Predicting Each Major NCAA Basketball Conference's Leading Scorer in 2014-15
Some naysayers will tell you that the college basketball season is largely meaningless until the NCAA tournament field is selected every March.
Those people will most certainly not care who wins any particular conference's scoring title, but that's fine. We're writing for a more cultured, intelligent crowd here.
Conference scoring leaders aren't always on powerful teams that will win their league, but no matter the team's fortunes, the player is almost always worth watching. Most of these nine players have the potential to bust out for 30 any night, and some may have to if their teams intend to make a deep run in the postseason.
ACC: Olivier Hanlan, Boston College
Many conferences' leading scorers fit into one of two categories. The first is a transcendent, efficient talent with a capable supporting cast that prevents a defense from keying all its attention on any one player. The other is a still-talented player who is not surrounded by a capable crew and must pop a substantial volume of contested shots to keep his team in the game.
Your stance on where Boston College's Olivier Hanlan fits depends largely on how rabid a BC homer you are.
Very few preseason predictions are kind to the Eagles this season, but any writer worth his ink/pixels is projecting Hanlan as an All-ACC selection. He was a third-team All-Conference pick last season after finishing third in the league in scoring and top seven in shooting percentage from both the floor and the foul line.
Hanlan racked up 18.5 points per game with solid supporting players such as Ryan Anderson and Joe Rahon in tow, but both have transferred out and left three-point specialist Lonnie Jackson as BC's next highest returning scorer. Jackson's put up 8.0 PPG for his career, but he's also shot a mere 38.8 percent.
There will be no shortage of shots available in Chestnut Hill during the 2014-15 season, and Hanlan will have to take a large chunk of them. His efficiency will certainly suffer, but Hanlan should put up at least 20 per night.
Other Candidates: Marcus Paige of North Carolina or Jerian Grant of Notre Dame
American: Will Cummings, Temple
Not much went right for the Temple Owls in 2013-14. Their string of six straight NCAA tournament trips was snapped, and the team's nine wins were the fewest coach Fran Dunphy has carded in a season since 1990-91 at Penn.
With very few healthy bodies, the Owls' leaders had to play extensive minutes. This wasn't good for the team's finishing ability or its win total, but players such as Dalton Pepper, Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey at least got to score a ton of points.
With Pepper having graduated and forward Anthony Lee—the Owls' primary rebounding presence— having transferred to Ohio State, Cummings and DeCosey are the only proven scorers returning for Temple. While there are a few more pieces on hand to supply the occasional breather, there still isn't a ton of consistent shooting.
That's not to say that Cummings is terribly consistent himself, but he'll at least get himself to the line and convert when he's there (6.1 FTA per game last season and 78.7 percent conversion). He'll be the man with the ball in his hands, so expect him to create for himself until someone else steps up to support him.
Other Candidates: Ryan Boatright of UConn or James Woodard of Tulsa
Atlantic 10: Jon Severe, Fordham
If Marshall Henderson's antics grew tiresome for you last season and you needed a new conscience-free gunner to support, you could have done worse than Jon Severe of Fordham.
Severe's freshman season was literally built brick by brick. While he averaged 17.3 PPG to rank fourth in the A-10, he did it by hoisting nearly 16 shots per game and shooting a hideous 33.1 percent from the floor. Consistency was a mere rumor.
“Some games I had good games, and I came back having two bad games," Severe said to Bleacher Report's Charles Costello. "I want to [be] more consistent.”
Severe wasn't even the Rams' leading scorer, but teammate Branden Frazier (18.2 PPG) has graduated, leaving Severe as the top returnee. Improved shot selection has been a buzzword all summer, which could see Severe push into the 20-PPG range even with fewer looks.
Other Candidates: Jordan Sibert of Dayton or Kendall Anthony of Richmond
Big East: Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall
Seton Hall is a program itching to regain the prominence it once enjoyed through the late 1980s and early '90s. It's been 20 years since P.J. Carlesimo left South Orange after reaching six NCAA tournaments, a Sweet 16, an Elite Eight and a national title game over his last seven seasons. In the subsequent two decades, the Pirates have made only three NCAA tournament trips.
To get back to that level, any program needs players. McDonald's All-American guard Isaiah Whitehead is a player, to say the least.
Whitehead poured in 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game in his senior season at Lincoln High School, also getting named to MaxPreps' All-American team for his efforts. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was so desperate to land Whitehead for his roster that he offered Lincoln coach Dwayne "Tiny" Morton a position on his coaching staff.
Whether Whitehead committed because of the offer to Morton or not, the 6'4" gunner should be expected to produce from day one for a Pirate team needing to replace four of its top five scorers from last season. Whitehead is a willing and able shooter from every level, and he'll be first in line for looks in the Pirates' offense.
The first McDonald's All-American to join Seton Hall since Eddie Griffin and Andre Barrett arrived in 2000, Whitehead may only stay one season if that year goes as well as he hopes. For it to go as well as Willard needs it to, the Pirates need to contend in a Big East that lost a lot of individual talent. That sort of success for SHU will be paved by every bucket Whitehead scores.
Other Candidates: D'Angelo Harrison of St. John's or Kellen Dunham of Butler
Big Ten: Terran Petteway, Nebraska
In the past 20 years, only one man has led the Big Ten in scoring twice: Ohio State swingman Evan Turner in 2008-09 and 2009-10. Turner topped off his second scoring title with multiple National Player of the Year honors.
