College Basketball: Breakout Sophomores in the Big Ten

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Joey Hauser, PF + Rocket Watts, PG – Michigan State:

Tom Izzo’s new ‘go-to’ duo came together via rather unlikely terms. Watts signed with the Spartans as part of the 2019 class and spent his freshman year learning and growing behind national player of the year candidate Cassius Winston. Hauser on the other hand shockingly transferred, as well as his brother Sam, away from the Marquette program despite being the 2nd and 3rd options in their freshman and junior seasons respectively. Losing the aforementioned Winston, enforcer Xavier Tillman and potentially budding wing Aaron Henry, Michigan State is in need of reinforcements ready to contribute now.

Watts first year season in East Lansing was well spent shadowing Winston. Averaging 9.0 PPG was very respectable given coming off the bench for half the season with subpar shooting. Tasked with being the primary on-ball defender last season, the sophomore guard is poised to have a seamless transition from backup to floor general. Hauser comes into the program at the perfect time to ensure the Spartans remain near the top of the conference next season.

The forward was a potent offensive weapon in his lone season for the Golden Eagles. His shooting stroke is pure and only became more comfortable as the season became more difficult. His 9.7 PPG as a freshman was plenty to make his name recognizable across the college basketball landscape, but the move to Michigan State is going to provide him with the opportunity to be a primary scoring option for Tom Izzo in 2020. The underrated part of his game is unexpected production on the glass, where he accumulated 5.3 RPG, almost making up for the losses of Tillman’s impact in that area.

Combined Watts and Hauser can expect more opportunities than they had during their freshman seasons and will undoubtedly produce more on the offensive end. They can rival the lost output of Winston and Tillman offensively, while altering the typical plan of attack from a Michigan State team. Hauser will stretch the floor and open the middle for developing frontcourt players and Watts will have the chance to take higher percentage shots via pick-and-roll and penetration.

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