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SI's Projections System: Ranking every team in college basketball
3:16 | College Basketball
SI's Projections System: Ranking every team in college basketball
SI.com Staff
Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

Now in its third season, SI's College Basketball Projections System has produced the most accurate preseason poll for the past two years. We don't rely on human voters, but instead build team by team projections from the players up. On offense, we begin by projecting every player's efficiency and shot volume, incorporating his past performance, recruiting rankings, development curves for similar Division I players, the quality of his teammates and his coach's ability to maximize talent. Those stats are weighted based on the team's rotation—including human intel on who’s expected to earn minutes—then used to produce each team’s offensive efficiency projection.

Our defensive forecasts are based on a blend of returnees' advanced stats (rebound, steal and block percentages), roster turnover (if churn is low, then 2014–15 performances in areas such as two-point field goal percentage are given a lot of weight; if high, then a coach’s historical defensive résumé matters more), experience (veterans have fewer lapses), height (taller frontcourts make for stingier defense) and depth of talent.

We simulate the season 10,000 times to account for variance in individual performances as well as injury scenarios, and the final product are these projections. To read are full rankings of every team in Division I, from 351–1, click here. Below, we offer a scouting report, player projections, conference projections, a coach's take and an X-factor for each team in our top 20. Scroll through the page to read each report, or click on the links below to find your favorite team:


• 1–5: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova

• 6–10: 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona 

• 11–15: 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse 15. Indiana 

• 16–20: 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn


 

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Grayson Allen had one priority this off-season: reduce his sugar intake. Duke’s leading scorer admits that eliminating the sweet drinks he loves was a huge challenge, but doing it helped him drop 10 pounds. “I feel quicker,” the 6' 5", 202-pound junior says. “I’m not walking into the gym feeling sluggish. That’s going to be big—if I’m able to stay fresh game to game.”

The player of the year candidate’s load will be lighter in more ways than one. Four of the Blue Devils’ top five scorers are back, and they’re joined by four of the country’s top 13 freshmen, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. A deep rotation and a diversified offense make it less crucial for Allen to match his 2015–16 average of 21.6 points, which he racked up over a bone-wearying 1,317 minutes (seventh most in Division I).

A leaner frame has also led to a quicker first step. That, plus Allen’s improved ballhandling, can make him “more creative off the bounce,” says associate head coach Jeff Capel. Meanwhile Duke has managed Allen’s practice reps to make sure he can maintain ample energy to move without the ball and attack defensive closeouts.

With added help and fewer pounds, one of the country’s most potent scorers can vary his angles and force fewer shots. “The way I look at it, I should be more efficient than I was last year,” Allen says. Expect that to weigh heavily on the rest of D-I.

College Basketball
ACC preview: Duke's depth & talent put it at top of conference

X-Factor: Freshman forward Harry Giles

After three knee surgeries in the last three years, including an Oct. 3 procedure to clean up scar tissue, Harry Giles remains a 6' 10" question mark. If healthy, he’s talented enough to be the NBA’s top draft pick.

Coach’s Take: Jeff Capel, associate head coach

“I think we can be more versatile than we were last year offensively. Really, our offense last season was dictated by two guys—Grayson and Brandon [Ingram]. We’ll have more scoring options. Having Amile [Jefferson] back out there, he gives us something we didn’t have from the time he got hurt—he’s a great offensive rebounder. For us that’s another way to get points. Jayson [Tatum] is a really talented offensive player and can do it in a variety of ways. We have the depth, we have the athleticism, we have the size and length to be a really good defensive team. That has to be a point of emphasis for us. We’d like to be able to pressure, full-court, to get after people, get in passing lanes. We have versatility where we can do some different things with how we switch stuff and keep fresh bodies in. To be honest, I think that’s an area where we can hang our hat.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Grayson Allen Jr PG/SG 20.1 4.7 3.1 128.7 25% 85%
Jayson Tatum Fr SF 16.8 3.3 1.8 117.7 25% 79%
Harry Giles Fr PF 12.0 4.8 1.0 120.7 22% 63%
Luke Kennard So PG/SG 9.7 3.3 1.4 123.2 19% 55%
Amile Jefferson Sr PF 8.7 8.4 1.4 126.2 16% 68%
Matt Jones Sr SG 8.6 2.9 1.7 123.0 15% 65%
Frank Jackson Fr PG/SG 6.5 2.8 2.5 114.8 17% 48%

Projected ACC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Duke 15–3 11–7
2 North Carolina 13–5 14–4
3 Virginia 13–5 13–5
4 Louisville 11–7 12–6
5 Syracuse 11–7 9–9
6 NC State 10–8 5–13
7 Miami 9–9 13–5
8 Clemson 9–9 10–8
9 Virginia Tech 9–9 10–8
10 Notre Dame 9–9 11–7
11 Florida State 8–10 8–10
12 Pittsburgh 8–10 9–9
13 Wake Forest 6–12 2–16
14 Georgia Tech 2–16 8–10
15 Boston College 2–16 0–18

More scouting reports: 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

During practice, Bill Self prefers to pit his starting guards against each other. But when he needs Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason III on the same team, he calls for “the two littles.” And Graham always responds, “Do you mean the two bigs?”

Graham, a 6' 2" junior, and Mason, a 5' 11" senior, are far from the Jayhawks’ tallest players, but they have the largest presence and will make up one of the nation’s best backcourts. Flanking them on the wings will be Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the sharpshooter who spent the summer competing for his native Ukraine at the FIBA Europe Under-20 championship; Lagerald Vick, whom Self calls the team’s most improved player “by far”; and Josh Jackson, the No. 1 player in the high school class of 2016. Projected as a top five pick in the ’17 NBA draft, Jackson has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle to his 207-pound frame since arriving in Lawrence in June.

Mason’s main focus for this season is filling the leadership void left behind by departed senior Perry Ellis. For the first official practice of the year, in September, Mason showed up 45 minutes early. The next day, half of the team joined him for the early start. Graham, for his part, sank 250 NBA-length three-pointers every day of the off-season.

“Sometimes we’ve had only one playmaking guard in the game, but this year we’ll go five deep on our perimeter with really, really good players,” Self says. “And with Frank and Devonte’, we’ll look incredibly crisp in everything we do. Those guys wake up thinking they’re 7-feet tall every day, and that’s how important they are to us.”

