THE USE OF ADVANCED STATS, RECRUITING RATINGS, COACHES' TENDENCIES AND INTEL FROM TEAMS ON HOW THEIR ROTATIONS WILL BE STRUCTURED MAKES SI'S INDIVIDUAL PROJECTIONS THE MOST SCIENTIFIC YOU'LL FIND
Kyle Wiltjer6'10" senior forward, Gonzaga
SI forecasts that Wiltjer will lead the nation in scoring (21.0 points per game) and be the top high-usage, high-efficiency scorer (127.9 offensive rating) while playing for a top 10 team. That's a POY trifecta. The Zags' willingness to play a three-big lineup—with Wiltjer at small forward and Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski on the blocks—frees up more minutes for Wiltjer to boost his candidacy. He is one of only two consensus first- or second-team All-Americas back this season (along with Virginia junior guard Malcolm Brogdon), which gives Wiltjer's candidacy a built-in boost.
Ben Simmons6'10" freshman forward, LSU
Simmons's favorite status is due to both his all-around abilities as a point forward and his ideal situation in Baton Rouge, where frontcourt stars Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey combined to take 776 shots and grab 613 rebounds last season—then left early for the NBA. SI's system projects Simmons as the nation's top-scoring freshman (17.2 points per game) and one of just two major-conference players to average a double double, along with Baylor forward Rico Gathers. That Simmons averaged 20.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists during LSU's August tour of Australia bolsters our confidence in his POY campaign.
Buddy Hield6'4" senior guard, Oklahoma
As a proven, volume scorer—and clear No. 1 offensive option—on a team that should be in the top 20 all season, Hield is an obvious contender. He'll play major minutes in a fast-paced attack and be within reach of the D-I scoring title.
Denzel Valentine6'5" senior guard, Michigan State
He hasn't made any major preseason All-America first teams, but as a statistical monster who could lead the Spartans in points, rebounds and assists, he's a dark horse pick. Valentine can operate on the wing or as an oversized point guard.
Melo Trimble6'3" sophomore guard, Maryland
As one of the nation's best guards at drawing fouls—and an 86.3% career free throw shooter—Trimble is a reliable scorer. His numbers might decline slightly from last season, but he'll get credit for leading a title contender.
Georges Niang6'8" senior forward, Iowa State
He can make threes, produce in the post and in midrange, and pass more adroitly than any other college power forward. Niang thrived in former coach Fred Hoiberg's spread-out, iso-heavy offense; how will he fare under Steve Prohm?
Perry Ellis6'8" senior forward, Kansas
While he wasn't a superstar during his first three years, the Jayhawks lack a go-to guy on the perimeter—and five-star recruit Cheick Diallo hasn't been cleared by the NCAA—so Ellis is well-positioned to put up POY-worthy numbers.
Yogi Ferrell6'0" senior guard, Indiana
He'll be an efficient, high-volume scorer (127.2 offensive rating on 23.1% usage) and will orchestrate an offense that projects to be the country's best. Ferrell will challenge the Indiana record for most three-pointers made.
Jaylen Brown6'7" freshman forward, Cal
While point guard Tyrone Wallace took the bulk of the Bears' shots last season, and he's back for his senior year, Brown will emerge as the top option in 2015--16. He's an attacking wing who, at 225 pounds, is physically ready to make a big impact.
Kris Dunn6'4" junior guard, Providence
He's projected to use the highest rate of possessions of any All-America candidate (30.3%) and lead the nation in assists (6.6), but D-I's top point guard is a wild card because the Friars are unlikely to get a ticket to the Big Dance.
RANGING OF THE GUARDS
The biggest reason Davidson will contend for a second straight Atlantic 10 regular season title is the backcourt of 6'5" senior shooting guard Jordan Barham (left, who made 60.3% of his twos last season) and 6-foot junior point guard Jack Gibbs (who made 42.4% of his threes). The Wildcats project to be the nation's top duo of high-volume scorers—11.9 and 17.5 points per game, respectively—who also have offensive ratings in the 120s.
These 10 multi-bid-conference players will have the biggest increases in their scoring averages
POINTS PER GAME
0 5 10 15 20
LAST YEAR: 4.4
THIS YEAR: 16.4
1 Grayson Allen6'5" sophomore guard, Duke
The former top 25 recruit is an outstanding shooter; the flashes he showed in the NCAA title game (16 points) were a sign of things to come.
2 V.J. Beachem6'8" junior forward, Notre Dame
He was an efficient scorer as a sophomore, making 42 of 101 three-point shots (41.6%), and coach Mike Brey relies heavily on his veteran players.
