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Two Pac-12 Players Who Can Have Breakout Seasons

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C.J. Walker #14 of the Oregon Ducks. Steve Dykes/Getty Images/AFP

Many seniors and talented underclassmen will make their way to the NBA. This will lead to new stars emerging in the Pac-12 next season. We look at two players who can benefit from having more opportunities or responsibilities.

Joel Brown

California was just 7-11 in Pac-12 play last season and they lost senior guards Paris Austin and Kareem South. Austin and South were their second and third-leading scorers, averaging 9.4 and 8.9 points respectively.

Losing these two players is very concerning because this team already had the worst offense in the Pac-12. Without them, many players have to step up their games significantly in order for this team to be competitive against the NCAA Basketball odds.

Graduate transfer Ryan Betley averaged 11.6 points for Penn last season and Cal still has last year’s leading scorer Matt Bradley (17.5 points per game) but they need more help. That’s where Joel Brown comes in.

Brown played 32 games last season, averaging 19.0 minutes and he made 17 starts. Look for him to get more playing time and a bigger role. Last year he was still developing physically and now California needs him to really step up and help replace Paris Austin and Kareem South’s production.

Joel Brown’s usage percentage last season was the lowest on the team but he made an impact when he was on the court. He had the second-highest assist percentage and getting more minutes will help him surpass Austin’s 2.7 assists per game last year.

Joel Brown #1 of the California Golden Bears. Emilee Chinn/Getty Images/AFP

C.J. Walker

Walker averaged just 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds over 28 games (seven starts) last season. He also grabbed 2.5 rebounds and shot 38.1 percent from the field. It was a tough freshman season but he will put it all behind him and have a bigger role for Oregon (+2800 to win the 2021 NCAA Tournament at BetOnline).

Oregon went 13-5 in the Pac-12 last season, with senior point guard Payton Pritchard leading the way. Fellow seniors Anthony Matha and Shakur Juiston were both outstanding contributors to the team’s success.

Juiston’s departure will make head coach Dana Altman turn to Walker for production. Walker played just 14.9 minutes per game last year but he did make seven starts when Juiston was injured and averaged 6.9 points in 17.4 minutes. Altman will give him even more minutes once Walker is the permanent replacement.

Shakur Juiston averaged 7.1 shots per game, despite playing with Pac-12 Player of the Year Payton Pritchard, who had a 28.2 percent usage rate. Walker’s increased playing time will lead to more touches and finishes. He will play more minutes than Juiston and most importantly, more shots. His production will increase considerably.

Payton Pritchard #3and C.J. Walker #14 of the Oregon Ducks battle for position with Ethan Thompson #5 of the Oregon State Beavers. Steve Dykes/Getty Images/AFP