Ranking the Top 25 Sophomores of the 2016-17 College Basketball Season

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJune 28, 2016

Ranking the Top 25 Sophomores of the 2016-17 College Basketball Season

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    Ivan Rabb
    Ivan RabbBen Margot/Associated Press

    After passing on the chance to become a lottery pick in this year's NBA draft, California's Ivan Rabb headlines our robust list of college basketball's top sophomores for the 2016-17 season.

    These 25 second-year players were ranked based on a combination of (in descending order of importance) individual statistics, value and projected team success.

    A big-time performer for a potential national champion would obviously rank at or near the top, but it was largely a balancing act between crucial role players on title contenders and stat-sheet stuffers on lesser squads.

    Make no mistake about it, though: There was no shortage of viable candidates. In addition to our top 25, there are 12 honorable mentions and at least a dozen other players who were difficult to cut from the list. Even though a number of last year's freshmen took the one-and-done path to the NBA, we are still loaded with outstanding sophomores to watch in 2016-17.

Honorable Mentions

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    Stud Reserves
    Luke Kennard (Duke), Mikal Bridges (Villanova)

    On 90 percent of rosters, Kennard and Bridges would be legitimate candidates for the top 10. However, neither one is likely to start and might not even be the first guy off the bench for their respective, loaded title contenders.

    Noteworthy Transfers
    Marcquise Reed (Clemson), Josh Cunningham (Dayton), Eric Paschall (Villanova)

    No transfers cracked our top 25, but these three came close. Paschall averaged 15.9 points per game as a Fordham freshman, but he's probably even further behind Mikal Bridges on Villanova's depth chart. Cunningham will be an indispensable frontcourt piece for the Flyers, but Reed is the most intriguing of the group as a quality shooter and defender. With Jaron Blossomgame returning to Clemson, Reed could have a nice year for a tournament team. 

    Tacko Fall, Central Florida

    After the #FreeTacko hysteria at the beginning of the season, everyone seemed to forget about the 7'6" freshman who led the nation in field-goal percentage while putting up 7.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in just 17.6 minutes per game. Though he didn't quite crack out top 25, here's your warning that he was heating up at season's end. In his final four games, Fall averaged 12.8 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in 26.8 minutes of action.

    Jessie Govan, Georgetown

    Govan played well in limited minutes, flashing the ability to be a game-changing shot-blocker and three-point shooter. But with Bradley Hayes granted an extra year of eligibility and Paul White presumably headed for a healthier season than the one he just had, Govan's quest for minutes didn't get any easier. He has breakout potential if given the opportunity, though. 

    KeVaughn Allen, Florida

    Allen never got into a rhythm as a freshman, but there were a handful of games in which he looked the part of an All-SEC shooting guard. Once he gets a little more consistent from beyond the arc (31.5 percent in year one), Allen will be a legitimate candidate to jump to the NBA.

    Jeremy Hemsley, San Diego State

    Hemsley was a beast of a lead guard for the first three months of the season, but he was average against San Diego State's best opponents and had a lackluster final six weeks of the season, due at least in part to a foot bruise suffered in mid-February. That said, he'll be on the short list of preseason candidates for Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.

    Cameron Oliver, Nevada

    A beast in the paint who helped improve Nevada from 9-22 to 24-14, Oliver should be one of the national leaders in double-doubles this season. But it would have been nice to see him do more against quality opponents. In just four "Tier A" games, he had a KenPom O-rating of 92.3.

    PJ Dozier, South Carolina

    The 5-star recruit had an awful freshman year (21.3 3P%, 54.4 FT%, 2.6 TOPG), but he's a viable candidate for a breakout sophomore campaign after South Carolina lost three key starters to graduation.

    Marcus Evans, Rice

    Though he played on an uptempo team that lost 20 games, we would be remiss if we didn't at least mention the freshman who led the nation in scoring last season. Evans averaged 21.5 points per game, in addition to 4.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.2 steals. With fewer turnovers (3.1 per game) on a better team, he'd be a lock for the top 25.