X-Factor: Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr.

Last year Carlton Bragg Jr. averaged just 8.9 minutes behind All–Big 12 forward Perry Ellis. Now the boisterous forward will be the focal point of KU’s frontcourt attack and increase his scoring by almost nine points per game.

College Basketball
Big 12 preview: Kansas looks like a lock for 13th straight title

Coach’s Take: Bill Self

“The thing about it is that all my very best teams, we played two point guards. You go back and look at it over time, whether it was last year with Frank and Devonte out there, or when we won the national championship in 2008 with Sherrod [Collins] and Russell [Robinson] and Mario Chalmers all playing some point guard. At Illinois, we had Dee [Brown], Deron [Williams] and Luther [Head] on the court at the same time. Who’s your point guard? I think this team can be as good as those teams. I’m expecting this team to challenge nationally. I’m expecting this team to be in the game when March rolls around. I love our experience. I love our depth. And I think our young kids could be our most talented. There’s no reason not to be optimistic.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Josh Jackson Fr SF 15.7 6.8 1.7 119.0 23% 79%
Frank Mason Sr PG 14.0 3.6 4.8 120.1 21% 86%
Devonte' Graham Jr PG 12.4 3.3 3.9 123.2 18% 81%
Carlton Bragg So PF 12.3 6.9 1.3 113.8 22% 69%
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Jr SG 8.8 2.8 1.5 114.7 20% 51%
Landen Lucas Sr C 7.4 7.5 0.8 121.5 17% 57%
Udoka Azubuike Fr C 5.1 2.8 0.4 109.5 18% 35%

Projected Big 12 Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Kansas 15–3 15–3
2 West Virginia 10–8 13–5
3 Baylor 10–8 10–8
4 Texas 10–8 11–7
5 Iowa State 9–9 10–8
6 Oklahoma 9–9 12–6
7 Texas Tech 9–9 9–9
8 Oklahoma State 6–12 3–15
9 Kansas State 6–12 5–13
10 TCU 6–12 2–16

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

No coach in America recruits and reloads better than John Calipari, but even by his standards this freshman class is sublime. After losing five of its top seven scorers, Kentucky has brought in a quintet of stars—including four McDonald’s All-Americans—who are good enough to return the team to the Final Four. The only questions are how well they fit together and how quickly they grow up.

Start in the backcourt, where Calipari has said that the speed of point guard De’Aaron Fox and the strength of combo guard Malik Monk remind him of John Wall and Derrick Rose, respectively. (No pressure, kids!) The lack of a dependable post presence hastened the Wildcats’ exit from the 2016 NCAA tournament, but this year they will deploy a genuine wide body in 6' 10", 255-pound Edrice Adebayo, whose nickname, Bam, reflects the explosiveness of his legs and strength of his hands. The other two newcomers, forwards Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel, have been filling Calipari’s head with visions of junk zone defenses that take advantage of their length, versatility and agility.

“It’s a process we go through every year. It just takes time,” Calipari says of his inexperienced roster. “We might start four or five freshmen at times. So you understand that you are going to lose some games early and then try to right the ship by the end of the year. When late February and March rolls around, we expect to be at our best.”

College Basketball
SEC preview: Malik Monk should lead Kentucky to another league title

X-Factor: Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe 

Pigeonholed as a defensive specialist because of his shooting woes (13.5% from three), Isaiah Briscoe has worked hard to improve his accuracy since arriving in Lexington in 2015 and is prepared to be a leader this year.

Coach’s Take: John Calipari

“We’re going to be a mauling, helping, rotating, shot-blocking team. We’re going to push the ball up the court because we can. On offense, we’re going to try to score within three seconds, and if not, we’re going to attack the rim or throw it to the post. I’m going to be disappointed if by February this isn’t the best defensive team I’ve had. Isaiah’s shot has really improved. We’re teaching him how to lead off the court just like we did with Tyler [Ulis]. Last year, I thought we were playing our best, but we just needed one guy near the goal that we could throw the ball to to get easy baskets. There are some zone defenses we could play. Not the traditional 2–3, but we could play those three big guards out with two bigs, or go 6' 11", 6' 10" at the top of the key. We're going to go with a three-guard lineup a lot of the time. So there’s all kinds of ways we can play with this group.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Malik Monk Fr SG 16.0 2.1 2.5 117.1 25% 77%
De'Aaron Fox Fr PG 12.9 1.7 3.9 117.6 21% 77%
Bam Adebayo Fr C 12.5 6.9 0.8 116.3 24% 63%
Derek Willis Sr PF 11.1 6.3 0.7 125.6 16% 68%
Isaiah Briscoe So PG 10.9 5.1 3.3 109.1 20% 80%
Wenyen Gabriel Fr PF 7.2 4.7 0.6 110.3 20% 45%
Isaac Humphries So C 5.0 5.4 0.4 109.9 15% 50%

Projected SEC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Kentucky 16–2 13–5
2 Florida 11–7 9–9
3 Texas A&M 11–7 13–5
4 Vanderbilt 10–8 11–7
5 Georgia 9–9 10–8
6 Arkansas 9–9 9–9
7 Ole Miss 9–9 10–8
8 Mississippi State 9–9 7–11
9 South Carolina 8–10 11–7
10 Auburn 8–10 5–13
11 Alabama 8–10 8–10
12 Tennessee 7–11 6–12
13 LSU 7–11 11–7
14 Missouri 4–14 3–15

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Dylan Ennis seemed like the unluckiest player in college basketball last season. After the 6' 2" guard transferred from Villanova to Oregon in the summer of 2015, he suffered a broken left foot that limited his senior year to just two games—and then watched as his former team won a national championship. But on June 30, Ennis finally caught a break: The NCAA granted him a medical redshirt, allowing him to play one more season for the Ducks, who’ve amassed enough veteran talent to be even more of a title contender than they were in 2015–16, when they reached the Elite Eight.

