By Jon Rothstein
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MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, SYRACUSE
THE SKINNY: This 6-foot-5 point guard logged just over 10 minutes a game as a freshman and that number should drastically increase next season. With the departure of both Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters, Jim Boeheim will hand the keys to the car to Carter-Williams, a savvy floor general that should fill up all areas of the box score in 2012-13 and beyond.
TY JOHNSON, VILLANOVA
THE SKINNY: With both Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek opting to bypass their senior seasons and enter the NBA Draft, Johnson is now Jay Wright’s primary ball handler. The 6-foot-3 sophomore possesses good size, solid instincts, and showed major promise during a stretch in the middle of the season when Wayns’ was injured. Look for Johnson to be one of the Big East’s most improved players as he attempts to lead Villanova back into the postseason picture.
MIKE ROSARIO, FLORIDA
THE SKINNY: Rosario averaged approximately 19 minutes a game less last season than he did during the first two years of his college career at Rutgers. The reason? Bradley Beal, Erving Walker, and Kenny Boynton. Now with Beal and Walker gone, Rosario should have the opportunity to make his final college campaign a memorable one. With more possessions and more touches, this former McDonald’s All-American should at least double the 6.6 points per game he produced in 2011-12.
HUNTER MICKELSON, ARKANSAS
THE SKINNY: A perfect big man for Mike Anderson’s high octane system, Mickelson showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman and should only get better as a sophomore. The 6-foot-10 big man blocked seven shots in two separate games last season and showed marked improvement offensively as the year progressed.
SAM DOWER, GONZAGA
THE SKINNY: Perhaps no player in America is ready to explode like Dower. In games last season where he played 20 minutes or more, the lowest point total for the versatile forward was eight. There’s no stopping this 6-foot-9 lefty — he’s got first team All-WCC potential and could show it in 2012-13.
ERIK COPES, GEORGE MASON
THE SKINNY: Paul Hewitt told me earlier this year that Copes the smartest freshman big man he’s ever coached and that’s saying a lot. Hewitt has had Chris Bosh, Derrick Favors, and Gani Lawal under his wing and Copes figures to be different, but still very productive. The 6-foot-8 burly center played 15 minutes per contest for the Patriots last season, a number that should come close to doubling after Mason loses two starters up front in Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison.
WILL CUMMINGS, TEMPLE
THE SKINNY: Not many people are all that familiar with Cummings but they will be soon. Playing behind two senior veterans last season in Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore, Cummings didn’t see much time on the floor as a freshman but anyone who saw Temple practice knows that he was clearly capable of having an impact. Look for this 6-foot-1 speedster to make the most of his opportunity during his second year under Fran Dunphy.
JAMES MICHAEL MCADOO, NORTH CAROLINA
THE SKINNY: This will be next season’s Thomas Robinson. Like T-Rob, McAdoo initially started his career playing behind a slew of seasoned front court players and then showed flashes of brilliance when he got extended minutes. With John Henson and Tyler Zeller off to the NBA, McAdoo is the new man on the baseline in Chapel Hill and he’ll have a double-double to show for it on a nightly basis next season for the Tarheels.
AMIR WILLIAMS, OHIO STATE
THE SKINNY: His value may not have always shown up in the box score but Williams had a big role in helping the Buckeyes advance to the Final Four. In the regional finals against Syracuse, the 6-foot-11 center logged nine minutes with Jared Sullinger on the bench in foul trouble and had three points, four rebounds, and two blocked shots. Now with Sullinger off to the NBA, it will be up to Williams to man the middle for Thad Matta and Ohio State.
CORY JEFFERSON, BAYLOR
THE SKINNY: The Bears lose their entire starting front line from last season, opening the door for Jefferson to log major minutes. The 6-foot-9 forward produced at a high level at the beginning of last season when Perry Jones III was ineligible to play and should give Scott Drew’s team a veteran presence to lean on early. An underrated shot blocker, Jefferson’s role will be critical if Baylor is remain at the top of the Big 12.
Who should be next on the list? Sound off below…