25. Derrick Griffin, Texas Southern

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    2015-16 Stats: 13.3 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG

    A two-sport star (football and basketball), Derrick Griffin didn't play for the first few weeks of his freshman season at Texas Southern. But when his debut finally arrived, it was glorious.

    Griffin began his hoops career with three consecutive games of at least 17 points and 12 rebounds against Mississippi State, Stephen F. Austin and Central Michigan. A few weeks later against Syracuse, he went 9-of-9 from the field for 20 points and nine rebounds.

    We note the opponents in those performances so as to avoid the temptation to brush him off as a minor-conference player who only put up good numbers because he spent most of the season playing against teams from the SWAC. That certainly didn't hurt Griffin's statshe had 12 consecutive double-doubles during one stretch of conference playbut the former Texas A&M and Miami commit proved he can ball with the big boys, too.

24. Antonio Blakeney, LSU

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    2015-16 Stats: 12.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.9 APG

    Lost in the shuffle of Ben Simmons hysteria, Antonio Blakeney had an impressive finish to LSU's disastrous 2015-16 season. From Feb. 6 through March 11, he averaged 19.9 points while shooting 41.5 percent from three-point range with 4.5 made free-throw attempts per game.

    And he did that damage while serving as either the third, fourth or fifth option in LSU's offense. With Simmons and Tim Quarterman leaving for the NBA draft and Keith Hornsby and Josh Gray graduating, Blakeney clearly becomes the Tigers' star player.

    Here's where projected team success comes into play, though. Aside from Craig Victor and likely Brandon Sampson, Blakeney has little to no supporting cast for next season. He might lead the SEC in scoring, but will that be enough for LSU to finish in the top half of the conference standings?

    It'd be one thing if Blakeney was more of a do-it-all guy on a struggling team, but there's no shortage of players who will shoot and score a lot for a team that misses the tournament.

23. Carlton Bragg, Kansas

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    2015-16 Stats: 3.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG

    Without a close runner-up, Carlton Bragg had the least impressive freshman statistics of any player in our top 25. These things happen when a 5-star recruit only gets to play 8.9 minutes per game in his first season.

    When actually given a chance to get out there and flex his muscles, though, Bragg was effective. He logged at least 10 minutes in 19 games and had an average O-rating of 115.0 in those contests, as well as 18.4 points and 12.0 rebounds per 40 minutes.

    Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Cheick Diallo, Hunter Mickelson and Brannen Greene are all gone, which should leave Bragg as the primary power forward for the 2016-17 season. Provided he can get his foul trouble under control7.4 committed per 40 minutes last year—he has the ability and the opportunity to be the best big man on one of the country's five best teams.

22. Jalen Adams, Connecticut

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    2015-16 Stats: 7.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG

    Most of these projected sophomore studs hit the ground running as freshmen, but Jalen Adams had a bumpy ride in his first season, bouncing in and out of the starting lineup numerous times because of his inconsistent play.

    However, with Sterling Gibbs and Omar Calhoun graduating, Daniel Hamilton declaring for the NBA draft and Sam Cassell Jr. transferring to Iona, Kevin Ollie won't have nearly as many backcourt options behind the guy who hit one of the most memorable shots of the entire 2015-16 season.

    Hamilton was the primary ball-handler last season, so his departure is what primarily paves the way to stardom for Adams. Given the opportunity to run this offense like a proper point guard, Adams ought to become a more reliable source of points and assists for one of the favorites to win the AAC.

21. Donovan Mitchell, Louisville

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    2015-16 Stats: 7.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.7 APG

    Much like Jalen Adams, Donovan Mitchell had a hit-or-miss freshman season while backing up veteran teammates.

    He had 14 points in the season opener against Samford but was held scoreless in the following game against Hartford. He had a career-high 18 points and eight rebounds in the ACC opener against Wake Forest but accounted for just nine points and nine rebounds in the next three games combined.

    The Cardinals need more consistent outputs from Mitchell this year, though. Without Damion Lee, Trey Lewis or Chinanu Onuaku to shoulder the load, one of the nation's most impressive dunkers just might become Louisville's go-to scorer. Mitchell might also be the best on-ball defender on this roster, so he'll have a big say in how well this team does in 2016-17.

