Here at College Pride Press we are going to be ranking the top players for each class for next year’s college basketball season. I have been charged with ranking the seniors, as you’ll see below. It should be an interesting year to see how seniors do, as last season was dominated by seniors (Hield, Valentine, etc.) Nevertheless, these are the seniors to watch out for in 2016-17.
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists
After entertaining the idea of entering the NBA Draft, Hayes decided to return to what should be a loaded Badger team. Hayes had a good year at Wisconsin in 2015-16, but the stats can be a bit deceiving. He saw his 3-point percentage drop over 10% from the previous year, and his turnovers per game increased by one as well. However, with a full off-season to adjust to Greg Gard’s system, Hayes is poised for a big senior season.
One big thing that will help Hayes is the emergence of star big man Ethan Happ. If Hayes can successfully play off of Happ, he should have a lot of open looks and won’t have to do as much on his own. Along with that, Hayes keeps his point guard with fellow senior Bronson Koenig returning for the Badgers. With those two around him and time to develop chemistry in a new system, Hayes should have less pressure on him and projects to be my best senior in college basketball.
Iowa State, PG
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 13.8 points, 6.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds
Iowa State as a whole will undoubtedly take a step back this season. A team simply doesn’t lose pieces like Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel Mckay and maintain previous success. However, Monte Morris returns for the Cyclones which is good news for fans everywhere.
Morris was one of the better passers in college basketball last season, averaging almost seven assists per game in the fast-paced system the Cyclones like to run. However, Morris loses many of his threats to graduation and must take a more aggressive role on the offensive side. Although he may see his other-worldly 4.23 assist to turnover ratio drop some, expect to see greater offensive numbers for Morris in what should be a good senior campaign.
3. Alec Peters
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 18.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists
If I was going purely by stats, Alec Peters would undoubtedly be number one. As the best player on a solid if unspectacular Valpo team, Peters took his play to another level, averaging close to a double-double and leading his team to the NIT Final. After deciding to return for his senior year, Peters will again be “the guy” for Valpo.
Although a PF, Peters is part of the new wave of big men as he shoots 44% from deep. With that lethal shooting ability, Peters also brings a nice post game with the ability to rebound on an elite level against his level of competition. Although his defense isn’t great, his offensive specialty more than makes up for it and Peters should again have Valpo in the conversation for an at-large NCAA Tournament bid come Selection Sunday.
4. Josh Hart
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists
After winning the national championship, Hart declined to enter the NBA Draft and decided to come back and defend the title. And who can blame him? With key pieces returning, Villanova is primed again to be one of the better teams nationally and Hart figures to lead the charge.
After a great junior season, Hart returns with greater expectations. Although it was his teammate Kris Jenkins who hit the winning shot in the championship game, it was Hart who lead the team in scoring all year along with being the second highest rebounder. Hart is a smooth player who can get it done on both ends of the court. He is versatile both offensively and defensively, and if the Wildcats have dreams of winning back-to-back titles it will again be Hart who leads the team there.
5. Jack Gibbs
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 23.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists
I may have a soft spot for mid-majors, but in this case it is well deserved. Playing for Steph Curry’s alma mater, Gibbs does his best impression. Gibbs averaged an insane 36 minutes per game last year, and will again be the focal point of a team that leans on him more than maybe any other team in the country leans on a single player.
Having the ultimate green light, Gibbs averaged close to 8 shots more per year his junior year compared to his sophomore year and saw his three-point percentage drop by close to 10%. However, Gibbs is still a good shooter and is capable of taking over a game if you give him an inch of space to get his shot off or get to the rim as he is very good at finishing close to the basket. Although not on the strongest of teams, Davidson will always have a shot as long as Gibbs is playing well.
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 11.0 points, 4.4 assists, 3.0 rebounds
After playing for a couple years perfectly off of Malcolm Brogdon, it is finally Perrantes’ time to shine. Virginia loses a lot from it’s Elite Eight team, but Perrantes is a perennial starter that figures to be the best player for a Cavalier team that can still be dangerous in the ACC.
Perrantes’ best asset is easily his three point shooting, as he averaged 48% from deep in his junior season. However, he is far from just a shooter as he also can get to the rim and hit the midrange. Along with that, he can lock down on defense and is far from the liability most shooters are. Although he has gone under the radar the past few years, look for London Perrantes to have a huge senior year.
7. Jaron Blossomgame
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 18.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists
Perhaps the best pure scorer on this list, Blossomgame terrorized ACC defenses as a junior and will almost certainly do it again as a senior. After flirting with the NBA Draft, Blossomgame returns to the Tigers and could help the make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
Blossomgame has always been talented, but improved his shooting by almost 16% last season and averaged a scorching 45% from three point land. However, his game will always be getting to the rim and taking people on face up. Also an excellent free throw shooter, Blossomgame is a big, physical SF that can score at will. Although he may slide under the radar a bit in the ACC, make some time to watch this impressive senior in his last year of college basketball.
8. Peter Jok
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 16.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists
Peter Jok had a breakout year in 2015-16, and he projects to only get better as the Hawkeyes senior leader for this coming season. Always being a second option to Jarrod Uthoff in 2015-16, Jok will have the reigns as the primary scorer and go-to guy for an Iowa that will really need him to produce.