Ennis left Villanova because he wanted a full-time point guard gig, but he has warmed to the idea of being a backcourt Swiss Army knife in Eugene—sharing floor-general duties with 6' 3" junior incumbent Casey Benson (who is projected to score 5.7 points and dish out 2.7 assists) as well as assuming off-ball roles. “[Ennis] is our most versatile guard,” says coach Dana Altman. “When we go small, he’s physical enough to guard bigger guys, and on offense, we plan on putting him in a lot of different situations. He can shoot the three, get to the rim, get involved in some pick-and-roll situations [and do] more ballhandling.”

It wasn’t until the Ducks’ exhibition tour of Spain, in August, that Ennis felt as if he were finally back from his injury. On the second possession of their opening game, in Madrid, he drove off of a ball screen, and, he recalls, “everything just slowed down.” Ennis pulled up and sank a three-pointer. The shot “was the first time where I scored at 100% in an Oregon jersey,” he says. “I was like, O.K., I’m actually playing.”   

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Pac-12 preview: Oregon, Arizona could be Final Four contenders

X-Factor: Junior forward Dillon Brooks

At full strength Dillon Brooks, who led the Ducks in scoring (16.7 ppg) and assists (3.1) last season, is a Wooden Award candidate, but he has yet to be cleared after surgery in July on his left foot.

Coach’s Take: Dana Altman

“We run a two-guard front, and there’s going to be some competition for who handles the ball. I have no idea who will be the starters and which roles they’ll fill. Tyler Dorsey handled it some last year, Casey Benson handled it a lot, and now [we add] Payton Pritchard and Dylan [Ennis]. Last year we didn’t have any depth at the guard spots. . . . We usually go between two or three different presses, but last year we kind of just stayed in one. We weren’t as diversified as I’d like to be. I’d like to change it up a little bit more this season. . . . [In the halfcourt], the zone we played last year did keep our shot blockers around the basket. In Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell we have two really good shot-blockers returning, and now with [6' 11" junior-college transfer] Kavell Bibgy-Williams, we’re adding a third.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Dillon Brooks Jr SF 17.2 5.7 2.9 117.0 26% 82%
Tyler Dorsey So SG 12.9 3.9 1.9 117.6 21% 70%
Chris Boucher Sr PF 12.5 7.0 0.6 129.1 20% 66%
Dylan Ennis Sr PG 9.8 3.0 2.7 113.6 21% 65%
Jordan Bell Jr PF 8.3 5.8 1.4 114.1 19% 57%
Kavell Bigby-Williams Jr PF 6.9 4.3 0.5 107.6 20% 43%
Casey Benson Jr PG 5.7 2.2 2.7 126.1 12% 60%

Projected Pac-12 Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Oregon 14–4 14–4
2 Arizona 13–5 12–6
3 UCLA 11–7 6–12
4 California 11–7 12–6
5 USC 9–9 9–9
6 Utah 9–9 13–5
7 Colorado 8–10 10–8
8 Washington 8–10 9–9
9 Oregon State 7–11 9–9
10 Stanford 7–11 8–10
11 Arizona State 7–11 5–13
12 Washington State 4–14 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Those who decry the pervasive tendency of the mock-draft industrial complex to reduce every college player to his position on an NBA wish list have an ally on the Villanova bench. Last month coach Jay Wright was dismayed to hear senior Josh Hart label himself a “three‑and-D” specialist. “Don’t limit yourself,” Wright told the Big East’s preseason player of the year. “Do everything, and be great at everything.”

It is indeed more than long shots and lockdowns that the Wildcats expect from the versatile 6' 5" wing who led last year’s national champions in scoring (15.5 points) while using a team-high 24.3% of possessions. “He’s running pick-and-roll now, he’s bringing the ball up,” says Wright. “He can shoot threes, he’s posting up, he’s driving. [He’s] become a complete player.”

Hart says he most enjoys maneuvering into the lane and either attack-ing the basket himself (according to Synergy Sports, he averaged 1.339 points per possession around the rim last season, which ranked in the top 15% among D‑I players) or distributing to teammates like title-game hero Kris Jenkins (38.6% from three) on the outside. And on a team without a starter or returnee taller than 6' 8", Hart’s strong work on the boards—both his offensive and defensive rebounding rates (7.7% and 18.6%, respectively, in conference play) ranked in the Big East’s top 20—is particularly valuable. That ability took on added importance when 6' 9" freshman Omari Spellman, a five-star recruit, was ruled an academic redshirt by the NCAA in September. The Wildcats need Hart to play bigger than ever in their quest to repeat.

College Basketball
Big East preview: Villanova appears poised to repeat

X-Factor

Last season Jalen Brunson (9.6 ppg) deferred to the veterans a great deal. With Ryan Arcidiacono gone, “the ball’s gonna be in [Brunson’s] hands,” says coach Jay Wright. “It’s a lot more natural for him.”

Coach’s Take: Jay Wright

“Darryl was playing in practice against him everyday all year. Part of Daniel’s development was because of Darryl. I think Darryl’s ready to step into that role. I think he can be a rim-protector like Daniel. Daniel is such an elite passer, has such elite basketball IQ, I don’t think anybody’s gonna be like that at that position for us for a long time. But rim-protection, rebounding, scoring and low-post ability—I think Darryl can get there this year. Darryl’s offensive low-post play has really improved every year. He’s really effective and making good decisions out of that.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Pos. Class PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Josh Hart Sr SG/SF 16.0 6.5 2.0 124.2 23% 79%
Kris Jenkins Sr SF/PF 14.6 4.3 2.2 124.3 21% 75%
Jalen Brunson So PG 14.2 3.0 3.5 115.0 22% 82%
Eric Paschall So SF 9.8 4.4 0.9 104.9 23% 54%
Phil Booth Jr PG/SG 8.9 2.7 2.5 115.2 20% 60%
Mikal Bridges So SF/PF 8.0 4.0 1.1 124.1 16% 57%
Darryl Reynolds Sr PF 5.4 5.7 0.7 118.4 13% 56%

Projected Big East Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Villanova 14–4 16–2
2 Xavier 12–6 14–4
3 Creighton 10–8 9–9
4 Butler 10–8 10–8
5 Seton Hall 10–8 12–6
6 Georgetown 10–8 7–11
7 Marquette 9–9 8–10
8 Providence 7–11 10–8
9 St. John's 5–13 1–17
10 DePaul 3–15 3–15

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

It seems unfathomable that junior Justin Jackson has hit just 29.7% of his threes. At a Tar Heels practice in late October, he didn’t appear to have any quirks in his mechanics. His release is effortless, and he fluidly transitions from the dribble into his shot at all spots. “He’s been here two years,” coach Roy Williams says, “and every time he shoots the ball I think it’s going in.”

