Teams, players who will make the biggest jumps in 2019-20

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Last week I looked at the biggest problems facing each Top 25 team. Now I'm in a more positive frame of mind.

Today, I want to consider teams and players that could look much better than they did last season. Get in on all these ground floors while you can and you'll look smart come March.


Team: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

It's been a quiet couple of years for the Fighting Irish, but this season the men from South Bend project to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid. Bear in mind this team's problem last season was that it was drop-dead awful at making shots, marking the first time in at least a decade when that sequence of words could be written about a Mike Brey offense. Those numbers may well correct toward normalcy this season, however, with all five starters from ND's 2019 ACC tournament rotation plus a healthy Robby Carmody returning.

To be sure, the league office did Brey no favors by handing him a nine-day sequence in which the Irish will play at Clemson, at Virginia, at Duke and at home against North Carolina. So, no, Notre Dame won't win the ACC, but the Irish have a shot at leaping from 3-15 in conference play one year to dancing the next. Not bad.

Player: Xavier Johnson, Pittsburgh Panthers

Even as a 6-foot-3 freshman for a 14-19 team, Johnson recorded an excellent assist rate, made a decent number of 3s and played solid D. This season as the lead creator in a stronger rotation, Johnson may well improve on all of the above while also addressing his issues finishing at the rim.