Anyone expecting that kind of hardware for Nebraska guard Terran Petteway may be overreaching a bit, but a second-straight season atop the Big Ten scoring chart is not even slightly out of the question.
As the Huskers battle to prove that last season's NCAA tournament bid wasn't a fluke, Petteway will be doing the same. He leads a Huskers rotation that didn't add any impact newcomers but also only lost guard Ray Gallegos to graduation and power forward Leslee Smith to an offseason ACL tear.
A similar roster won't always net similar results, but Petteway will certainly still be the first man whom Big Red looks to for its buckets. Another season of at least 18.1 PPG is well within Petteway's capabilities, especially if he can shoot like he did in last season's first 20 games (46.5 percent) rather than the last 12 (37.0).
Other Candidates: Rayvonte Rice of Illinois or Yogi Ferrell of Indiana
Big 12: Juwan Staten, West Virginia
Like Terran Petteway, Juwan Staten has already led the Big 12 in scoring once, coincidentally equaling Petteway's 18.1 PPG last season.
Unlike Petteway, Staten has lost a substantial amount of his support from last year, watching an average of 36.2 points walk out the door when Eron Harris transferred to Michigan State, Terry Henderson left for NC State and Remi Dibo chose a pro career in his native France.
The West Virginia Mountaineers have a large contingent of new pieces debuting this season, but Staten remains the alpha dog in this pack. After three seasons in which he's only taken 50 three-pointers, Staten also has something to prove to the NBA.
As DraftExpress' Josh Riddell points out, only six guards since 1994 have been drafted after putting up a season with less than 20 three-point attempts in 20 or more minutes per game. Staten now has two such campaigns under his belt.
Staten nearly added a Big 12 assist crown to his scoring title, so he's only rarely found without the ball in his hand. By season's end, he could be using an enormous portion of WVU's possessions and scoring an equally sizable number of points.
Other Candidates: Georges Niang of Iowa State or Marcus Foster of Kansas State
Mountain West: Anthony Drmic, Boise State
For those who harbor the naive belief that teams bringing most of their nucleus back will automatically improve because a year of experience makes everyone better, I present the case of Anthony Drmic and Boise State.
The Broncos posted a respectable 21-13 record last year, but they failed to repeat their 2013 NCAA bid—or even earn an invitation to the NIT. Drmic fell from second in the Mountain West at 17.7 PPG to eighth at 15.9, still a solid average considering he battled foot and ankle problems for much of the season.
A fully healthy Drmic, entering his senior season, will be motivated to prove he can recapture his shooting form from two seasons ago, when he shot 46.4 percent from the floor (fifth in the MWC) and 39.2 from three (second in the league). With an international pro career awaiting if the NBA isn't interested, he'll still need to prove his shot is right.
The Broncos have added three newcomers who stand 6'9" or taller, with sophomore Nick Duncan (6'8" and 230 lbs) also expected to help at power forward, meaning that Drmic won't spend as much time out of position at the 4. Free to roam the wing, the Aussie may rediscover his sniper's rep this season.
Other Candidates: J.J. Avila of Colorado State or Rashad Vaughn of UNLV
Pac-12: Joseph Young, Oregon
Count the Oregon Ducks as one of the teams who simply can't wait for the season to begin, if for no other reason than to leave behind a miserable offseason.
With only two players returning from last year's rotation, coach Dana Altman has a serious job if he's going to stitch together a tight-knit roster by the time Pac-12 play starts. One thing that won't change from last season, however, is guard Joseph Young raining down shots.
Young ranked second in the conference at 18.9 PPG last season, but he was anything other than a remorseless chucker. Young led the Pac-12 in free-throw percentage while ranking fifth in three-point shooting, second in effective field goal percentage and third in true shooting percentage.
That efficiency may suffer this season without point guard Johnathan Loyd to set him up and assassins such as Mike Moser and Jason Calliste to worry the defense. If it doesn't, however, Young may not stop with the Pac-12 scoring crown.
Other Candidates: Chasson Randle of Stanford or Jabari Bird of Cal
SEC: Jarvis Summers, Ole Miss
Ole Miss basketball's traveling show should be much more of an ensemble piece than the past two seasons, which were largely exhibitions for the ever-animated Marshall Henderson. None of Henderson's sidemen were as pivotal as point guard Jarvis Summers, and he is the one set to inherit the leading role in Oxford.
Even with Henderson attempting to chuck shots from the third row of the team bus, Summers still managed to put up 17.3 PPG last season to rank eighth in the SEC. For the season, Summers scored only one fewer point than Henderson on 96 fewer shots.
Summers' fourth-place finish in effective field-goal percentage and eighth-place rank in true shooting percentage are positions that were totally unattainable for the spray-and-pray Henderson.
While the Rebels don't return any double-figure scorers—there weren't many possessions left after Henderson and Summers used theirs—players such as Aaron Jones, Anthony Perez and Sebastian Saiz are just skilled enough players whom defenses have to pay attention to. Summers will find plenty of looks, and he'll do more with them than Henderson ever did.
Other Candidates: Bobby Portis of Arkansas or K.T. Harrell of Auburn
Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.