The 2015–16 Tar Heels ranked 268th nationally in three-point shooting (32.7%) and still won the ACC regular-season and tournament titles, then reached the NCAA final before losing to Villanova. No one in Chapel Hill thinks that formula will work again. “For us to make a run, we have to hit outside shots,” Jackson says, so the search is on for deadeye marksmen. Junior point guard Joel Berry II is one candidate. He connected on a respectable 38.2% of his threes last year and, after one February practice, he hoisted 251 before missing two in a row.

But if Jackson, who averaged 12.2 points as a sophomore, can improve his long-range efficiency, he will instantly become North Carolina’s most complete scoring threat. He made 300 to 400 shots daily during the summer, taking care to repeat his motion and to put more arc on his attempts. He also ate six meals a day and says he went from 193 pounds at the NBA draft combine in May to 210 by the first practice in October. The added heft should help Jackson withstand contact, get to the foul line more often and discourage defenders from crowding him at the three-point stripe. “A lot of it is confidence,” Jackson says. “It’s just stepping into it and shooting it.”

College Basketball
ACC preview: Duke's depth & talent put it at top of conference

X-factor: Senior forward Isaiah Hicks

Isaiah Hicks averaged 19.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per 40 minutes last season, but he also committed 121 fouls in the 723 minutes he played—or 6.7 per 40. If he can stay on the court he’ll be a double double machine.

Coach’s Take: Roy Williams

“Joel and Justin particularly, Kennedy [Meeks] at certain stages, Isaiah at certain stages, have proven they can be big-time players in big-time games. But can they make that next step to be able to do it when that’s who [opponents] are trying to stop? The experience we have will be really beneficial on the defensive end of the court, just really understanding what we want to do. We’ll miss [Brice Johnson’s] shot-blocking ability. But the other guys will be able to step up and do what he was able to do in the post defensively. My biggest message after the [national championship] game and through the course of the off-season was to use that as fuel, to motivate them to work harder. That’s where I think it’s the biggest factor.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Justin Jackson Jr SF 13.9 4.7 2.9 125.1 22% 74%
Joel Berry Jr PG 13.5 3.2 3.9 123.1 20% 78%
Kennedy Meeks Sr PF/C 11.8 8.0 1.4 116.7 23% 62%
Isaiah Hicks Sr PF 11.7 5.8 0.9 120.7 22% 59%
Tony Bradley Fr C 7.6 5.3 0.7 118.4 16% 55%
Nate Britt Sr PG 7.2 1.8 2.2 111.1 20% 48%
Theo Pinson Jr SF 6.1 4.2 3.2 114.5 18% 55%

Projected Conference Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Duke 15–3 11–7
2 North Carolina 13–5 14–4
3 Virginia 13–5 13–5
4 Louisville 11–7 12–6
5 Syracuse 11–7 9–9
6 NC State 10–8 5–13
7 Miami 9–9 13–5
8 Clemson 9–9 10–8
9 Virginia Tech 9–9 10–8
10 Notre Dame 9–9 11–7
11 Florida State 8–10 8–10
12 Pittsburgh 8–10 9–9
13 Wake Forest 6–12 2–16
14 Georgia Tech 2–16 8–10
15 Boston College 2–16 0–18

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Austin Nichols’s first experience with coach Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers came in the 2014 NCAA tournament, when the 6' 9" forward was a freshman at Memphis. Over the course of the Tigers’ 78–60 loss, Nichols battled the smothering post traps typical of their Pack-Line defense. “People are everywhere,” Nichols says now. “If you’re gonna make a move, you’ve gotta do it quick.”

Nichols made his own move, transferring to Charlottesville in 2015. After a year of learning his role in Bennett’s demanding, communication-heavy system (“I’ve played in some good defenses, but not as complex or as good as the Pack-Line,” Nichols says), the former All-AAC first-teamer joins the frontline as a smooth, capable scorer working to sharpen his midrange jumper (37.5% in ’14–15). “He’s very skilled and complete offensively—right hand, left hand,” says Bennett. “Just knows how to play the game.”

The work of Nichols in the defensive post, where he blocked 12.5% of two-point attempts as a sophomore (eighth best in the country, according to kenpom.com), will be crucial. He’ll also need to help fill the sizable rebounding void left by the graduation of Anthony Gill (18.2% defensive rebound rate) and Mike Tobey (23.2%). Having become enamored with Virginia’s success and playing style, Nichols is hoping to prevent any drop-off. “I just wanted to come here and fit in,” he says. The Cavaliers are hoping he can do it quickly.

College Basketball
ACC preview: Duke's depth & talent put it at top of conference

X-factor: Redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite

Described by coach Tony Bennett as a “lively jumper,” 6' 9", 214-pound redshirt freshman Mamadi Diakite, who is from Conakry, Guinea, has packed on 19 pounds of muscle and will be a valuable rim protector.

Coach’s Take: Tony Bennett

“Each year [London Perrantes] has gotten a little more aggressive. It’s not like he’s like, ‘O.K., now it’s my turn to shoot every time.’ You can’t force people into something that they’re not. I just want incremental improvements. Sometimes we’ll have other guys bring up the ball, let him work a little more off the ball because we do want him to look more. But I never want to take him out of his game and his personality because that’s greatest strength—his feel for the game. Yes, we’ll need him to make shots and be assertive, but if it’s a little incremental improvement, I’ll take that. For me to say, ‘You’re gonna become someone different’—we obviously want him to do a little more, but not outside the realm of his comfort level.”​

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Austin Nichols Jr PF 13.8 6.1 1.0 107.7 25% 71%
London Perrantes Sr PG 11.8 3.0 4.4 116.9 21% 79%
Isaiah Wilkins Jr PF 6.9 5.7 1.7 112.7 18% 65%
Kyle Guy Fr SG 6.1 1.9 1.1 102.9 21% 41%
Marial Shayok Jr SF 6.0 2.3 1.3 108.1 20% 43%
Darius Thompson Jr PG 5.6 1.8 1.8 113.1 17% 47%
Ty Jerome Fr PG 5.1 0.6 2.0 109.9 19% 40%