Jok shoots just over 40% from beyond the arc, making him tough to guard as he can really get to the rim as well. His defense is stellar as well, and he usually can guard the opposing team’s number one guard. The thing to watch for is his efficiency. As I noted, Jarrod Uthoff is a huge loss, and it will be interesting to see if Uthoff can make the jump to being a team leader and All-Big Ten level player.
9. Malcolm Hill
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists
Illinois has been possibly the most unlucky team in the country for the past few years, dealing with injuries and off-court issues. However, a bright spot has been the play of rising senior Malcolm Hill. Hill ranked at number 3 in the conference in scoring, behind only Denzel Valentine and Jarrod Uthoff. Illinois will look for Hill to be their go-to guy under pressure, and will need him to have a big season in order to bounce back.
Hill was also a very solid rebounder, averaging 6.6 per game. If there is one place Hill can improve this year, it is three-point shooting. Hill averaged only 31.4% from three last season, down from 38.9% in his sophomore campaign. If Hill can even half the difference in the coming year, he will be primed for a very successful senior season.
10. Frank Mason III
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 12.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists
Kansas was a top five team for a majority of 2015-16, and Frank Mason III was a big reason why. Besides Perry Ellis, Mason III was the leader for the Jayhawks last year. He will play a big part moving forward, and Kansas will rely on his leadership to reach an unbelievable 13th straight year.
Frank Mason III is a utility man of sorts, being able to score from anywhere on the court while also finding Kansas’ many talented players to the tune of 4.6 assists per game. A model of consistency, a look down Mason III’s game log reveals very little in terms of bad performances. The thing I will look for in 2016-17 is how well he can operate without big man Perry Ellis in the paint. If he can make a quick adjustment, Kansas could easily challenge the likes of Duke and Kentucky for best team in the country.
11. Chris Boucher
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 12.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 blocks
Since they play out West, it can be tough to see the Oregon Ducks play. That’s a shame, as it causes us to miss out on some great players, not the least of which Chris Boucher. Granted an extra year of eligibility due to circumstances that involved him taking a year off school to work and support his family, Boucher is ready to anchor the Ducks down low and take them to the next level.
Boucher was the best big man for a Ducks team filled with perimeter talent, and was a nice complement in the paint. Boucher was a blocking machine, getting almost three per game and practically daring opponents to challenge him at the rim. He could be prone to foul trouble at times, which was detrimental as front court depth is not Oregon’s strong suit. If he can play just a little smarter next year and stay on the court more, it could be a fun year to be an Oregon fan.
12. Jordan Woodard
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Despite being dominated by Buddy Hield headlines, Oklahoma had another talented player in Jordan Woodard last year. He formed a lethal threat from outside with Hield, shooting 45.5% from three, up over 20% from the year before. Although Oklahoma will inevitably take some step back, Woodard can help keep that step at the minimum for his senior year.
Although it isn’t fair to expect as huge an improvement as last year, it is hard not to wonder if Woodard will still improve his offensive statistics. Without Hield, Oklahoma will rely on him to be the primary scorer in 2016-17. He will most likely be tasked with running the offense as well, which he is more than capable of. Although Oklahoma may not be able to challenge the likes of Kansas in the Big 12 like they did last season, they can still be an NCAA Tournament team if Jordan Woodard can continue to improve offensively.
13. Kris Jenkins
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 13.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists
How does one come back from one of the greatest shots in NCAA Basketball history? Kris Jenkins will attempt just that in 2016-17. After hitting the buzzer-beater to win the NCAA Championship, Jenkins is returning back to Philadelphia in an attempt to go back-to-back for the first time since Florida did it in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
We shouldn’t let that one shot define Jenkins’ season, as he did well throughout the year. He was always a trustworthy scorer, and shot a very solid 38.6% from three. It will be worth watching to see how Jenkins, Hart and co. exist now that Arcidiacono is no longer running the show. If Jenkins can take on some of the leadership burden with Hart, Villanova could easily find themselves in Phoenix come April 2017.
14. Justin Robinson
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists
When one thinks of Monmouth basketball, the “bench mob” obviously comes to mind. However, Robinson lead the charge on the court for the Hawks, leading the team in scoring and providing a lot of toughness despite his smaller stature. Although they won’t be as big of a surprise in 2016-17, Monmouth could still make some noise with Robinson at the lead.
Robinson did a lot of his damage from behind the three-point line, hitting nearly 40% of his attempts from that range. Robinson has that unteachable talent of taking over a game, and he scored 25 points or more 10 times over the course of the year. If Robinson can maintain that scoring as well as get his teammates a bit more involved this season, he will be a national name by March.
15. James Daniel
2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 27.1 points, 2.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds
Although there are many player deserving of the last spot on this list, it wouldn’t be fair to leave off the nation’s leading scorer. Despite playing for a small school in Howard, James Daniel impressed many with his ability to score for the Bison and will need to be just as big in 2016-17 if the Bison want to make any noise across the country.
Daniel was not particularly efficient last season, averaging over 19 shots per game to go along with 4.1 turnovers. However, this should not take away from his scoring numbers as you simply can’t teach the instincts that Daniel has. If Daniel uses the summer to improve his decision making and shot selection, he could very well see himself improve as a player and see his name popping up more in the national markets.