth at forward/center for FSU should give him the spacing to flourish on the perimeter.
Hunter Tyson – Clemson. Playing next to PJ Hall should open the paint for Hunter Tyson. Teams will focus all their attention on Hall, which should open the opposite block for Hunter Tyson to go to work. The stat sheet may not reflect how much Hunter Tyson matters to this team, but Tyson will get the playing time to be the impactful player Brad Brownell needs to keep his job, despite the many pleas from Clemson fans for a new coach.
Sean Pedulla – VA Tech. Pedulla shot over 44% from 3-point range last year but only averaged 5.4 points per game (?). If Pedulla breaks into the starting lineup and increases his minutes while keeping his efficiency at the same rate as last year, Pedulla may be in the running for multiple post-season awards.
DeMarr Langford – BC. Another season playing with his actual brother (Makai Langford) will continue the culture-building at BC. A potential second-round pick in next year’s NBA Draft is not out of the question if Langford progresses.
Damari Monsanto – Wake Forest. The former SoCon Freshman of the Year, Monsanto did not look 100% healthy last season after returning from a midseason injury. Regardless, he shot almost 40% from downtown. What can Monsanto do as a healthy player with more playing time? Monsanto is primed to break out and make Miami/FSU regret letting him leave Florida after a tremendous high school career.
Norchad Omier – Miami. The big news this season for transfers was Nijel Pack transferring to Miami from KSU. However, Omier was also a top transfer available out of Arkansas State. Omier is an athlete with a springiness that would make a children’s bouncy castle jealous. Omier is the type of player where presence will be felt on the boards and defense even if he scores no points. If teams focus on Wong and Pack, Omier may bring the grit factor that Miami needs to go on a run in March.