The 2013-14 NCAA season is sure to be an interesting one. Due to the high number of recruits making their one-and-done arrivals on the collegiate level, this has been one of the most highly anticipated seasons in recent memory. The amount of NBA talent available is the largest it’s been in years, which means the draft should be stacked from top to bottom. However, despite the upset in the NBA Draft this past April, with UNLV’s Anthony Bennett going as the top pick, there’s certainly no debate this year.
Barring any significant change in thinking, diaper dandies Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker — both considered to be NBA-ready but statistically unproven at the collegiate level — are scheduled to go as the first and second picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Wiggins and Parker have comparable body types, and possess an unparalleled ability to score the basketball from anywhere on the floor while simultaneously making their teammates better in the process. However, with accolades comes pressure and though they’ll be analyzed based off their production for their respective college teams, their names will forever be attached at the hip from their high school dominance. Critics and fans alike will issue a smattering of talk about which one is the better player for the NBA level.
Those two aside, there are proven college players – go figure – who are also lottery locks if they can improve upon the numbers they produced last season. There’s Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State’s 2nd-team All American who literally does it all as a burly 6-4 point guard. Creighton’s Doug McDermott is an offensive juggernaut who produced a filthy 54/49/87 (fg/3pt/ft) shooting line for the Bluejays last season. Other players like Glenn Robinson III, Adreian Payne and Mitch McGary, who aren’t as heralded as Parker and Wiggins, have nonetheless shown brief flashes of dominance, and could sneak their names into the discussion of top-5 draft picks with a phenomenal 2013-14 campaign.
All that being said, due to the hoopla surrounding this season, the typical fan is probably already aware of the aforementioned players and their statistics. No disrespect to those guys, but this list isn’t about them. This is a list of those college basketball players toiling in semi-anonymity with few outside their college campus familiar with their games. Players like Travis Bader, Jerami Grant and Okaro White remain largely undiscovered by the general public, but they have a chance to place themselves within the group of elite players with proper exposure (i.e. a Herculean performance against a top-tier school). This list varies between great players who have produced big numbers, to those who don’t have the numbers but are extremely vital to their team’s success and could explode for a big year.
So here are 10 underrated players – as well as five honorable mentions – that you should keep a lookout for this college basketball season.
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10: K.J. McDaniels
As a sophomore, he averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds per game and led the ACC with 2.1 blocks as well. As the leading scorer for this returning Clemson Tigers squad, he’ll be depended on to score more, and he should be up to the challenge after averaging 7 more points per game between his freshman and sophomore seasons. McDaniels shot just under 50 percent on shots inside the arc last season, and he’s a great penetrating forward who can slash to the basket with his athleticism. He had a multitude of highlight reel plays last season, including a few put-back dunks against Wake Forest.
McDaniels can increase his free throw attempts and assist totals but as the main option this season, that’ll eventually come with more responsibility. The Clemson small forward was invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy this summer and apparently learned some things from James and Kevin Durant, so expect to see some progression in McDaniels’ game this season.