May 30, 2023

Making the jump from college basketball rotation player to college basketball superstar is rare in a sport known for one-and-dones and plenty of roster changes due to professional opportunities, transfers and injuries. But in recent years, it’s a path he’s trodden somewhat regularly, with the likes of Keegan Murray, EJ Liddell, Zach Edey and Johnny Davis all crossing the bridge from scraps to household names.

And that’s just in the Big Ten the last two years.

Forecast WHERE will be the next star (or stars) to follow suit is an inexact science, but the prediction there will be sometime in 2022-23 is a safe bet given the sport’s recent history. So with a litany of talented players poised to potentially take on more responsibilities this season, who will be the sport’s next star?

Our panel of experts predicts four players in the latest Dribble Handoff Series who could be on track to join those aforementioned players who recently made star turns. The criteria we use below are players who averaged less than 10 points per game last season, who could be among the best players in their respective conference — or possibly the country.

Among the most important things to look for when trying to identify a returning player on the verge of making a stat jump are his surrounding pieces. Did any big (or just better) scorers move on from last season’s team? If so, were they replaced by players who were obviously equipped to fill their roles?

This was the exercise that led me to Krisa.

The junior guard lost four Arizona teammates who averaged 45.1 points per game last season — among them double-digit scorers Benedict Maturin (17.7) and Christian Koloko (12.6). And though second-year coach Tommy Lloyd replaced them with enough talented pieces to keep the Wildcats in his top 15 CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 and 1, I don’t think either addition will be more of a scoring threat than Chrissa should be as a third-year player. Last season he averaged 9.7 points on 8.7 shots per game. This is obviously inefficient and needs improvement. But if shooting percentages increase when shot attempts certainly increase, it’s not hard to imagine Kriisa going from 9.7 points per game to around 15 for a team projected to compete for a second straight Pac-12 title. — Gary Paris

I’m glad we’re expanding the definition of “breakout player” here, because I personally kept the thresholds to be less than 8.0 points and 20.0 minutes per game to qualify. If that were the case here, Zeigler would have been slightly too important a season ago, when he averaged 8.8 points in 22.1 minutes for the Volunteers. He also averaged 2.7 assists and shot a respectable 35.2 percent from three. From the foul line, among SEC best: 84.3%.

Zeigler was the secondary point guard option in 2021-22 due to the lone Kennedy Chandler. But if you watched the Vols play often, you saw the 5-foot-9 Zeigler as a solid power-conference point guard option. Zeigler’s steal percentage (4.5%) was 11th best in the nation. There’s a chance I’m a year too early with this prediction — at least in terms of whether or not Zeigler will be an All-SEC First Team honoree in 2022-23 — but I’m going to buy heavily now.

Coach Rick Barnes brings back Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan-James from a UT team that finished No. 9 in and had the third defense. At 6-3, Vescovi is also a willing and capable distributor, but Zeigler will have the ball in his hands more. If Tennessee is a top-three team in the SEC again, it could have the best point guard in the conference. — Matt Norlander

Creighton is one of my very early picks for the 2022-23 Final Four, and Alexander, coming off a strong freshman season, is a big reason why. No, his stats of 7.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game don’t necessarily jump off the page, but he took his game to a new level over the course of the season, and with the Bluejays on the rise, it looked like he had true star. potential.

In seven of Alexander’s last 10 games, he eclipsed double figures in scoring — all three of which he fell short of scoring above his season average (eight or nine points). That included 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the Big East Tournament against Providence, 18 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against San Diego State and 14 points and nine assists against eventual national champion Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He should be able to pick up where he left off in 2022-23 as one of the brightest young stars in the game.

“He finds ways to make plays,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said of Alexander during March Madness. “He’s a pretty incredible young man. He gets it. He understands the game. You can tell he’s a coach’s son. Very high basketball IQ. He’s mature beyond his years.” — Kyle Boone

After playing sparingly as a true freshman, Murray took a big leap in the 2021-22 season and became Iowa’s top option off the bench. Now, as the Hawkeyes say goodbye to his older brother, Keegan Murray, it’s Kris’ time to shine. Chris likely won’t match Keegan’s 23.5 points per game starting in 2021-22 or be the No. 4 overall pick like his brother, but he could be close on both fronts. As a 6-8 forward with great position versatility, there’s little Chris can’t do on the floor. Offensively, he hit 38.7% of his 3-point attempts last season. Defensively, he averaged nearly a block per game despite playing just 17.9 minutes per contest.

If he can develop a little more game sensitivity in half-court sets and get comfortable attacking the basket with his right hand as well, his natural left, then he’ll be in the mix for Big Ten Player of the Year. Iowa plays a much tougher non-conference schedule in 2022-23 than it did in 2021-22, so Chris’ numbers and percentages may not be great compared to his brother’s from last season. But he’s poised for a similar type of breakout on the national stage. — David Cobb

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