Jeff Dowtin, Rhode Island
There’s a lot to like when it comes to Rhode Island’s backcourt in 2017-18, but are enough people talking about Jeff Dowtin? Sneaking under the radar last season, freshman Dowtin averaged just 5.5 points and 2.2 assists per game, but he came alive towards the end of the year. The freshman had 19 points and 4 assists in a road game against Davidson — his career-high at the time. He’d break that in his first ever NCAA Tournament appearance, making 10/10 free throws and dropping 23 points on Creighton. This season, Dowtin’s danger is really in his distribution ability. The Rams are not going to have a shortage of scoring ability in their backcourt; we know that much. But Jeff Dowtin provides a spark off the bench as someone who can set up guys like E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell for open looks on the perimeter. Expect Jeff Dowtin to have another impressive season as the Rams look to be the clear favorites in the Atlantic 10.
De’Monte Buckingham, Richmond
Richmond is in the hands of De’Monte Buckingham now. There may not be a team in the nation as reliant upon a sophomore as Richmond will be with their stud Buckingham this season. With the departure of T.J. Cline and ShawnDre’ Jones, all of a sudden, a lot of weight is going to be on the sophomore’s shoulders. Buckingham was the 2016-17 A-10 Rookie of the Year, and for good reason too. His 10.5 points, 2.3 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game were crucial in helping the Spiders finish 3rd in the Atlantic 10 standings. How do we know Buckingham is going to be a stud next year? His gutsy 26 point performance in an overtime game against rival VCU in the Atlantic 10 Tournament might have something to do with it. Bottom line: he’s good.
Charlie Brown, Saint Joseph’s
In the face of a difficult season, Phil Martelli found a diamond in the rough: Charlie Brown. As a freshman, Brown started 30 of 31 games and averaged 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. Not too shabby for a first-year player. Brown didn’t have much to work with in terms of a supporting cast, as Shavar Newkirk and LaMarr Kimble both suffered season-ending injuries. 2017-18 should be a different story. With the Hawks’ two top guards back in the rotation, Brown is going to have some help and Saint Joseph’s could be really good. Brown didn’t get much attention last season, but he should have, because this underrated sophomore is going to make a splash on the national stage in the coming seasons.