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Predicting the Double-Double Machines in 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2013

Predicting the Double-Double Machines in 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    The double-double is a statistical accomplishment that every basketball player wears with pride. A guy who puts one up has indelible proof that he did serious work for his team that night.

    A player does have to have a substantial dose of talent to average a double-double on the season, but a lot more goes into it. He has to have teammates willing to give him plenty of opportunities. A coach whose system fits his skills and gives him enough minutes is also a major plus.

    Some of these players have already averaged a double-double for a full season, making them obvious selections. Others are only now seeing the stars align for a potential breakout year.

    And these playerspresented alphabeticallyare only a sampling of the potential candidates all over college basketball. Feel free to make a case for your favorites in the comments.

     

    All stats are from players' respective pages at StatSheet.com unless otherwise noted.

Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    For Georgetown coach John Thompson III, Jerrelle Benimon is now approaching that mythical status that fishermen bestow on "the one that got away."

    For Towson coach Pat Skerry, Benimon is about to be the key to completing a historic turnaround.

    Two seasons ago, Skerry could only manage one win in his first go-round at Towson. Last year, with Benimon active after sitting out his post-transfer season after leaving the Hoyas, the Tigers made a major leap to 18 victories.

    This season? A Colonial Athletic Association lacking George Mason and Georgia State could be ripe for the taking, and Towson's next big leap could be into the NCAA tournament.

    Benimon won CAA Player of the Year last season after averaging 17.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game, the latter figure good for third in the nation. The Tigers' major loss over the offseason was center Bilal Dixon, who pulled about seven boards per game himself. That means Benimon may have more chances for caroms than he can eve keep up with.

    The 6'8", 245-pound Benimon pulled down 16 or more rebounds in seven games last season, topping out at 21with 21 pointsagainst Oregon State and their 10.6-RPG man Eric Moreland. (In fairness, Moreland pulled 18 boards in that game himself.) Don't be surprised if Benimon has a few more 20-20 games in him this year.

Melvin Ejim, Iowa State

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    Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

    The Big 12's leading rebounder stood only 6'6", making Melvin Ejim the shortest rebounding king in any of the major conferences last season. Ejim also became only the third player in Big 12 history to lead the league in rebounding at 6'6" or shorter.

    Despite his 9.3 RPG, Iowa State's Canadian dynamo only made the all-conference third team in his third season, an underrating likely due to his conservative scoring numbers (11.3 PPG, fourth on his team).

    With the departure of Will Clyburn, Chris Babb and Korie Lucious, all of whom averaged at least 9.1 PPG, Ejim may see an uptick in his shot opportunities as a senior. Of course, he'll always have the option of going and getting putbacks, as he's steadily improved his offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) each season.

    Ejim rattled off 15 double-doubles last season, putting up one against each of the Cyclones' conference opponents. With no true big men on the roster this year, expect Ejim to keep crashing the glass with abandon.

Shawn Long, Louisiana

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    With perennial Sun Belt contender Middle Tennessee and three other programs bolting for Conference USA, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns could be facing a championship season in 2013-14. If they're going to make the school's first NCAA tournament since 2005, sophomore forward Shawn Long will be a major reason why.

    Long averaged a double-double last season, ranking sixth in the Belt in scoring (15.5 PPG) and second in rebounding (10.2). He pulled down 25.6 percent of available defensive rebounds, ranking in the top 20 nationwide.

    There are no other experienced Cajuns who stand taller than 6'5", although enormous junior college transfer J.J. Davenport (6'6", 325) has plenty of weight to throw around inside. Long should continue to be the primary rebounding threat, and could make a run at the league scoring title as well if he spent less time drifting outside for three-pointers.

Akil Mitchell, Virginia

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    In his junior season, Virginia forward Akil Mitchell didn't quite make everyone forget his predecessor Mike Scott, but he still had a fine year by any standards.

    Mitchell was a respectable post presence off the bench in his first two years, but he exploded in 2012-13. He led the ACC in defensive rebounding percentage (DR%) and ranked seventh on the offensive end, a combination that added up to nearly nine boards per game.

    The 6'8" forward draws motivation from then-George Washington coach Karl Hobbs (now a UConn assistant) pulling a scholarship offer in the middle of a campus visit five years ago. He and his father recounted the story to the Washington Post, with Anthony Mitchell saying, "I’ll call him and I just say, ‘Coach Hobbs’ or ‘GW,’ and it’s almost a guaranteed double-double the next game.”

    The expected emergence of youngsters like sophomore Mike Tobey and the debut of South Carolina transfer Anthony Gill may present more hands reaching for rebounds. Coach Tony Bennett's methodical offense makes large scoring numbers difficult for anyone. Still, every Cavalier will draw from a desire to reach the NCAA tournament after last season's near-miss.

    Expect Mitchell to work harder than anyone to sustain last season's momentum.

Aaric Murray, Texas Southern

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    Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

    Aaric Murray looked like he was bound for stardom in his first two seasons at La Salle. As a sophomore, he put up 15 points and nearly eight rebounds per game, but he bolted the team in search of major-conference exposure. At West Virginia, he landed in coach Bob Huggins' doghouse and was encouraged to head elsewhere once more.

    Now, Murray has only one season of eligibility left, and he'll spend it at SWAC contender Texas Southern. Compared to the typical SWAC center, the 6'10", 245-pound Murray is built like Godzilla and packs the talent of a young Shaquille O'Neal.

    In his year at WVU, Murray posted career-high rebounding percentages of 11.2 offensive and 23.6 defensive. He'll have plenty of rebounds to claim, as Tiger teammates and expected fellow scoring leaders Ray Penn and Lawrence Johnson-Danner both struggle with accuracy (36.8 and 41.5 percent from the floor respectively).

