Predicting the Deadliest Sharpshooters in the 2014-15 College Basketball Season

Thad NovakCorrespondent IMay 5, 2014

Predicting the Deadliest Sharpshooters in the 2014-15 College Basketball Season

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Few things can turn a college basketball game around faster than a hot three-point shooter, so every coach loves to have a great marksman to lean on. Of course, the best shooters don’t need to wait to get hot, because they’re able to bury their jumpers any time the defense makes a mistake.

    For the second year in a row, one of the best in that department will be Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell. Left to carry the Hoosiers offense last season, the 6’0” sophomore responded by adding 10 points per game to his scoring average while shooting more accurately than he’d done as a pass-first freshman.

    Herein, a closer look at Tom Crean’s top sniper, along with the rest of the 15 highest-impact three-point threats in the country for next season. The gunners are ranked based on a combination of how accurate they are from long range, how much they’re going to score overall and how much of a factor their team will be on the national scene in 2014-15.

15. Travis Trice, Michigan State

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    After three seasons as one of the best reserves in college hoops, Travis Trice will finally get a chance to start in 2014-15. Having shot above .400 from beyond the arc in every year of his career, he’s a pretty safe bet to do the same in his senior campaign.

    Trice posted career-best numbers of 7.3 points per game and .434 three-point shooting last season.

    He turned in solid performances while starting for an injured Keith Appling in February, and with Appling and Gary Harris gone, he’ll be the Spartans’ top perimeter threat.

14. Phil Forte III, Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State is going to be pretty much a two-man team next season, but one of those two men has as pretty a shot as there is in college hoops.

    Phil Forte III drained an amazing 44.1 percent of his three-point attempts despite the fact that more than two out of every three shots he took came from long range.

    In the absence of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, Forte will need to diversify his offensive game, but he’s too pure a shooter to take much of a hit in terms of accuracy.

    He’ll also get bushels of attempts, because Le’Bryan Nash is the only other Cowboy likely to make any kind of impact on offense.

13. Josh Gasser, Wisconsin

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    Ben Brust—the career record holder for three-pointers at Wisconsin—is gone, but the Badgers are still loaded with shooters. Frank Kaminsky is the most recognizable of Bo Ryan’s long-range scorers, but defensive stopper Josh Gasser is the most accurate.

    Gasser, whose 47 treys were second to Brust’s on last year’s roster, has been lethal from long range for both of his seasons in Madison.

    He doesn’t put up many total points (8.8 per game a year ago), but if he keeps shooting at a .431 clip from beyond the arc, Ryan won’t be complaining.

12. Anthony Brown, Stanford

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    With defensive anchors Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell gone, Stanford will need to get the most out of its offensive weapons next season. One of the best, if least heralded, of those is swingman Anthony Brown, who quietly chipped in 12.3 points per game as a junior.

    The 6’6” Brown discovered a three-point stroke a year ago, shooting .453 from beyond the arc to shatter his previous career high by .100. Chasson Randle’s return also ensures that Brown will again get plenty of good looks from long range.

11. Walter Pitchford, Nebraska

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    Remarkably enough, the best bet to beat Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky at his own game in 2014-15 (at least on offense) comes from Kaminsky’s own conference.

    The 70” Badger became the new poster boy for three-point-shooting centers with a stellar NCAA tournament, but even he didn't knock down treys as consistently as Walter Pitchford.

    The 6’10” Pitchford was one of the few reliable weapons in a top-heavy Nebraska offense, scoring just 9.3 points per game but hitting 41 percent of his long-range tries.

    His ability to space the floor for Terran Petteway and Shavon Shields will be a key factor as Nebraska makes another run at its first-ever win in March Madness action.

10. London Perrantes, Virginia

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    Already short on offensive firepower, Virginia loses one of the country’s top marksmen in Joe Harris. Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they’ve already got an alternative who shot even better than Harris did in 2013-14.

    Point guard London Perrantes knocked down three-pointers at a .437 clip while dishing out his team-leading 3.8 assists a night.

    He’ll need to hoist quite a few more treys next season (he attempted just 87) to make up for Harris’ absence, an imperative that will also provide a significant boost to his 5.5 point-per-game scoring average.

9. Zak Irvin, Michigan

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    Scoring leader Nik Stauskas would seem to have the toughest shoes to fill of all Michigan’s departing sophomores, but Stauskas also has the most obvious heir apparent in the person of Zak Irvin.