Projected ACC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Duke 15–3 11–7
2 North Carolina 13–5 14–4
3 Virginia 13–5 13–5
4 Louisville 11–7 12–6
5 Syracuse 11–7 9–9
6 NC State 10–8 5–13
7 Miami 9–9 13–5
8 Clemson 9–9 10–8
9 Virginia Tech 9–9 10–8
10 Notre Dame 9–9 11–7
11 Florida State 8–10 8–10
12 Pittsburgh 8–10 9–9
13 Wake Forest 6–12 2–16
14 Georgia Tech 2–16 8–10
15 Boston College 2–16 0–18

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Ethan Happ’s redshirt freshman season at Wisconsin, in 2014–15, was a punishing apprenticeship. He was 6' 9", a few growth spurts removed from being a high school point guard, and his assignment on most days was to defend 7‑foot senior Frank Kaminsky, that season’s Wooden Award winner. “Frank did not take it easy on Ethan,” says coach Greg Gard, an assistant at the time—nor did Ethan take it easy on Frank, who was often annoyed by the freshman’s aggression. “For me, scout team was my game,” says Happ. “I played like I was in front of 40,000 people.”

When Happ did get in front of the public, as a starter in 2015–16, he emerged as a remarkably high-impact defender. He led the Big Ten in steal percentage (4.0)—a rare accomplishment for someone who guards post players—and was fourth in defensive-rebounding percentage (23.8) as Wisconsin finished 13th nationally in defensive efficiency. Now 6' 10", Happ is a big reason why SI projects the Badgers as the -nation’s top defense despite their lack of a true rim protector or perimeter lockdown artist.

Wisconsin should also benefit from continuity: Returning players accounted for 99% of the minutes on last season’s Sweet 16 team. Gard took over after Bo Ryan resigned in December, and the Badgers clicked by reverting to a swing offense and by executing their team-defense tenets of limiting fast breaks, three-point tries and driving lanes. “They started to grasp the whole picture instead of just worrying about their man,” Gard says. “Everybody talks about offensive synergy, but defensive synergy is just as important.”

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Big Ten preview: Wisconsin's stable of returners makes it a favorite

X-factor: Senior forward Nigel Hayes

If Nigel Hayes rediscovers the three-point shot that deserted him between his sophomore season (39.6%) and his junior year (29.3%), he should earn All-America honors and reach his third Final Four.

Coach’​s Take: Greg Gard

“​The types of shots Nigel Hayes got last season, when he moved to small forward, completely changed from what he got as a power forward the previous two years. The thing that will help him is that there's more experience around him now.

“​His teammates will be better at finding him in the right spots, and I think he'll be better at finding guys that are more advanced in terms of their instincts. . . . The better and more efficient we were offensively last season, the better our defense got because we took care of the ball more. Our turnover numbers went down. Our free throw rate went up in attempts per game. Our field goal percentage went up. Our field goal percentage defense went down, so some of it was correlated. Our improvement offensively helped our defense because we weren't giving up as many live ball turnovers. We were taking better shots. We were getting to the free throw line more. All those things help your transition defense. The more we can set our defense and have opponents have to play five versus five, obviously, it's anybody's strength is in numbers. We were able to do that a little bit more effectively, and a little bit more consistently, and that helped overall for us defensively.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Nigel Hayes Sr SF 15.9 5.9 2.8 113.3 27% 85%
Bronson Koenig Sr PG 13.4 2.9 2.6 119.1 20% 84%
Ethan Happ So PF 12.5 7.1 1.2 108.8 25% 70%
Vitto Brown Sr PF 9.5 5.2 0.9 110.0 20% 63%
Zak Showalter Sr SG 7.6 3.3 2.0 117.9 15% 70%
Alex Illikainen So PF 3.4 2.7 0.6 108.8 15% 35%
Jordan Hill Jr PG 2.8 1.3 0.9 101.8 14% 32%

Projected Big Ten Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Wisconsin 14–4 12–6
2 Purdue 12–6 12–6
3 Indiana 12–6 15–3
4 Michigan 10–8 10–8
5 Michigan State 10–8 13–5
6 Maryland 10–8 12–6
7 Ohio State 10–8 11–7
8 Northwestern 9–9 8–10
9 Illinois 8–10 5–13
10 Iowa 8–10 12–6
11 Penn State 7–11 7–11
12 Nebraska 7–11 6–12
13 Minnesota 6–12 2–16
14 Rutgers 3–15 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Last year the Zags longed for depth. This season they’re so loaded with scoring threats, finding enough shots for everyone will be tough.

Coach Mark Few welcomes one of the best freshman classes in his 17-year tenure, plus a trio of talented transfers who will contribute immediately. Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (second-team All-Pac-12 at Washington in 2014–15), off-guard Jordan Mathews (Cal’s third-leading scorer in ’15–16) and power forward Johnathan Williams (Missouri’s leading scorer in ’14–15) will all contend for starting positions. In keeping with Gonzaga’s tradition of importing talented big men, the freshman crop includes 6' 10" forward Killian Tillie (France) and 6' 8" forward Rui Hachimura (Japan).

But it’s 7-foot, 230-pound freshman Zach Collins, out of Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, who will draw comparisons with a beloved former Zag. “He’s going to be a really good player, along the lines of [Domantas] Sabonis,” Few says. “He’s that forward-center who moves well, loves physicality and whose skill package is improving by the day.”

Minutes will be hard-earned in Spokane. “There were times in practice last year that we got down to six or seven healthy bodies,” Few says. “Now, it’s a luxury to practice really hard. The competition has been so good each day. We don’t just have depth, but balance.”

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X-Factor: Senior forward Przemek Karnowski

The Zags got an unexpected gift with the return of Przemek Karnowski, a 300-pound behemoth who can score, pass and protect the rim. He missed most of last season with a back injury, then flirted with the NBA draft.