3 Moses Kingsley6'10" junior forward, Arkansas
After an off-season heavy on player departures and arrests, the only certainty for the Razorbacks is that Kingsley will get the ball a lot more.
4 Parker Jackson-Cartwright5'11" sophomore guard, Arizona
He had a 32.8% assist rate as a reserve in '14--15. With the graduation of point guard T.J. McConnell, Jackson-Cartwright can help himself to more baskets.
5 Obi Enechionyia6'9" sophomore forward, Temple
He was the Owls' most efficient player and best shot blocker last season. Temple lost two of its three top scorers, so he'll be a critical part of the offense.
6 Dane Pineau6'9" junior forward, Saint Mary's
Pineau made 67.2% of his twos last year and was a strong defensive rebounder. He has the skills to replace some of top scorer Brad Waldow's production.
7 Keita Bates-Diop6'7" sophomore guard, Ohio State
D'Angelo Russell got the headlines in Columbus while Bates-Diop struggled to earn playing time last year. Now he's ready for the spotlight.
8 Bronson Koenig6'5" junior guard, Wisconsin
With 2015 POY Frank Kaminsky gone, Koenig—who filled in ably for the injured Traevon Jackson at the point—will take a leading role in the offense.
9 Brandon Perry6'7" junior forward, San Diego
He used an aggressive 28.9% of the Toreros' possessions off the bench last season. With the three top scorers gone, they'll need Perry to use even more.
10 Kam Williams6'2" sophomore guard, Ohio State
Williams might be the Big Ten's best dunker—just one reason he was such an efficient scorer (123.3 offensive rating) last season.
THE BEST SCORER YOU'RE LIKELY NEVER TO SEE
D.J. Balentine averaged 27.2 points in Evansville's five CollegeInsider.com tournament games (en route to winning the championship), and he has averaged 21.4 points over the past two full seasons. The 6'3" senior guard will be a top challenger for the national scoring title, but to make the NCAA tournament the Purple Aces will probably need to beat Wichita State, and that's not likely to happen this year.
No one tracks this statistic officially, but this freshman class could set a record for international firepower. After top scorer Ben Simmons (Australia), SI projects Canadian combo guard Jamal Murray to lead a balanced Kentucky team in scoring—but Haitian import Skal Labissiere won't be far behind. Mali-born power forward Cheick Diallo should be a fierce rim protector in addition to a solid offensive contributor for Kansas. At Oregon, 6'4" sweet-shooting guard Tyler Dorsey, who played for Greece's under-19 national team, should be the Ducks' fourth-leading scorer.
Top Freshman Scorers
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
DON'T SLEEP ON...
You may have forgotten about Boise State swingman Anthony Drmic (3, below), a dynamic scoring threat (career average: 15.3 points) who played just seven games in 2014--15 before having left-ankle surgery. The 6'6" Australian was granted a fifth year of eligibility as a medical hardship case and should contend for Mountain West player-of-the-year honors.
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
POINTS PER 100 POSSESSIONS
LAST YEAR: 3.7
THIS YEAR: 19.5
MIND THE GAP
Last year Cal outscored the average Division I opponent by 3.7 points per 100 possessions. With a pair of five-star freshmen—6'7" Jaylen Brown and 6'11" Ivan Rabb—joining an already potent lineup, SI projects the Bears will lift that figure to 19.5 points per 100 possessions in 2015--16. That's the biggest anticipated increase for any school ranked in the top 50.
Colorado's 6'10" center Josh Scott ranks second behind Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer among players who will use at least 24% of possessions and have an offensive rating of at least 120, which could make Scott the most valuable offensive player in the Pac-12—even if the Buffs don't make the NCAAs.
Photograph by John W. McDonough For Sports Illustrated
CHRIS PARENT/LSU ATHLETICS (SIMMONS)
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (HIELD, FERRELL, ALLEN)
DAVID E. KLUTHO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (VALENTINE, ELLIS)
G FIUME/MARYLAND TERRAPINS/GETTY IMAGES (TRIMBLE)
AL BELLO/GETTY IMAGES (NIANG)
JOHN TODD/ISIPHOTOS.COM (BROWN)
STEW MILNE/AP (DUNN)
ALEX GOODLETT/GETTY IMAGES (BARHAM)
BOB LEVERONE/AP (GIBBS)
TREVOR RUSZKOWSKI/USA TODAY SPORTS (BALENTINE)
CHET WHITE/UK ATHLETICS (MURRAY)
ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES (DRMIC)
JOHN LOCHER/AP (SCOTT)