20. Chimezie Metu, USC

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    2015-16 Stats: 6.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.6 BPG

    Bill Walton says a lot of crazy things throughout the course of one broadcast of a Pac-12 game, including once comparing Chimezie Metu to one of the all-time greats of basketball—Hakeem Olajuwon.

    Walton's frequent gushing over Metu's potential is a one-way streetpre-college Metu took to Twitter multiple times to complain about Walton's announcingbut that doesn't make it any less accurate. And with Nikola Jovanovic opening the door for more playing time in USC's frontcourt by (unsuccessfully) declaring for the NBA draft, Metu's shot-blocking could become something of a national phenomenon.

    "The flashes of NBA potential from Chimezie Metu are getting more frequent," tweeted Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg in mid-March.

    He's not a huge scorer and his free-throw shooting (51.3 percent) might be a significant issue for the Trojans, but his height, defense and rebounding are enough to make him one of the top NBA prospects among guys who played college ball in 2015-16.

19. James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan

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    2015-16 Stats: 14.8 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG

    To say the least, it's not often that a freshman averages a double-double. It has happened just 13 times in the past decade, creating a list that is top-heavy with players such as Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Ben Simmons, Julius Randle and Anthony Davis who played just one season before being taken No. 7 or better in the NBA draft.

    But players from smaller schools such as Chris Gaston (Fordham), Augustine Rubit (South Alabama) and Tony Mitchell (North Texas)—who amounted to little more than good college basketball players whose names 99 percent of casual fans never heard—have also achieved the accomplishment.

    Considering he wasn't a lottery pick this June, EMU's James Thompson IV is more aligned with the latter camp than the former, but anonymity doesn't even remotely mean mediocrity. He shot 64.8 percent as a freshman and had an offensive rating on Sports-Reference.com of 134.3 that trailed only Thomas Walkup and Bryn Forbes for the national lead in that category.

    In an early-December game against Penn State, Thompson had 18 points and 14 rebounds. One week later against Louisville, he had 12 points and 13 rebounds. He is a force in the paint who deserves more recognition than he has gotten thus far.

18. Edmond Sumner, Xavier

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    2015-16 Stats: 11.0 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG

    Edmond Sumner has more than enough potential to be a top-three player on this list at season's end, but consistency is the big issue holding him back.

    Every now and then, Sumner will pop off for 20 points with a decent number of assists and rebounds. It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to envision a 2016-17 season in which he flirts with a triple-double on multiple occasions.

    But he failed to string together as little as five consecutive games with an O-rating of at least 100. In fact, he posted an O-rating below 75 just as often as he posted one above 125—seven of each. Far too often, his great games were either preceded or followed by a complete dud.

    Sumner didn't finish strong, either, having been held to three points or fewer in three of his final six games, which included four of his seven least efficient performances of the season. The raw talent and athleticism are undeniable, but can he harness it more regularly this year?

17. Jalen Brunson, Villanova

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    2015-16 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 RPG, 38.3 3P%

    Though he didn't put up huge numbers, Jalen Brunson had a great freshman season for the national champions and is likely the biggest catalyst in determining whether the Wildcats repeat in 2017.

    If he excels in replacing Ryan Arcidiacono, what is Villanova's weakness?

    Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins will almost certainly open the season on the list of 50 candidates for the Wooden Award, and they'll have Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall as superb reserves. The combined force of Omari Spellman and Darryl Reynolds will be strong at center. And Phil Booth is a major candidate for a breakout year, presumably becoming a regular starter after tallying 30 points and six steals between the Final Four and national championship.

    Brunson isn't much of a defender, and he did have some turnover issues, but he is in a position to shine similar to what London Perrantes had as a sophomore at Virginia in 2014-15. Set up the star players for easy buckets, don't make terrible decisions and occasionally drain a big three-pointer and he'll come to be regarded as one of the nation's most valuable point guards.