Coach’s Take: Mark Few

“I’m hoping the transfers buy into the Zag way. The reason they came here, across the board, was to win, and advance deep in the tourney. They want to develop, not just score 20 points a game and their experience in college basketball is huge. One kid flying under the radar is Williams. I think he’ll be a do-everything guy around the hoop. Karnowski is such a good dude, we’re all just rooting for him to stay healthy. Jordan, he’s an excellent shooter, that’s what he does. He can come off screens, spot up, shoot it deep. And he’s really confident. He’s made a lot of baskets at the D-I level. We really needed one more consistent perimeter shooter, and he’s pretty darn good at that. Our schedule, that’s just the way we do it up here. We’re going to play good, tough teams in the preseason to show the committee we’re not only interested in getting to the tourney, but in being a high seed.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Nigel Williams-Goss PG 12.3 4.5 3.4 118.0 22.5% 74%
Jordan Mathews SG 12.3 3.8 1.3 117.7 18.7% 72%
Przemek Karnowski C 11.9 6.5 0.9 111.2 24.0% 62%
Johnathan Williams PF 11.6 7.6 0.8 111.9 22.7% 65%
Josh Perkins PG 10.1 3.5 3.6 116.8 19.6% 72%
Silas Melson SG 8.0 3.1 1.1 114.3 15.4% 62%
Zach Collins C 7.8 5.4 0.7 111.7 18.0% 54%

Projected WCC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Gonzaga 16–2 15–3
2 Saint Mary's 14–4 15–3
3 BYU 14–4 13–5
4 Santa Clara 8–10 7–11
5 Pacific 8–10 6–12
6 Pepperdine 8–10 10–8
7 Loyola Marymount 7–11 6–12
8 Portland 6–12 6–12
9 San Francisco 5–13 8–10
10 San Diego 4–14 4–14

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Pekka Markkanen was a glorified grunt in his one season as a Kansas starter (1989–90), setting screens and grabbing rebounds. His 19-year-old son, however, will be much more than a spare part in Tucson. A 7-foot freshman from Jyväskylä, Finland, Lauri Markkanen not only plays above the rim but also stretches the floor. Draft Express projects him as the Pac-12’s No. 3 NBA prospect, behind Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and Cal power forward Ivan Rabb. Arizona coach Sean Miller points out that one of Lauri’s two brothers, Eero, plays for the Finnish national soccer team. Plodders, they are not.

Last year’s low-post tandem of Ryan Anderson and Kaleb Tarczewski couldn’t step out to stretch defenses, and the Wildcats played slow, ranking No. 150 in possession length (17.1 seconds). Markkanen’s speed and three-point shooting should inject new life into the attack, which will include five-star guard Rawle Alkins and McDonald’s All-American point guard Kobi Simmons. “Lauri has great range,” Miller says, “and we tend to play a little faster when the floor is spaced.”

That should be a huge benefit to wing Allonzo Trier, who averaged 14.8 points in 2015–16 and surprised Miller by returning for his sophomore year. (There are rumors that Trier may be facing a suspension. Arizona has declined to comment.) Trier is among the Pac-12’s most gifted scorers, an eclectic slasher whose slippery hips allow him to wiggle into the lane and draw contact. Combine his skill with Markkanen’s versatility, and a new look for Arizona is no stretch.

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Pac-12 preview: Oregon, Arizona could be Final Four contenders

X-Factor

Sidelined for the past two seasons with ACL tears in each knee, redshirt freshman Ray Smith, a former five‑star recruit, can be a beast on the offensive glass, but “every time he lands, you worry,” says coach Sean Miller.

Coach’s Take: Sean Miller

“I think some of the things that you’ve come to expect from our program will remain a constant. The pillars of our program are man-to-man defense and a lot of movement on offense. We’re going to have a lot of depth at guard, which is going to help us play faster. Allonzo had 31 assists last year for the entire season. He missed seven games with a broken hand, but 31 assists. That’s not something he does intentionally. It’s how he’s been wired. When he jumps up levels and has to play with other good players, it will help him if he can beat them with the pass. He needs to become more than a guy who just scores.

“We lost nearly 20 rebounds per game with Kaleb and Ryan gone. Not a lot of teams in the country can say that. Both were big guys who were physically strong. Traditionally, we’ve been a very good defensive rebounding team. We’ve been in the Top 15 in defensive rebounding in KenPom the past four years. It will be interesting to see how we figure out how to rebound this year without all that size.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Allonzo Trier So SG 17.3 4.4 1.6 116.6 23% 80%
Lauri Markkanen Fr PF 9.8 6.0 0.8 109.8 21% 60%
Dusan Ristic Jr C 9.6 5.6 0.9 113.3 21% 55%
Rawle Alkins Fr GF 8.5 3.8 1.2 105.5 19% 58%
Kadeem Allen Sr PG 7.8 3.0 3.1 106.8 20% 58%
Ray Smith Fr SF 7.1 3.4 0.9 110.5 20% 44%
Parker Jackson-Cartwright Jr PG 6.2 2.0 3.6 116.2 17% 54%

Projected Pac-12 Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Oregon 14–4 14–4
2 Arizona 13–5 12–6
3 UCLA 11–7 6–12
4 California 11–7 12–6
5 USC 9–9 9–9
6 Utah 9–9 13–5
7 Colorado 8–10 10–8
8 Washington 8–10 9–9
9 Oregon State 7–11 9–9
10 Stanford 7–11 8–10
11 Arizona State 7–11 5–13
12 Washington State 4–14 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

During the Boilermakers’ summer tour of Spain, Caleb Swanigan went up for a dunk and cracked the backboard. It was yet another example of how the 6' 9", 250-pound sophomore makes the remarkable look routine. “I didn’t know that happened,” coach Matt Painter says with a laugh. “It was just a regular dunk.”

Last season Swanigan became just the second Purdue freshman (after Robbie Hummel in 2007–08) to have 300 points, 200 rebounds and 50 assists. With the departure of center A.J. Hammons, the ’15–16 Big Ten defensive player of the year, Swanigan will swing between two positions on a front line that will be among the nation’s best.