    TSU was sidelined by an APR postseason ban last year. Now that the program has its academics in order, look for Murray and the Tigers to push for the school's first NCAA bid in 10 years.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State

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    Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Michigan State is considered a national championship contender entering the 2013-14 season, and a large part of the optimism is based around senior center Adreian Payne's breakout campaign.

    Payne lost his starting spot for a chunk of his junior year after starting all but one game as a sophomore. However, he increased his minutes by almost eight per game after learning to work around his smaller-than-normal lungs, a physical abnormality that limits the amount of air he can take in at any time.

    If Payne can manage to get up to 30 minutes per gamehe played 25.6 last seasonit's very possible that he could average a double-double for the year. That's especially true following the departure of longtime Spartan brute Derrick Nix. Payne pulled 10 percent of offensive rebounds and almost 24 percent on the defensive end, compared to Nix's 9.8 and 17.7.

    Without Nix, Payne will need to spend more time in the post and take fewer mid-range jumpers, unless the 6'6" Branden Dawson plans to handle all of MSU's interior offense. Dawson took 64 percent of his shots at the rim according to Hoop-Math.com. Only Nix and 6'9" reserve Matt Costello took a larger chunk of their shots in the paint. Payne took only 38 percent of his shots inside.

    More attempts in the lane can lead to more attempts at the line. Payne became a deadly free-throw shooter last season, draining nearly 85 percent to lead the Big Ten. With more shots and continued success at the stripe, Payne can easily average 15 to 18 points per game.

Augustine Rubit, South Alabama

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    Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

    South Alabama forward Augustine Rubit looks at all the rest of these scrubs and laughs dismissively.

    While the others strive for the glory of averaging a double-double for a season, Rubit is closing in on doing so for his entire career. In his first three years, he's never averaged fewer than 13 points or nine rebounds per game, playing a pivotal role for the Jaguars since his first day on campus.

    The career figures currently stand at 16 PPG and 10.2 RPG. Last season, no player came closer to a 20-10 season than Rubit's 19.4 PPG and 10.5 RPG. He racked 16 double-doubles, bringing him up to 42 for his career.

    With 120 more rebounds, Rubit will set a new Sun Belt Conference career record, and it's very possible that he can have that in his back pocket by Christmas. As a scorer, Rubit improved to nearly 80 percent from the foul line while taking 8.3 attempts per game.

    Like Shawn Long and Louisiana, Rubit and USA have legitimate NCAA tournament hopes as they chase a Sun Belt championship. When the games get tight, the Jags will turn to their senior star, as they have for three years now.

Josh Scott, Colorado

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    There will be no better case of opportunity meeting motivation this season than Colorado's sophomore big man Josh Scott. The Buffaloes are carrying on without two-time national rebounding king Andre Roberson, but Scott could be a threat to keep the crown in Boulder himself.

    Scott scored in double figures in 15 of his first 19 collegiate games, including 19 against Kansas and 18 against UCLA. In late January, however, the wheels began to come off. Scott cracked 10 points in only two of the Buffs' final 14 games, missing two of them after suffering a concussion against Arizona State.

    For the season, though, Scott's body of work was solid. He put up 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, making 49 percent from the floor. Scott's OR% was actually a full point higher than Roberson's, but his DR% suffered from playing lengthy minutes next to the vacuum-like future draft pick.

    Brian Howell of the Boulder Daily Camera claims that Scott has bulked up during this offseason, adding 20 pounds in preparation for his expanded role. The 10 points and 14 rebounds that Scott put up in the NCAA tournament against Illinois may become the norm for him this season. We should all be surprised if Scott does not pick up an all-conference selection at the end of this year.

Shayne Whittington, Western Michigan

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Western Michigan's Shayne Whittington broke through in 2012-13, emerging from solid-reserve status to become one of the Mid-American Conference's most effective big men. He may now be the MAC's best big man now that Akron's Zeke Marshall has moved on.

    The 6'11", 250-pound senior put up 13.2 PPG and 8.8 RPG in his first season as a full-time starter. Unlike so many other big men who feast on weak non-conference opponents and take a step down in league play, Whittington improved those figures to 13.6 and 9.6 against the MAC.

    Eight of Whittington's 12 double-doubles came in conference play. He may see even more opportunities with the loss of experienced frontcourt sidekicks Nate Hutcheson (graduation) and Darius Paul (transfer to Illinois).

    One of Whittington's worst games of the season came against his departed nemesis Zeke Marshall. One of his best came against this season's likely foil, Javon McCrea of Buffalo. Whittington put up 23 points, 14 rebounds and four steals in a Broncos victory.

    The WMU team that pushed to the third round of the CBI has its sights set on a bigger event this year.

Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    In Big West play, UC Santa Barbara center Alan Williams was nearly unstoppable. He averaged 19.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game against conference foes. This is not to say, however, that he feasted on cupcakes all season long.

    Williams began his sophomore season with 14 points and six rebounds against LSU before posting his first double-double of the season against Illinois State and its star forward Jackie Carmichael. He fell slightly short of another against Cal, finishing with eight points and 12 rebounds against solid board men Richard Solomon and Robert Thurman.

    In both of Williams' seasons, he has ranked in the national top 10 in OR%. Last season, his 27.4 DR% also stood sixth in the country. The 6'7" 240-pounder will certainly score points, especially if he comes anywhere close to taking 35 percent of the Gauchos' available shots again. His free-throw shooting improved by 13 points, so opponents should not feel license to hack him.

    The Big West has a few talented big men, players like Will Davis of UC Irvine or Christian Standhardinger of Hawaii. There aren't many in the league, however, that will be able to swarm Williams with superior size and athleticism. He should be a primary favorite for Big West Player of the Year.

     

    For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron. Now playing: the 2013-14 Conference Calling preview series.

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