16. Shake Milton, SMU

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    2015-16 Stats: 10.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.7 APG, 42.6 3P%

    Between complaining over SMU's ineligibility for postseason play and marveling over its quest for a perfect season, individual players took a backseat to team narratives when it came to national stories about the Mustangs. And when we did focus on select players, it was usually Nic Moore as an underappreciated star, Jordan Tolbert as a double-double machine or Sterling Brown's ludicrous shooting percentages.

    Malik "Shake" Milton slipped so far through the cracks, he didn't even get a single vote for Rookie of the Year in his own conference.

    He should receive a ton of additional attention this year as the starting point guard and one of the primary offensive weapons for the Mustangs.

    Among the eight SMU players who logged at least 100 minutes, Milton ranked dead last in percentage of possessions used and percentage of shots taken. But he still managed to average better than 10 points per game by shooting 47.7 percent from the field. Those usage ratings should skyrocket this season for a player capable of flirting with 20 points per game.

15. Nick Emery, BYU

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    2015-16 Stats: 16.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 38.3 3P%

    For a sharpshooting guard attending BYU, the comparisons of Nick Emery to Jimmer Fredette were inevitable. And as he spent two years in Germany on his The Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder-day Saints (LDS) mission, the anticipation for his college debut grew even stronger.

    Somehow, Emery lived up to the hype and then some by putting up numbers eerily similar to what Fredette did as a sophomore. 

    Fredette (2008-09): 16.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.5 SPG, 38.2 3P%

    But, believe it or not, Emery is much more of a gunner than Fredette initially was. He might not be as lethal from 32 feet out as Fredette was by the end of his collegiate career, but Emery made more three-pointers as a freshman (97) than Fredette made in his first two seasons combined (95).

    Now consider the even more favorable situation Emery is about to enter.

    Kyle Collinsworth and Chase Fischer graduated, while Jake Toolson, Jordan Chatman and Cory Calvert all transferred, leaving Emery as the only returning player shorter than 6'6" to score at least 15 points last seasonlet alone average at least 15 points per game. The Cougars do add Elon transfer Elijah Bryant and the younger brother of former star Tyler Haws, TJ, but their backcourt options are quite limited.

    Given the projected roster situation at BYU, Emery needs to be considered a serious candidate to lead the nation in scoring as a sophomoreprovided he doesn't get suspended for punching opponents again. He should be the primary ball-handler, and he should have a permanent green light to shoot.

14. Mike Daum, South Dakota State

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    2015-16 Stats: 15.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 44.6 3P%

    Since Player Efficiency Rating (PER) became a stat Sports-Reference.com tracked, beginning in 2009-10, a grand total of 10 freshmen have scored at least 200 points while recording a PER of 30.0 or higher. For the most part, these are names you would expect to see on any list of outstanding freshmen: Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, Jared Sullinger, Cody Zeller, etc. Guys who were dominant forces on title contenders before becoming first-round draft picks.

    And then there's South Dakota State's Mike Daum, whose 34.5 PER ranks second to only Anthony Davis' 35.1 rating in 2011-12 as the greatest of the past eight years.

    Moreover, Daum was one of just five players in any class to score at least 100 points with a PER of 32.0 or higher last season. The other four were Brice Johnson, John Brown, Jameel Warney and Thomas Walkupotherwise known as a legitimate candidate for the Wooden Award and a trio of minor-conference seniors who put up ridiculous numbers throughout their careers.

    Daum's name is not one many are yet familiar with, but he's our highest-rated non-major sophomore. If he has another year anything close to the one he just hadthere's plenty of room for growth, considering he only averaged 20.8 minutes per gamehe should spend his final two years with a cult following on par with UCSB's Alan Williams.

13. Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky

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    2015-16 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.0 SPG

    Ranking Isaiah Briscoe proved to be the biggest challenge on the list.

    Behind only Ivan Rabb, he is the second-highest rated player in the class of 2015 who will be playing in 2016-17, but he struggled mightily as a freshman. Briscoe tallied an O-rating below 100 and a D-rating above 100, meaning as far as the advanced metrics are concerned, he was detrimental to Kentucky's cause on both ends of the court.

    And he's no more likely to be in a starring role this year alongside Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox than he was last year while sharing a backcourt with Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. In fact, Briscoe might be headed for even fewer touches this year, since Kentucky's frontcourt situation should be better than it was in 2015-16.