In one lineup Swanigan will be the four while 7' 2", 290-pound junior Isaac Haas plays the five. As a backup last year Haas led the conference in points per 40 minutes with 27.4. In another configuration, 6' 8" junior Vincent Edwards (11.3 points per game) will play power forward, and Swanigan will man the pivot, his natural position. “We can be one of the biggest front lines and cause people lots of problems with our size,” says Painter, “and then be able to move things around because Swanigan can shoot on the perimeter and drive and post.”

With guards P.J. Thompson (who had just 23 turnovers last season) and graduate transfer Spike Albrecht (3.9 assists in 2014–15 with Michigan), the Boilermakers should be able to win their first NCAA tournament game since 2012. With Swanigan, breakthroughs are always a distinct possibility.

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X-Factor: Dakota Mathias

He got lost when Purdue used a 10-man rotation early last season, but Dakota Mathias finished shooting 41.5% from beyond the arc in conference play. “He’s just a really smart basketball player,” says coach Matt Painter.

Coach’s Take: Matt Painter

“It’s too early to tell for anybody. Our guys are on edge. We put ourselves in position the last two years in the tournament, in a position to win games [and] we lose games in overtime. It leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Our guys are hungry to fight, get back and do better in conference play. We’ve gotten third in our league the past couple years. You’d like to have a couple games back where you’re in that last weekend of the season to win a Big 10 title. We got to be a little bit better. [But] I like our team. We have a very intelligent, skilled team. We have good size, have some combo forwards. We have guys that can shoot. We have a high basketball IQ. We’re excited, but we understand it’s a very competitive world. We know we’re going to have a non conference schedule that’s going to prepare us for Big 10 play.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Vince Edwards Jr SF 13.6 6.4 3.1 116.8 24% 74%
Caleb Swanigan So PF 13.5 10.0 1.7 106.5 26% 72%
Isaac Haas Jr C 13.4 6.2 0.7 120.0 27% 52%
P.J. Thompson Jr PG 8.6 2.6 3.4 128.8 15% 75%
Dakota Mathias Jr SG 8.1 3.4 2.8 121.4 16% 63%
Ryan Cline So SG 6.9 2.6 1.8 119.1 17% 50%
Carson Edwards Fr PG 5.8 1.8 1.9 102.5 19% 45%

Projected Big Ten Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Wisconsin 14–4 12–6
2 Purdue 12–6 12–6
3 Indiana 12–6 15–3
4 Michigan 10–8 10–8
5 Michigan State 10–8 13–5
6 Maryland 10–8 12–6
7 Ohio State 10–8 11–7
8 Northwestern 9–9 8–10
9 Illinois 8–10 5–13
10 Iowa 8–10 12–6
11 Penn State 7–11 7–11
12 Nebraska 7–11 6–12
13 Minnesota 6–12 2–16
14 Rutgers 3–15 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

While it’s common for sophomores to radically lift their games, coach Chris Mack says that point guard Edmond Sumner—an All–Big East freshman selection—has elevated his court awareness to a galaxy far, far away. “He could always get in the lane, but sometimes it was a bad decision,” Mack says. “Like, Wow, what a bad, off-balance shot; did you see the guy in the corner? He’s come light-years in terms of finding guys.”

Sumner, who is springy and unusually quick for his 6' 6", 186-pound frame, will have plenty of talent to look for on the wings. He and junior Trevon Bluiett are one of the Big East’s most formidable duos thanks in large part to Bluiett’s crafty scoring ability and quick-release, deadeye shooting (39.8% from three last season, tops among Big East returnees with 100-plus attempts). And junior guard J.P. Macura is another quality shooter (35.6% from three) who is primed for a breakout: He was named the conference’s Sixth Man of the Year and earned the Musketeers’ highest efficiency rating (122.9, per Kenpom.com).

That perimeter strength will be crucial as Xavier reshapes its front line. Senior transfer RaShid Gaston, who averaged 9.6 rebounds at Norfolk State in 2014–15, is the only Muskies forward who has played more than 10.4 minutes per game in college. “There’s gonna be a lot on their shoulders,” Mack says of his trio of guards. “They’re more than capable.”

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X-Factor: Malcolm Bernard

If Myles Davis remains indefinitely suspended, stat-sheet-stuffing grad transfer Malcolm Bernard, who led Florida A&M in points (14.4 per game) and rebounds (7.1) last season, will ably pick up the slack.

Coach’s Take: Matt Painter

“I think rebounding translates. I think it translates from high school to college and college to NBA. I think if a guy knows how to rebound, he’s always gonna know how to rebound. He can carve space at one level, he’s gotta get a little bit stronger, but that’s a thing that Rashid [Gaston] really brings to the table. He’s a proven double-digit rebounder at the college level, albeit maybe not on our level, but in Division I college games. We’re gonna miss that from James [Farr] and Jalen [Reynolds]. It’s nice to know we have an experienced, rugged interior player who can get it done on that level.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Pos. Class PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Trevon Bluiett Jr SF 16.9 6.4 2.5 121.6 22% 85%
Edmond Sumner So PG 12.4 4.4 3.9 109.8 23% 75%
J.P. Macura Jr SG 12.0 3.8 2.3 123.8 19% 73%
RaShid Gaston Sr PF 9.9 6.8 0.7 111.5 21% 55%
Myles Davis Sr SG/PG 9.8 3.0 3.1 119.8 19% 39%
Malcolm Bernard Sr SG 7.0 3.6 2.3 97.7 21% 50%
Kaiser Gates So SF/PF 5.6 4.1 0.5 108.8 16% 46%

Projected Big East Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Villanova 14–4 16–2
2 Xavier 12–6 14–4
3 Creighton 10–8 9–9
4 Butler 10–8 10–8
5 Seton Hall 10–8 12–6
6 Georgetown 10–8 7–11
7 Marquette 9–9 8–10
8 Providence 7–11 10–8
9 St. John's 5–13 1–17
10 DePaul 3–15 3–15

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

The dozens of NBA scouts who were wowed by Deng Adel during college workouts at the adidas Nations Camp in Long Beach, Calif., last summer may have been surprised, but Rick Pitino wasn’t. “When you put him in an unstructured, all-star-type event, he’s going to perform well,” Pitino says of the 6' 7", 200-pound sophomore forward from Sudan. “Deng is still learning how to play the game, but he’s an explosive athlete. He’s going to score a lot of points for us this year.”

