Top 15 Sophomores for 2016-2017

This is the third installment of our class rankings for next season. The rankings are based on stats, talent, and role on their teams. I was tabbed with doing the sophomores and I knew right away that this one might be a little more awkward. Derryk Thornton and Malik Newman would be two players in the top 10 of this ranking decided to transfer from their respective schools. With those two 5-stars sitting out a year the ranking opens up much more. The guy who starts off the ranking was my number one from day one of researching for this ranking.

1.Ivan Rabb

Cal, PF/C

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks

Ivan Rabb is the clear cut number one choice because of talent. If he would have declared for the NBA Draft he would have likely been a top 10 selection. Instead he returns to Cal where he will look to refine his game on both ends of the floor. Because Rabb is a big man, he will need to new starting backcourt to step in and deliver the ball in the right spots to allow him to be most effective.

Some believe the departure of Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown will be a good thing for Rabb. Jaylen Brown was the only PAC-12 player to use over 28% of his teams possessions and he was the least efficient player in the country. Rabb ranked 4th in the conference in offensive rating for players using 20% of possessions and the three players ahead of him are all in the NBA.

Rabb was incredible at staying out of foul trouble has a freshman averaging over 28 minutes a game. Do not expect a huge minutes increase next season from Rabb but an increase in usage while continuing to be efficient. Be sure to catch a Cal Berkeley game next season as Rabb is the best of this sophomore class.

2. Thomas Bryant

Indiana, Center

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 0.9 blocks

Checking in at #2 is Thomas Bryant from my beloved Hoosiers. Bryant and Rabb are in very similar situations. Bryant turned down the chance to be an NBA lottery pick to return to school and refine his game. Just like Rabb, Bryant will need to step up in an offense that lost two key players in Troy Williams and Yogi Ferrell. Bryant will also need the new backcourt to distribute the ball to him down low. Rabb and Bryant were both super efficient offensively during their freshman year.

The one stat that put Rabb over Bryant was the rebounding. Rabb gobbled up almost 3 rebounds more per game last season. Bryant will need to step up his rebounding to be the cog Indiana needs him to be. The one skill that Bryant may have over Ivan Rabb is shooting. Late in the season Thomas started showing the ability to step out and hit an open three pointer. Although the sample size is small that is a skill that Rabb never displayed his freshman season.

Thomas Bryant is one of the few players in college basketball that you get the ball down low and almost get an automatic bucket. Bryant shot 71% from the field during his freshman season. If Tom Crean can work with Bryant this summer to add additional post moves and improve his conditioning then the rest of the Big Ten is in serious trouble next season.

3. Dwayne Bacon

Florida State, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists

Dwayne Bacon will be in line for a monster year after losing backcourt running mate Malik Beasley to the NBA. Bacon’s freshman stats speak for themself as he had a huge freshman season. Bacon can fill it up in both the half court and running the floor in transition. He is so tough to stop going towards the rim and his exceptional strength allows him to finish through contact. He was not the knockdown shooter from deep that every expected with him shooting 28% from deep. After a summer in the gym, opponents won’t have the luxury of playing off him at the three point line which will open up additional driving lanes. Once that deep jumper starts falling, no one in the ACC will be able to stop Bacon next season.

I am expecting Bacon to become a leader on this Florida State team. FSU struggled last year suffering resumes killing losses to the Hofstra and then multiple times in the bottom tier of the ACC. Dwayne Bacon should be able to carry Florida State over the hump to avoid those bad losses and hopefully upsetting some of the top teams in their conference.

4. Jalen Brunson

Villanova, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 9.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists

After looking at Brunson’s freshman stats you may not be very impressed but Brunson is in line for a breakout sophomore camp for the reigning national champs. Brunson was forced to take a backseat and play out of position last season with senior Ryan Arcidiacono handling the ball. With Arcidiacono graduated it is up to Brunson to carry the load.

Jalen Brunson will not only be able to fill the senior’s shoes but will surpass the stats Arcidiacono put up. Brunson is a knock down shooter from deep and last summer he couldn’t miss while playing for the U17 USA team. He is not the best athlete but his high IQ and vision allow him to get to where he wants on the court and find his teammates in the right spot. His combination of scoring and distributing will be tough to rival in the country next year. Brunson and backcourt mate Josh Hart will be able to compliment each other perfectly next season sharing the ball and finding each other in for easy buckets.  You will definitely want to catch a Villanova game next season to see Brunson back in his comfort zone with the ball in his hands. (I will refer back to this article when he hangs 25 and 7 assists on Xavier).