    Like the NBA-bound Canadian, Irvin spent his freshman year as a standstill three-point shooter, a job in which he excelled (to the tune of .425 accuracy).

    Also like Stauskas, he’ll need to branch out as Michigan’s offense adjusts to the loss of its top playmaker.

    With Caris LeVert to command the attention of the D, though, Irvin will still get plenty of good looks from long range, and his long-armed 6’6” build will make it awfully tough for anyone to contest them.

8. Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga

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    Backcourt mate Kevin Pangos gets the headlines (and most of the attention from defenses), but Gary Bell Jr. has been Gonzaga’s most consistent long-range threat for the last three years.

    The rising senior will make it four in a row after shooting .427 from deep in 2013-14.

    With low-post bruiser Sam Dower gone, the Zags offense will be more free-flowing next season, meaning more touches and more chances for Bell.

    He might even come close to his absurd career high (established as a freshman) of hitting 47.7 percent from beyond the arc.

7. Jordan Sibert, Dayton

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    Two years after transferring in from Ohio State, Jordan Sibert put Dayton back on the map and (for the first time in three decades) back in the Elite Eight. The Flyers’ top scorer was also the best of a wealth of deep threats at coach Archie Miller’s disposal.

    Sibert took nearly 200 three-pointers and hit 42.6 percent of them, accounting for a healthy share of his 12.2 points per game.

    He’ll still have some veterans around him (two other starters return), so don’t be surprised if he leads a push for Dayton’s first Atlantic 10 title since 2003.

6. Darrun Hilliard II, Villanova

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    Only three teams in the country attempted more three-pointers than Villanova last season. The best of many marksmen on Jay Wright’s roster was Darrun Hilliard II, the team’s second-leading scorer (by a grand total of five points) behind now-graduated James Bell.

    Hilliard shot .414 from beyond the arc in amassing his 14.3 points per contest, destroying his previous career high of .315.

    In a lineup that returns four starters, the Wildcats won’t be changing their strategy, which means there’s no reason to expect Hilliard to change his dazzling shooting performance.

5. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

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    Tom Crean’s rotation only went seven deep last season, and four of those are gone. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, one of the constants over the last two tumultuous offseasons has been Yogi Ferrell’s presence at the point.

    Ferrell evolved into a primary scorer last season, pouring in 17.3 points per game to lead the team by a wide margin.

    He’ll have more help on the outside from freshman James Blackmon Jr. next year, so look for him to become a little choosier with his shots (and maybe even improve on an already-impressive .400 accuracy from deep).

4. Justin Jackson, North Carolina

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    Last year, point guard Marcus Paige accounted for well over half of the total three-pointers made by the entire Tar Heels roster. This year, he’ll have some actual shooters to help him out, the best of whom looks to be freshman Justin Jackson.

    Jackson lit up the McDonald’s All-American Game with 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor. He’s a bona fide deep threat, and with Paige setting him up, he’ll be one of the ACC’s most dangerous scorers.

3. Michael Frazier II, Florida

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    Only four players in any power conference made 100 three-pointers or more last season. Three have graduated, and the fourth is Michael Frazier II.

    The Gators’ lone gunman was also astonishingly accurate, topping .440 from beyond the arc for the second year in a row.

    The main thing keeping him out of the top spot is that he’s still too much of a role player, scoring a pedestrian 12.4 points per game last season.

2. Tyler Haws, BYU

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    Tyler Haws doesn’t exactly pick and choose his shots. The BYU senior-to-be is on the short list of front-runners for the national scoring title next season after pouring in 23.2 points per game (and attempting 544 shots in all).

    Despite his high-volume approach, Haws is a tremendously accurate shooter as well, knocking down 40.4 percent of his treys last year.

    Matt Carlino’s absence will make it that much easier for defenses to focus in on him, but it’s not as if they were ignoring him before, so it’s unlikely to have too much of an effect on his eye-popping numbers.

1. Joseph Young, Oregon

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    Adjusting to Pac-12 defenses after two seasons at Houston was obviously hard on Joseph Young. He only shot .415 from three-point range, as opposed to the .420 he’d managed in his last season as a Cougar.

    Young, who averaged 18.9 points per game last year, has a great chance to lead the conference in scoring as a senior.

    On top of everything else that lands him in the No. 1 spot in these rankings, he shot a dazzling .881 from the foul line (an area where several other snipers here also excel) and hit 48 percent of his overall shots from the field.