Breakout players. We’re talking about guys who can step up and become some of the top players in college basketball

We aren’t just talking about guys who will lead the NCAA in scoring, but those who will jump up to be among the leaders. Five players have been highlighted here. They aren’t the only players who will break out during the season, but they’re players we have our eyes on.

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College Basketball Top 5 Breakout Candidates

Malachi Smith (Gonzaga)

Smith averaged 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in 2021-22 at Chattanooga before transferring over to join one of the top programs in the nation.

Smith steps in and could be the primary ballhandler for a Gonzaga side that ended the ’21-22 season 13th in the country in scoring. This is a player who has NBA aspirations and is going to use this platform with one of the biggest schools in college basketball to show he’s worthy.

The six-foot-four guard was able to power his Chattanooga Mocs to the March Madness tournament single-handedly. Now, surrounded by talent like Drew Timme (two-time second-team All-American) and Julian Strawther, Smith can break out and become one of the better players in the league this season.

He might also be the addition the Bulldogs need to win a championship. Finally. Gonzaga is the favorite to win the college basketball national championship with odds of +800.

Kris Murray (Iowa)

Twin brother Keegan Murray is gone from Iowa, which leaves a pretty big hole at the top of the depth chart going into ’22-23. That’s where Kris Murray steps in. The junior had a solid ’21-22 campaign, averaging 9.7 points, 1.1 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

Now that he moves up the depth chart, the Hawkeyes will turn to the younger Murray to lead the way. Head coach Fran McCaffery has said he thinks Murray can average 13 to 15 points per game, but coaches often lowball those numbers for the media to avoid putting too much pressure on their players.

I’m figuring on 15 to 20 points per game. It isn’t just a possibility for Murray, but an expectation.

Ryan Nembhard (Creighton)

A wrist injury cut short a 2021-22 season that was trending upward when Nembhard was hurt. In the nine games before he was sidelined, he averaged 11.4 points, 4.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.

The sophomore guard is going to see more of the ball this year as he takes on a more important role for the Bluejays, meaning the Big East’s freshman of the year is going to have a chance to pad those stats.

Expectations are high for Nembhard, who could be one of the better guards in the league.

Justyn Mutts (TCU)

He led the Horned Frogs in points (15.4) and was second in assists (3.8) as a sophomore. Now in his junior year, the 6-1 guard could lead not only his team in scoring but the entire Big 12 in 2022-23.

The TCU program is hoping to take another step forward this season. That will depend in part on Mutts’ increased production. He ranked fifth in the conference in scoring a season ago behind leader Ochai Agbaji of Kansas (18.8 PPG). There’s no doubt he’ll surpass that in ’22-23.

Adam Flagler (Baylor)

It’s his time to shine. The 6-3 guard is expected to continue leading the Bears after topping a balanced attack with 13.8 points per game a season ago.

With Jeremy Sochan and Kendall Brown going pro and being drafted by NBA teams, a bigger offensive burden falls on Flagler’s shoulders. It’s a responsibility he’ll gladly take.

Baylor holds the eighth-best odds to win the national championship at +1500.

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