5. Ethan Happ

Wisconsin, Center

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals

Happ’s name may surprise you because he wasn’t a top recruit or even a recruit in the 2015 class. Happ entered Wisconsin in 2014 and redshirted for a year to learn from Frank Kaminsky. During his first season, he shocked many Big Ten fans with his skills and basketball IQ. F0r a center, Happ’s ball handling and ability to drive allows him to get to the rim against anyone. He has a unique way of scoring points without requiring a post up and his back to the basket.

The Big Ten was full of very talented big men last season and Happ dominated the conference. He played his best against Purdue’s AJ Hammons, Maryland’s Diamond Stone, Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis, and even put up 25 points against Indiana’s Thomas Bryant who is #2 on this list. Happ had all this success while dealing with the mid season retirement of Bo Ryan and installment of Greg Gard. With a full offseason under Greg Gard, the skies the limit for Happ.

6. Allonzo Trier

Arizona, Guard

2015-2016 Stats Per Game: 14.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists

Allonzo Trier is an electric scorer for the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats had a down year last year being overpowered by the Oregon ducks in the Pac-12. Trier carried the Wildcats at times last season including putting up 23 points in pivotal match-ups against USC and Utah. Trier can do it all on the offensive end. He uses his elite athleticism to get to the rim while he was very respectable shooting 36% from deep on more than 4 attempts per game.

Trier will be tasked with leading a new supporting cast in Tuscon next season. Sean Miller brings in a great recruiting class which will be joined by Ray Smith redshirted after tearing his ACL in the pre season last year. Combo guards Kobi Simmons and Rawle Alkins come to Tuscon expecting to contribute right away. Trier’s usage may go down next season with his new backcourt mates taking shots but his scoring and efficiency should rise. Trier is a true scoring guard and its evident by Trier’s 1.1 assists per game. Tyler Lydon is a power forward had the same number per game last season. Arizona needs to find a lead guard to handle the ball and distribute to all their scorers. Alonzo Trier is my pick for Pac-12 player of the year.

7. Tyler Lydon

Syracuse, Forward

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 10.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assist

Syracuse made a very surprising run in the NCAA Tournament last season thanks to some key contributions from their versatile forward Lydon. Lydon is very talented and can be a swiss army knife providing scoring, rebounds, blocks, and stretching the floor with his jumper. Lydon shot 40% from deep last season making him an extremely valuable asset for Syracuse. He is the most versatile player on this list.

Lydon is high on the list because of his potential to grow and develop as well as the players around him next season. Tyler’s athleticism gives him room to develop his game this summer and become a match-up nightmare during his second campaign. Syracuse also loses their top two players from last year’s Final Four team. Lydon will be the focal point of the offense next season and have more opportunities to score. Syracuse will need Lydon to live up to the hype to return to the Final Four.

8. Dedric Lawson

Memphis, Forward

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 15.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 blocks

After doing research for this piece Dedric Lawson was the biggest surprise name that I couldn’t leave outside the top ten. He may not get much national attention playing in the American Athletic Conference but he was a monster during his freshman year. The stat line above speaks of his contributions during his freshman campaign. Lawson entered his name in the draft but later withdrew in hopes of a successful sophomore year to raise his stock.

I am expecting a tremendous sophomore campaign from Lawson. He has a new coach in Tubby Smith who has a ton of experience developing players and preparing them for the next level. Smith has brought in some transfers and recruits that can be valuable role players next to Lawson. Everything is lining up for Lawson to become one of the premier players in college basketball.

9. Tyler Dorsey

Oregon, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2 assists

Tyler Dorsey led the Oregon Ducks to a regular season championship in his first season in Eugene. He is a lethal scorer that closed the season on a high note including 23 points in the conference tournament final against Utah. He was a monster closing out the regular season going into the conference tournament.

Dorsey will look to continue that dominant play into next season as Oregon returns most of its core. Look for Dorsey to lead the Ducks to the top tier of the Pac-12 again. Expect Dorsey to take more three pointers next year as his 40% rate from deep is well above average.

