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August 4, 2011

Breakout backcourt players for 2011-12

Wednesday, we provided our list of 12 frontcourt players who could have breakthrough seasons in 2011-12. Today, we look at a dozen backcourt guys who could be in line for a breakout campaign.

We put limits on what players we could put on this list. Anyone who started at least half his team's games, averaged 10 points or played as much as 25 minutes per game last season wasn't eligible for consideration. We also didn't want to include freshmen or anyone who sat out the entire 2010-11 season with an injury. The only transfers we considered were the ones who already had played at least one full season for their new schools.

And we didn't want to include anyone that we already mentioned earlier this week in our list of guys going from complementary parts to starring roles.

Here is our list of 12 potential breakout backcourt players for the 2011-12 season. The players are listed alphabetically.

Rob Brandenberg, VCU:: The highlight of Brandenberg's freshman season likely came when he blocked a shot at the buzzer to preserve VCU's NCAA Southwest Regional semifinal overtime victory over Florida State. That represented just the most prominent example of how the 6-foot-2 guard can harass teams with his 6-7 wingspan. Brandenberg also can make an impact on offense, as he exceeded the 20-point mark twice last season while filling in for the injured Brandon Rozzell. Brandenberg finished his freshman season averaging 4.9 points, 1.7 rebounds and 13.7 minutes, but he should exceed those totals this season because he almost certainly will move into the starting lineup. VCU must replace starting guards Joey Rodriguez and Ed Nixon from its Final Four team.

Anthony Brown, Stanford: This 6-6 swingman moved into Stanford's starting lineup for the final 12 games of his freshman season, and he scored in double figures in eight of those contests. He had two 21-point games - against Oregon State and Seattle - during that stretch. Brown averaged 8.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 23.9 minutes last season to make the Pac-10's all-freshman team. He also ranked second on the team with 42 3-pointers. Brown spent this summer playing for the U.S. under-19 team that placed fifth in the FIBA World Championships.

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina: We didn't include this sophomore in our recent profile of players coming back from season-ending injuries because his health problem didn't sideline him for more than half the 2010-11 season. But he's an ideal fit for this list of potential breakthrough performers. Rated as the No. 10 overall prospect in the 2010 recruiting class, Bullock averaged 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 14.5 minutes through the first 27 games of the season. Bullock arrived at UNC with a reputation as an outstanding long-range shooter, but he made just 29.6 percent of his 3-point attempts last season. He missed the last nine games of the season with torn meniscus in his left knee. UNC made a remarkable late-season surge last year, but a lack of outside shooting eventually cost the Tar Heel a spot in the Final Four. A healthy Bullock could provide that missing ingredient this season.

Andre Dawkins, Duke: The returning player on Duke's roster with the best chance at a breakthrough season is probably Seth Curry, but he doesn't qualify for this list because he started slightly over half of the Blue Devils' games last season. So we instead will mention Dawkins, who also has a chance to improve his production now that Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving have departed. Dawkins made seven starts last season and averaged 8.1 points, 1.9 rebounds and 21 minutes. He scored in double figures in nine of Duke's first 13 games, including a 28-point performance against Bradley, though his production tailed off late in the year. This 6-4 junior will team with Curry and true freshmen Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook to give Duke one of the nation's most talented backcourts.

Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa: Although Iowa's roster officially lists Marble as a guard/forward, we figured his height (6-5) made him a better fit for the backcourt list. Marble averaged 5.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 19.1 minutes during his freshman season. He started the last five games, an indication that the Hawkeyes have high hopes for what he can accomplish as a sophomore. Marble is the son of former Iowa star Roy Marble, a three-time All-Big Ten performer who remains the Hawkeyes' leading career scorer more than two decades after he finished college.

Kevin Parrom, Arizona: This 6-6 junior swingman could have fit on either of our breakthrough lists. He averaged 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 20.1 minutes last season. Parrom also shot 41.8 percent (38-of-91) from 3-point range. He scored in double figures four times in a five-game stretch late in the season and pulled down four offensive rebounds in an NCAA tournament loss to Connecticut. His ability to play multiple positions and shoot the 3-pointer gives Parrom a bright future with the Wildcats.

Brandon Paul, Illinois: This 6-4 junior could emerge as Illinois' go-to player now that Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Jereme Richmond have completed their college careers. He has the ability to play point guard, shooting guard or small forward. Paul averaged 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 22.4 minutes last season. He made 10 starts, with six of them coming over the last 11 games. He scored 20 points against Michigan State, 21 against Northwestern and 23 against Purdue last season. He should put up 20 or more points much more often as a sophomore.

Phil Pressey, Missouri: This 5-10 sophomore is more of a distributor than a scorer at this point in his career. He led all Big 12 freshmen last season in total assists (117) and steals (61). Pressey's 117 assists also set a Missouri freshman record. He maintained a solid 1.7-1 assist-turnover ratio. Pressey also made 12 starts and averaged 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.0 steals and 22.0 minutes. He started in 10 of Missouri's last 13 games. Missouri has a deep and experienced backcourt with 1,000-point scorers Marcus Denmon and Kim English returning for their senior seasons and Mike Dixon Jr. back for his junior year, but Pressey still should have a big role for new coach Frank Haith.

Andre Roberson, Colorado: Not many guards across the country can rebound as effectively as this 6-7 sophomore. As a freshman, Roberson led the Buffaloes in rebounds (297), steals (51) and blocks (42). He averaged 7.8 rebounds, 6.7 rebounds and 22.3 minute, and set Colorado freshman records in total rebounds and total blocks. His 297 total rebounds also were the most ever by a Colorado guard. He ranked second in the Big 12 in rebounding average. He reached all these totals without starting a game. Roberson could emerge as Colorado's best player now that the Buffaloes must replace lottery pick Alec Burks and also Cory Higgins.

Terrence Ross, Washington: Rated as the No. 48 prospect in the 2010 recruiting class, Ross made four starts as a freshman and came on strong down the stretch. He scored at least 13 points in four of his last five games, including a 19-point outburst in an NCAA tournament loss to North Carolina. Ross averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 17.4 minutes as a freshman. He should team with Abdul Gaddy to form a dynamic backcourt this season while helping the Huskies withstand the early exit of second-round draft pick Isaiah Thomas.

Will Spradling, Kansas State: Spradling made six starts and averaged 6.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 21.9 minutes as a freshman. His production increased as the season wore on. He scored in double figures twice in his last four games - a 13-point effort in a win over Iowa State and a 14-point outburst in a Big 12 tournament loss to Colorado. He averaged 27 minutes per game in the NCAA tournament. The 6-3 sophomore's role should increase this season because Kansas State must replace Jacob Pullen, the Wildcats' leading career scorer. Spradling shot 37.9 percent (36-of-95) from 3-point range.

Travon Woodall, Pittsburgh: Woodall has given Pittsburgh steady production off the bench the past two seasons. The 5-11 junior contributed 6.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game last season while posting a nifty 2.34-1 assist-turnover ratio. He made four starts and averaged 21.6 minutes. Woodall likely will move into the starting lineup this season now that Brad Wanamaker has completed his career. Woodall and Ashton Gibbs should give Pitt one of the Big East's top guard tandems.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com.

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