    If he improves as a shooter, though, the Wildcats will find a way to get him the ball.

    Everything beyond five feet of the hoop was a disaster for Briscoe, as the slashing guard shot just 13.5 percent from three-point range and 46.0 percent from the free-throw line. In the process, he became one of just five players in the past 13 years to attempt at least 100 free throws and 25 three-pointers while making less than 50 percent and 20 percent of them, respectively. He also became the first player since Boston College's Ryan Sidney in 2002-03 to do so for a team that won more than 50 percent of its games.

    Given the hype out of high school, No. 13 feels way too low for Briscoe.

    Given how he played last season, No. 13 is probably much too generous.

12. Tyler Davis, Texas A&M

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    2015-16 Stats: 11.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG

    Tyler Davis was good all season, but he was especially strong over the final five weeks, averaging 12.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while posting an average O-rating of 122.5.

    Even more impressive than those averages was his consistency. While some players will have numbers drastically inflated by one or two incredible performances, Davis channeled his inner Perry Ellis or C.J. Fair by doing it without scoring more than 17 points in any game and only once venturing into double-digit territory in rebounds.

    Can he now beef up those averages in more of a feature role?

    Playing alongside high-volume shooters in Danuel House and Jalen Jones, Davis was only responsible for 18.7 percent of Texas A&M's field-goal attempts while he was on the floor. That should change in a big way as he stands to become a focal point of this offense (and defense).

11. OG Anunoby, Indiana

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    2015-16 Stats: 4.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 0.8 BPG, 0.8 SPG, 44.8 3P%

    The full-season numbers don't do justice to OG Anunoby's impact on the court, considering he didn't become a regular in the lineup until the end of December. But even his numbers over the final 22 games (16.6 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG) don't seem to tell the whole story of the ball of relentless hustle that turned Indiana's season around.

    The Hoosiers were always going to have talent and scoring. They had one of the nation's most efficient offenses in 2014-15 and added stud big man Thomas Bryant to that mix without losing much of anything. Had they led the nation in points per game last season, no one would have been surprised.

    They needed a wow factor, though, and Anunoby provided that spark repeatedly with excellent defense and emphatic slam dunks.

    Now that we've seen what he can do in small chunks, the expectation/hope is that he'll contribute at a higher capacity and frequency with Yogi Ferrell and Troy Williams out of the picture. If he does, Indiana has a good chance of repeating as Big Ten champs.

10. Dedric Lawson, Memphis

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    2015-16 Stats: 15.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.2 SPG

    One of the most dominant freshmen of the 2015-16 season is about to become even more of a wrecking ball. Shaq Goodwin, Ricky Tarrant and Trahson Burrell have all graduated and Avery Woodson has transferred to Butler, meaning that Dedric Lawson is the only returning member of Memphis' quintet of leading scorers.

    As far as additions to the roster are concerned, the Tigers add a decent JUCO transfer (Jimario Rivers), a 3-star point guard (Keon Clergeot) and a graduate-transfer who shot pretty well for 9-22 Coppin State (Christian Kessee).

    No offense to that trio, but the incoming pool of talent is decidedly less than the outgoing one, so it only makes sense that Memphis will lean even more heavily on Lawson for just about everything. He averaged 18.9 points and 10.2 rebounds over his final 12 games, offering a glimpse into what might be coming in year No. 2.

9. Tyler Dorsey, Oregon

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    2015-16 Stats: 13.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 40.6 3P%

    It looked like Tyler Dorsey was hitting the proverbial freshman wall late in the season. In seven games in February, he averaged just 10.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assistsand that's including one great showing against Oregon State in which he had 25 points, five rebounds and a pair of assists. Outside of that game, the calendar's shortest month must have felt like the longest one for Dorsey.

    But in early March, as Oregon put the finishing touches on its No. 1 seed and looked nearly invincible, Dorsey was largely to thank. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.2 rebounds and shot 50.0 percent from beyond the arc over his final five games before the NCAA tournament.

