Ten must-watch players for the 2018-19 college basketball season
The college basketball season tips off Tuesday will teams starting the chase to be part of the NCAA tournament and the Final Four in Minneapolis. USA TODAY Sports examines key players poised to lead their schools to success.
G Carsen Edwards, Purdue. The do-everything guard will make the Boilermakers a Big Ten contender once again, although he’ll have more weight on his shoulders with four starters gone from last year’s Sweet 16 squad. He averaged 18.5 points a game as a sophomore and figures to be just as explosive in his junior season as perhaps the best scorer in all of college basketball.
G Romeo Langford, Indiana. The crown jewel of coach Archie Miller’s budding tenure piloting the Hoosiers, Lanford is more than just an in-state star. The 6-6 electric scorer could give Indiana the moxie to contend for a Big Ten title alongside Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan. Plenty of one-and-done-caliber freshmen enter the NCAA ranks as super athletic but aren’t necessarily great shooters. Not Langford, who will be a marksmen right off the bat. He’ll be the key piece in the Hoosiers’ turnaround season.
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G/F R.J. Barrett, Duke. The smooth 6-7 lefty is projected as the No. 1 pick in 2019’s NBA draft for a reason and he’ll be the alpha dog on a Duke team that also hauled in the two other top-rated freshmen. What’s most impressive about Barrett outside of his versatility on both ends is his ability to make others better — by facilitating or injecting energy. More than anything, Barrett will have international playing experience as an obvious strength. The Canadian led his national team to the 2017 U-19 World Cup over the United States thanks to a 38-point, 13-rebound performance. In other words, there won’t be much of an adjustment period for the teenager to excel at the NCAA level.
F Dedric Lawson, Kansas. The 6-9 transfer from Memphis immediately gives Bill Self size and tenaciousness in the paint that was missing all of last season. He nearly averaged a triple double with 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds a game in 2016-17, and will be a key cog in the Jayhawks’ quest to win a 15th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title — and perhaps KU’s first national title since ’08.
G Tyus Battle, Syracuse. The 6-6 guard averaged 19.2 points a game for a depleted Orange roster that overachieved all the way to the Sweet 16 last March. Everyone’s back from that squad and coach Jim Boeheim has reinforcements, which should make Battle’s job easier and allow him to flourish as the team’s go-to presence.
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