As the season approaches, sites are beginning to peg players for breakout seasons, or putting together their lists of best players (we have too). But the term "breakout" might not actually need to apply to some of the players.
We pointed out that Nate Wolters was somewhat underrated by the national media. We looked at the case of UCSB's Alan Williams, who scored a 4.8 HOOPWAR, yet was tabbed as a breakout player earlier this year.
Williams is back as a breakout player again, this time on Luke Winn's list of sophomores who could have breakout seasons. It is partially understandable. Williams was a sixth man last season, and he will see significant increases in minutes and opportunities this year.
But Williams already had a 4.8 HOOPWAR, meaning he wasn't exactly chopped liver before.The same can be true for the other mid-major player on Winn's list: Anton Grady of Cleveland State. Grady was also coming off the bench for most of his freshman year, yet still manged to led the Vikings in HW30, with a 3.71 mark.
Again, because he will be moving into a starting role for a Cleveland State team that returns just one full-time starter, it is clear to see who the leader will be this coming year. You would hope he can keep up his form even with the lack of returning support around him.
But that is where the weird part comes in. Winn specifically excluded some sophomores from his list, such as Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos. Pangos started almost every game for the Zags, and made a significant impact for the team.
Yet despite his greater floor time, Pangos scored a 3.19 HW30, less than both Williams and Grady. He was also picked as the "unranked" freshman of the year at Basketball Prospectus by Drew Cannon. Clearly Pangos earned a lot of that love, but it might be a bit over the top.
Look at Grady's contribution as an example. He outplayed all four starting seniors on his team. He outplayed every player on his team, including Trevon Harmon, who made the Horizon League second team, while Grady was only a third team selection.
I wouldn't say that HOOPWAR is the be-all, end-all of player evaluation. There are some things that are a bit rough about it, and it certainly isn't able to account for everything that makes a player great on the court.
However, it just seems odd that a player such as Grady or Williams would be seen as breakout candidates when they have already made the big splash that they have, while Pangos wasn't included and turned in a similar performance.
It goes to show how much name recognition can mean when it comes to these lists. Everyone is familiar with Pangos because of Gonzaga's perennial spot in multiple ESPN broadcasts. But Grady or Williams required you to be a little more knowledgeable about the country as a whole (one of Mid-Major Madness' lofty goals this coming season).
Still a pretty nice honor for Grady and Williams, two players who will see significant increases in their roles this season. Maybe they won't need us to be more knowledgeable any longer after some strong sophomore campaigns.