Most important college basketball players for 2022-23 season

Every college basketball season features players who can tip the national scales. We broke down the seven most important players to watch during the 2022-23 campaign.

Every season, players are called upon to fill bigger roles than the prior year. How these individuals handle their new situations often determines how far their teams advance in the NCAA Tournament.

With the transfer portal beginning to cool down and lineups materializing around the country, let’s take a look at the players who will shape the 2022-23 college basketball season.

—Biggest transfer portal winners so far
—Way-too-early Top 25 rankings for 2022-23
—NBA Mock Draft: Who will the Magic take at No. 1?

Darrion Trammell, San Diego State

San Diego State is still eyeing its first NCAA Tournament victory since 2015 despite having the nation’s 11th-best winning percentage during the Brian Dutcher era. Seattle U transfer point guard Darrion Trammell will play a major role for an Aztecs team capable of doing some damage in March.

Trammell is a true three-level scorer who changes pace exceptionally well to create open looks. While he’s a capable finisher in the paint, Trammell is lethal off the bounce coming off screens with his smooth jumper. Given SDSU’s offensive struggles last season, ranking 167th in offensive efficiency, Trammell provides scoring creation the Aztecs lacked at the lead guard position.

Trammell is a defensive playmaker as well. His 123 steals over the last two years ranked 10th nationally, and he and backcourt teammate Lamont Butler both ranked in the top 30 last season in steal rate. If Trammell’s overall production translates to his new team, San Diego State has second-weekend potential.

Eddie Lampkin, TCU

Who can forget what the big fella did in March? The 6-11, 300-pounder flexed his muscles in a 20-point, 14-rebound performance against Arizona.

At this point in his young career, Lampkin’s best skill is offensive rebounding. He finished sixth nationally in offensive rebounding rate last season and was second in the Big 12 in total offensive boards.

The biggest questions moving forward include Lampkin’s conditioning and also his versatility on both ends of the floor. Can he play more than 21 minutes a night and commit fewer fouls? Additionally, while Lampkin made an impressive 60.6 percent of his shot attempts, he largely feasted on offensive putbacks and layups. His development could determine how far TCU advances in the NCAA Tournament.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton

Reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kalkbrenner will once again operate in the middle for the Bluejays. At 7-1 and 260 pounds, Kalkbrenner takes up a lot of space and knows how to make plays on both ends in the paint.

Kalkbrenner’s freshman-to-sophomore jump was one of the pleasant surprises in the conference. He more than doubled his minutes, points, rebounds and blocks per game averages, shot 65 percent from the field and also connected on 73.6 percent of his free-throw attempts, a dramatic improvement from going 22-of-45 a season ago.

Can he make another sizable leap? With tons of weapons around him — including South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheierman — Kalkbrenner’s interior presence could further open up what was an uncharacterictally lackluster Creighton offense last season.

Dalen Terry, Arizona

Assuming Dalen Terry withdraws from the NBA Draft to return to Tucson, his name would appear on several breakout players lists this fall. A former top-50 recruit, Terry is a long athlete with a 7-1 wingspan as a 6-7, 195-pound guard.

Terry’s sophomore numbers won’t blow anyone away (8.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.9 apg). However, Terry is active on both ends and displays upside as a multi-positional player. With Bennedict Mathurin and Christian Koloko out of the picture, Terry would serve as one of the primary leaders of Tommy Lloyd’s group.

The all-league defender still has room to grow offensively. His 1.23 points per possession and 22.1 assist rate last season indicate that Terrry is a capable creator. But with just 6.2 shot attempts and a 15.2 percent usage rate (lowest among ‘Zona starters), it’s clear that Terry needs to get more involved.

AJ Hoggard, Michigan State

While the offseason has been a bit of a rollercoaster for Michigan State fans, AJ Hoggard’s return could be the biggest (and best) news of all. With Max Christie (38.2% FG; 0.98 A:TO ratio) off to the NBA, Hoggard (43.9% FG; 2.45 A:TO ratio) will be featured more in the Sparty backcourt.

Hoggard led the entire nation in assist rate this past season, recording 4.8 assists per game despite playing only 20.2 minutes a night. He figures to have a significant bump in usage and playing time next year, which means his distributing abilities will be on full display.

Hoggard, with good size at 6-4, 210, had some breakout moments on defense as well, primarily slowing down and frustrating Purdue’s Jaden Ivey in a late February victory. Now, Hoggard will look to round out his offensive game. He made just seven of his 32 3-point attempts last season (21.9 percent) and converted 63 percent of his free throws. Hoggard will always be more of a slasher than a jump shooter, but being a threat outside the paint would be a major help to MSU’s spacing.

Jeremy Roach, Duke

Duke point guard Jeremy Roach had some huge moments in the NCAA Tournament, helping close out a win over Texas Tech with a 15-point outing. Roach was comfortable in the isolation, finding ways to create offense late in the shot clock.

Roach’s All-West-Region performance is a positive sign moving forward for Duke fans as the Blue Devils enter a new era under head coach Jon Scheyer. Assuming Trevor Keels keeps his name in the draft pool, Duke will likely place Roach, a junior, alongside four freshmen in the starting lineup, barring any transfer additions. While Scheyer has been groomed under Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils will be one of the youngest teams in the nation and could take some time to reach their full potential.

Because Roach is running the show, he will be asked to serve as the veteran leader and steady things out for the young Devils. As a former top-20 recruit, Roach probably didn’t anticipate playing three years of college ball. Wendell Moore didn’t think he would last three years at Duke as a top recruit either, yet his Year 3 breakout last season has him poised to be a first-round prospect. We’ll see if Roach can do the same and live up to the hype as one of the country’s top guards in ’22-23.

Puff Johnson, North Carolina

Speaking of breakout NCAA Tournament performances, who could forget what Puff Johnson did off the bench in the national championship? With Armando Bacot hobbled, Johnson recorded 11 points and six rebounds in 18 minutes of action, providing massive moments to keep UNC in striking distance against Kansas.

The Tar Heels bring back every starter besides Brady Manek next season. While Manek and Johnson have different skill sets, Manek’s departure likely means that Johnson will fill the vacant spot in the starting lineup. Brother of Phoenix Suns’ Cameron Johnson, the 6-8, 200-pounder will need to stretch the floor in extended minutes for the Tar Heels.

As Bacot continues to operate around the basket, Johnson’s shooting ability could be the difference in UNC living up to the preseason hype. The primary reason Bacot was so effective in the NCAA Tournament was Hubert Davis‘ 4-out, 1-in offensive attack worked to perfection, particularly with Manek setting up on the perimeter as a 40-percent shooter from downtown. According to Hoop-Math, Johnson is 12-of-45 (26.7 percent) away from the basket in his career.

Even if the Tar Heels manage to land Baylor transfer Matthew Mayer, Johnson will see a much bigger role next season. On the opposite side of the court, Johnson has the makings of a multi-positional defender given his length and overall agility. Johnson recorded the second-best defensive BPM (box plus/minus) rating among all UNC players last season, proving that he could evolve into a skilled defender as an upperclassman.