By Jon Rothstein
» More Columns
* IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
ALEX ORIAKHI, MISSOURI
THE SKINNY: Burly big man should be the missing piece for a Tigers team that could be right in the mix to win the SEC in their first year in the conference. Two years ago, Oriakhi was UCONN’s best player in the National Championship game against Butler and his final season of college basketball should be enhanced by one of the game’s elite floor generals in Missouri point guard Phil Pressey.
MARK LYONS, ARIZONA
THE SKINNY: Lyons wanted a chance to showcase his point guard skills for NBA scouts. Sean Miller needed a lead guard. The marriage could very well result in a PAC-12 title and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
RYAN HARROW, KENTUCKY
THE SKINNY: Harrow may not be “one and done” like most of John Calipari’s point guards but he still has all the makings of a solid floor general after sitting out last season. The former NC State floor general is more mature than most of Calipari’s lead guards and that should help a young Wildcats team navigate their way through the SEC.
WALLY JUDGE, RUTGERS
THE SKINNY: If Judge averages eight points and five rebounds, Rutgers will make the NIT. If he averages 11 points and eight boards, the Scarlet Knights could very well become a bubble team.
AARIC MURRAY, WEST VIRGINIA
THE SKINNY: Murray is good enough to lead the Mountaineers in scoring and rebounding — he’s that talented. The former La Salle power forward should give Bob Huggins one of the better power forward-center combos in the Big 12 with he and Deniz Kilicli.
JUWAN STATEN, WEST VIRGINIA
THE SKINNY: Speedy floor general led the Atlantic-10 in assists during his freshman season at Dayton. Should be regularly paired in the Mountaineers back court with southpaw Jabarie Hinds.
BRYCE JONES, UNLV
THE SKINNY: 6-4 guard was one of the Runnin Rebels best players last year in practice. Could be one of the nation’s best kept secrets.
KHEM BIRCH, UNLV
THE SKINNY: Athletic big man is a game changer defensively. Birch’s presence in the middle is a major reason why many believe Dave Rice and UNLV have a chance to be a top five team next season. The buzz is back in Sin City — and Birch is a big part of it.
J.T. TERRELL, USC
THE SKINNY: 6-3 shooting guard should take tons of scoring pressure off Trojans’ floor general Jio Fontan, who is recovering from an ACL injury. Terrell is just one of many transfers that should make Kevin O’Neill’s team a contender in the PAC-12.
AMATH M’BAYE, OKLAHOMA
THE SKINNY: Burly wing should start for the Sooners and is a major reason why Lon Kruger could have his team in the NCAA Tournament picture in only his second year in Norman. M’Baye will have two years of eligibility remaining after transferring from Wyoming.
TRENT LOCKETT, MARQUETTE
THE SKINNY: Arizona State’s loss is the Golden Eagles’ gain. Gifted scorer should step right in at the wing for Buzz Williams’ team, who should have one of the better back courts in the Big East with Lockett and Junior Cadougan.
KORIE LUCIOUS, IOWA STATE
THE SKINNY: Crafty point guard went to two Final Fours at Michigan State and will be critical as the Cyclones hope to reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many seasons.
WILL CLYBURN, IOWA STATE
THE SKINNY: Lanky small forward put up big numbers two years ago at Utah (17.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG) and will look to do the same in the Big 12. Look for Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg to try and put Clyburn in regular isolation situations to maximize his scoring ability.
TREY ZEIGLER, PITT
THE SKINNY: Without Zeigler, the Panthers looked like a potential NCAA Tournament team. With him, they look like a lock for the field of 68. The 6-5 guard put up big numbers last year for Central Michigan (15.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and should add some much needed scoring pop on Pitt’s perimeter.
LUKE HANCOCK, LOUISVILLE
THE SKINNY: Talented passer should pick up assist after assist playing alongside the Cardinals deep array of talent. Already a co-captain with Peyton Siva, Hancock looks primed to start at off-guard next year for the Cardinals.
LARRY DREW, UCLA
THE SKINNY: Drew hasn’t had the smoothest collegiate career but he can cap it off in grand fashion if the Bruins win the PAC-12 and play deep into the NCAA Tournament. With UCLA coach Ben Howland emphasizing a faster pace, Drew’s decision making will be paramount in any of the Bruins’ success next season.
EARNEST ROSS, MISSOURI
THE SKINNY: Physical forward led Auburn in scoring and rebounding two seasons ago. Should give the Tigers the type of physical wing play they got last season from Kim English.
KEION BELL, MISSOURI
THE SKINNY: Frank Haith has compared Bell to former Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor. Tigers fans will probably settle for half of that. Bell was a big time scorer at Pepperdine, averaging over 18 points per game during his sophomore and junior seasons. He’ll have one year of eligibility remaining.
ROTNEI CLARKE, BUTLER
THE SKINNY: Lights out shooter will be just what the Bulldogs need as they prepare to jump to the Atlantic-10. Clarke made 274 three-pointers during his first three seasons at Arkansas.
MALCOLM ARMSTEAD, WICHITA STATE
THE SKINNY: Can the Shockers compete for another MVC title? It all depends on Armstead, who will be counted upon to replace the reliable Joe Ragland at point guard. Two seasons ago at Oregon, Armstead averaged 8.6 points and 4.4 assists.
Who do you think will make the biggest impact? Be heard in the comments section below…