    It was that stretch of individual dominance that put his status for the 2016-17 season up in the air, but after testing the draft waters, he elected to come back and help give the Ducks one more spirited run at a Final Four appearance.

    If the early-March version of Dorsey shows up on a more regular basis, he, Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher would have to be one of the top candidates for most dominant trio in the nation.

8. Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

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    2015-16 Stats: 10.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.8 APG

    On the one hand, Caleb Swanigan was already solid as a freshman. He dominated the defensive glass and was one of the more aggressive frontcourt players in the country, putting his 250-pound frame to good use to get to the ball or the hoop time and again.

    On the other hand, he has a ton of room for improvement. He only played 25.7 minutes per game, averaged 4.1 turnovers per 40 minutes and shot 29.2 percent from three-point range.

    Whether the turnovers and shooting will improve depends on how hard he works this offseason to fix them, but Swanigan is destined for more minutes and touches now that A.J. Hammons is gone.

    We're not expecting him to become a model of efficiency, but as long as he occasionally gives Purdue the type of game he had in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin (27 points, eight rebounds, one turnover), he'll be one of the most valuable big men in the Big Ten, if not the country.

7. Dwayne Bacon, Florida State

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    2015-16 Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG

    Like Caleb Swanigan, there are clear areas of a potential improvement in Dwayne Bacon's game. In fact, they're the same areas, even though Bacon is a shooting guard and Swanigan is a power forward.

    Though he put up impressive scoring figures, Bacon struggled to find any consistency with the long ball. After opening the season 8-of-17 (47.1 percent) from three-point range, he shot 5-of-28 (17.9 percent) over the next nine games—but he hit all five of those triples on the same night, so it's a feast-or-famine area of his game.

    Bacon also struggled with turnovers, committing at least five in five different games.

    But not one of those five-turnover games came in the final 15 games of Florida State's season, during which Bacon averaged 15.2 points and shot an acceptable 30.0 percent on 3.3 attempts per game from downtown. He improved as the season progressed and should only become more valuable as his primary backcourt running mate from last season (Malik Beasley) is replaced by a dynamic frontcourt presence (Jonathan Isaac).

6. Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

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    2015-16 Stats: 12.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.3 APG, 0.9 BPG

    Eight of the players in our top 10 were rated in the top 35 of last year's class by 247Sports while a ninth checked in as a 4-star recruit at No. 73 overall.

    That leaves Ethan Happthe 149th overall recruit in the class of 2014 before redshirting the 2014-15 seasonas the least heralded recruit of our top 10 sophomores by quite the margin.

    It certainly doesn't matter anymore, but it's a testament to how surprising it was to see him dominating the competition throughout the season.

    Happ averaged 14.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in his final 10 games, but it was the relentless on-ball defense that most stood out about his freshman season. 6'9" power forwards aren't supposed to have guard-like reflexes, but Happ closed out the season on a 28-game streak with at least one stealusually multiple steals.

    The only other freshman in the past eight years to have a steal percentage of at least 3.8 (Happ's was 4.0) and a total rebound percentage of at least 15.0 (Happ's was 17.0) was Kentucky's Nerlens Noel.

    Even with seniors Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig on the roster, Happ could be the most valuable Badger for a second straight year.

5. Allonzo Trier, Arizona

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    2015-16 Stats: 14.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 36.4 3P%

    A broken hand robbed Allonzo Trier of about four weeks of action in the middle of conference play, but it didn't negatively affect his production. In fact, Trier was slightly better once he returned to action, averaging 15.6 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists over his final 10 games while shooting 37.7 percent from three.

    Based on how well he played both before and after the injury, he was one of the most surprising players to opt for another year of school without even bothering to go through the draft evaluation process.

    But in deciding to come back, the team became his to run. Gabe York, Ryan Anderson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Mark Tollefsen all graduate, so Trier is the top returning scorer with room to spare. Only Kadeem Allen and Dusan Ristic were anywhere close to the same level of productionand even their combined scoring average (15.5 per game) just barely exceeds what Trier put up on a nightly basis.

    There's a lot of young talent on this year's Wildcats roster, and Trier should be the leader who steers them to a fifth straight season with at least 25 wins.

4. Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State

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    2015-16 Stats: 12.9 PPG, 4.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 47.5 3P%

    Jawun Evans only lasted 21 full games for a 20-loss team, but he had some ridiculous games as the point guard of that sinking ship.

    Without question, the biggest of the bunch was the 42 points, seven rebounds and six assists that he had as the Cowboys nearly upset Oklahomathen ranked No. 2 in the nation. A 4-star recruit who had been starting at point guard for a major-conference program since the third game of the season, Evans was hardly a John Doe before that game, but that one really plastered him onto the national radar.

    In the final eight games prior to the one in which he suffered the season-ending shoulder injury, Evans was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 56.3 percent from beyond the arc.

    If he played for a team with a more legitimate shot at making the tournament this year, he'd be No. 1 on this list. That's how ridiculous his sophomore season might be.

3. Tyler Lydon, Syracuse

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    2015-16 Stats: 10.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 APG, 40.5 3P%

    When Malachi Richardson opted to remain in the NBA draft pool, Tyler Lydon became the most important and indispensable player in the ACC, if not the entire country.

    Lydon was already going to be relied upon for a big year. A 6'8" shot-blocking power forward who rebounds well and shoots better than 40 percent from three, he checks pretty much every box imaginable. Though he didn't start a single game as a freshman, he averaged 30.3 minutes per game because of how valuable and versatile he is.

    But now he's the guy for the Orange. They still have DaJuan Coleman, Colorado State transfer John Gillon and a pair of quality freshmen in Tyus Battle and Matthew Moyer, but they're all just riding Lydon's coattails. If he doesn't have an even bigger and better season than the gem he just had, Syracuse might not even have the chance to go to a second straight Final Four.

2. Thomas Bryant, Indiana

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    2015-16 Stats: 11.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.9 BPG

    Indiana has to feed Thomas Bryant more often this year, right?

    He shot 70.7 percent from inside the three-point arc last season and even went 5-of-15 from downtown. At 1.80 points per field-goal attempt, he had one of the more efficient seasons in recent memorywhich doesn't even include his abilities as a rebounder and defender.

    But between Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams and Max Bielfeldt needing to hit their quotas of shots per game, Bryant's dominance in the post often went overlooked as he accounted for just 6.6 field-goal attempts per game.

    Though James Blackmon Jr. will be returning for the Hoosiers, the other three players just mentioned all left, which should make Bryant one of the primary weapons in the 2016-17 offense. Considering how well he played in the NCAA tournament win over Kentucky, that's great news for fans in Bloomington.

1. Ivan Rabb, California

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    2015-16 Stats: 12.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 0.9 APG

    For as great as Thomas Bryant, Tyler Lydon and Jawun Evans already are and should continue to be, this wasn't a difficult decision in the slightest. Not only is Ivan Rabb the best sophomore in the country, there's a reasonable chance that he will win the 2017 Wooden Award.

    The full-season numbers are solid, but Rabb finished even better, averaging 15.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals in his final six games.

    Rabb still needs to improve as a defenderJakob Poeltl dominated him to the tune of 23.0 points and 10.7 rebounds in California's three games against Utahbut he came back for another season to become a better, more polished all-around player. Rabb doesn't just want to get to the NBA; he wants to be able to dominate at the next level.

    And as is the case for Lydon at Syracuse, Rabb's importance to the team has only grown this offseason with Jaylen Brown declaring for the draft and Jordan Mathews transferring to Gonzaga. Throw in Tyrone Wallace graduating and the Golden Bears are pretty much down to Rabb, Jabari Bird and the hope that Grant Mullens makes a big splash as a graduate transfer.

    Rabb will be crucial and will be more battle-tested than he was last year. Though Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee won't be eligible to play this season, he will be able to practice with California, giving Rabb the caliber of sparring partner he was desperately lacking this past season.

    Expect a tougher and more determined version of Rabb than the already-dominant one we saw at the end of 2015-16.

    Stats are courtesy of Sports-Reference.com and KenPom.com, unless noted otherwise. Recruiting star rankings are courtesy of 247Sports

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.


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