10. Ed Sumner

Xavier, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 11 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists

There is a huge gap between Dorsey and the number ten sophomore Ed Sumner. Sumner was impressive for the Musketeers during certain stretches during his freshman year. During other stretches he disappeared and wasn’t the leader Xavier needed.

If Sumner improves his 30% rate from deep and can become a more consistent player he could easily a top 5 player in his class. His length at the point guard makes him tough to stop on offense and impossible to see over on defense. Consistency and development of that jump shot will make Sumner one of the top players in a very competitive Big East conference.

11. OG Anunoby

Indiana, Forward

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 4.9 points, 2.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks

OG Anunoby came onto the radar late last season for the Indiana Hoosiers. He was lightly recruited  3-star forward out of Missouri. After getting his feet wet during the non-conference schedule, Anunoby became a pivotal part of the Hoosiers with his length and defensive presence. OG was tasked with covering with covering every position except the point for long stretches. If you did not see much of Anunoby or Indiana last season, check out the game tape from the Hoosiers second round game against Kentucky. Anunoby slowed down lottery pick Jamal Murray, who ended up shooting 1 for 9 from beyond the arc in that game.

OG Anunoby’s offensive stats are not very impressive but his athleticism and shooting touch should lead to a huge campaign this year. His freshman year stats may not stack up with others on the list but his defense is elite and he will be more involved in the offense this year. He will be a key component for the Hoosiers and his development is what all of Hoosier Nation is looking for.

12. Donovan Mitchell

Louisville, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 7.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists

Donovan Mitchell is very similar to OG Anunoby. Mitchell is an elite athlete who received more playing time as the season went along and will make a huge jump this season. Damion Lee and Trey Lewis have both graduated leaving Mitchell to be the feature guard for this year’s Cardinals.

Mitchell showed some flashes of that athleticism in the latter part of the ACC slate including 17 points against Duke in Cameron Indoor. Rick Pitino can play Mitchell at either guard position and be very successful both scoring the ball and pressuring the ball on defense. Louisville will look to rebound from last year’s post season ban and Mitchell figures to be a key part of that.

13. Antonio Blakeney

LSU, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 12.6 points, .9 assists, 3.5 rebounds

Antonio Blakeney had issue’s being Ben Simmons’s sidekick during his freshman year. The number one pick Simmons’s was the focus of everyone in the country leaving the other 5-star recruit to pick up the scraps. Blakeney’s issues all stemmed from his slow start. LSU was trying to find themselves with these two new shiny new recruits but Blakeney struggled greatly on both ends of the floor. His struggles led him to become an afterthought for most of the year. He did find his comfort zone during the second half of conference play where he averaged 14.2 points.

This season Simmons, Tim Quarterman, and Keith Hornsby will not be in Baton Rouge leaving Blakeney to be the feature scorer for the Tigers. Expect Blakeney to score and score a ton this season. LSU may not be a better team without those three components but Blakeney will be able to play more freely and showcase his talents this season.

14. Carlton Bragg Jr.

Kansas, Forward

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 3.8 points, 2.5 rebounds

There is a huge drop-off between Blakeney and Bragg. The McDonald’s All-American recruit really did not show much during his freshman campaign. The Kansas front court was very messy last year with Bragg and Cheick Diallo struggling to receive playing time behind seniors Landen Lucas and Perry Ellis. Bragg’s best game was 10 points and 7 rebounds against Baylor in the Big-12 tournament. Bragg gets the nod here because Diallo, Lucas, and Ellis are all gone leaving Bragg to be the best returning front court option. Bill Self has had a tendency to favor more experienced big men the past few years so Bragg could be in line for some major opportunities for the Jayhawks.

15. Federico Mussini

St. John’s, Guard

2015-2016 Per Game Stats: 10.7 points, 2.7 assists, 2.4 rebounds

Federico Mussini’s freshman year stats may not be that impressive on the peripheral but it does not tell the story of his season. He was a lightly recruited point guard who landed on a rebuilding St. John’s team. He was asked to do a lot right away and he had great success early in the non conference season scoring double digits in all but 3 non conference games. He scored 17 points against both Indiana and Syracuse in the early going.

The second half of the season saw Mussini hit the freshman wall and struggle against the tougher Big East opponents. St. John’s is a program on the rise and Mussini will have a huge season running the point while finding the balance between scoring and distributing.

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