The Cardinals will need him to do that after losing the top three scorers from a team that went 23–8 last season. (Louisville did not play in the NCAA tournament because of a self-imposed postseason ban stemming from recruiting violations.) Adel’s freshman season was interrupted by a left-knee injury in November, which caused him to miss eight games, but he returned in time for conference play and averaged 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds over the final five games. A gifted defender—he forced Brandon Ingram into a 10-turnover, 3-for-10 shooting night in a win over Duke last February—Adel spent the off-season working on his jumper. His efforts should pay off behind the arc, where he made just seven shots (in 20 attempts) in 2015–16. “His form wasn’t bad, but he had a very low trajectory,” Pitino says. “He’s shooting it higher now, and it makes a tremendous difference.”

The Cardinals’ fortunes, like Adel’s shot, should be on the rise.

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ACC preview: Duke's depth & talent put it at top of conference

X-factor: Junior guard Quentin Snider

Quentin Snider is the top returning scorer. With Damion Lee and Trey Lewis gone, Snider will not only have the responsibility of running the offense but also of directing Louisville’s suffocating matchup zone.

Coach’s take: Rick Pitino

“Our schedule is three times tougher than last year. For all of our nonconference games, we wanted to make sure they had a minimum of three returning starters and a top 75 RPI. This is a young, inexperienced team, so I wanted to play a tough schedule to get them ready for the postseason. We lost two scholarships [due to self-imposed penalties], but we are deeper than we were last season. Quentin Snider and maybe Donovan Mitchell are the only ones who have a lock on a starting position. Otherwise, it will be a matter of who plays best that week. We’re going to really pick up the pressure, and we’re going to run a pure motion offense, which I’ve never done. That’s where all five players are in constant motion. Our mindset both offensively and defensively is to wear people down.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Donovan Mitchell So SG/PG 11.8 4.6 2.7 117.6 21% 71%
Quentin Snider Jr PG 11.8 3.0 3.8 117.4 20% 81%
Deng Adel So SF 11.0 6.1 1.6 109.3 19% 75%
Tony Hicks Sr SG 8.6 2.4 1.5 104.2 24% 48%
Mangok Mathiang Sr PF 7.4 5.3 0.7 111.1 20% 51%
Raymond Spalding So PF 7.0 4.9 0.6 115.5 19% 47%
Jaylen Johnson Jr PF 7.0 4.7 0.6 113.6 18% 52%

Projected ACC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Duke 15–3 11–7
2 North Carolina 13–5 14–4
3 Virginia 13–5 13–5
4 Louisville 11–7 12–6
5 Syracuse 11–7 9–9
6 NC State 10–8 5–13
7 Miami 9–9 13–5
8 Clemson 9–9 10–8
9 Virginia Tech 9–9 10–8
10 Notre Dame 9–9 11–7
11 Florida State 8–10 8–10
12 Pittsburgh 8–10 9–9
13 Wake Forest 6–12 2–16
14 Georgia Tech 2–16 8–10
15 Boston College 2–16 0–18

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Andrew White III’s teammates call him Uncle Drew, a nod to Kyrie Irving’s graybeard alter ego in television commercials. White, 23, is ancient for a Division I star. He’s a graduate transfer who divided his previous four years between Kansas and Nebraska. In his fifth season and third conference, he’s showing coach Jim Boeheim what he’s learned along the way.

The 6' 7" guard arrives an hour early for practice to foam-roll his muscles and carries a jug of water around campus to stay hydrated. He has also emerged as the Orange’s likely leading scorer, flashing a feathery three-point touch (41.2% last year) and the decision-making to thrive in its pick-and-roll-based offense. “He’s a pro,” says assistant Adrian Autry of White, who declared for the June draft after averaging 16.6 points for the Cornhuskers, then withdrew his name. “We really needed someone like him.”

White’s role includes a slot atop Syracuse’s 2–3 zone, where he’ll join a suffocating duo of similarly pterodactyl-limbed guards, 6' 5" sophomore Frank Howard and 6' 6" freshman Tyus Battle. The consensus No. 31 recruit, Battle is a gifted finisher who could become an insta-scorer off the bench à la Dion Waiters in 2010–11 and ’11–12. For now he’s learning the college game from Uncle Drew, who is fitting in as if he has been around forever.

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ACC preview: Duke's depth & talent put it at top of conference

X-Factor: Sophomore center Paschal Chukwu

Paschal Chukwu provides an intriguing option at center, as his 7' 8" wingspan will allow the Orange to gamble and trap more on the wings. He can also erase or alter shots when opponents penetrate the zone.

Coach’s Take: Jim Boeheim

“Our defense was good last year but we didn’t have a shot-blocker and now we really have one [in Paschal Chukwu]. That’s really the difference in our team from last year - and the depth. More depth, more ability to get out and try to pressure people, try to run a little bit more. We were pretty half-court last year. We had to really play a different way and we don’t really like to play that way. We’ll be more able to get out and run. We’re quicker. We’ve got 10 guys instead of six. It’s hard to press [with six players] and if you press you can get into the running game a bit sooner. Shots will come a little bit faster, there will be more possessions. We just are able to pressure a little bit more. And we’re bigger. All of that adds up to being able to play a little bit faster. It’s something we’re talking about. And we’re getting better at it.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Tyler Lydon So PF 13.9 6.8 1.1 112.6 23% 77%
Andrew White III Sr SF 13.8 5.8 0.9 111.5 23% 71%
John Gillon Sr PG 10.4 2.1 3.8 115.1 19% 71%
Tyus Battle Fr SG 9.7 1.4 1.5 106.4 18% 71%
Tyler Roberson Sr PF 8.8 7.8 1.5 113.7 19% 70%
Paschal Chukwu So C 5.8 4.6 0.4 107.9 19% 41%
DaJuan Coleman Sr C 5.4 4.6 0.5 108.2 19% 41%

Projected ACC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Duke 15–3 11–7
2 North Carolina 13–5 14–4
3 Virginia 13–5 13–5
4 Louisville 11–7 12–6
5 Syracuse 11–7 9–9
6 NC State 10–8 5–13
7 Miami 9–9 13–5
8 Clemson 9–9 10–8
9 Virginia Tech 9–9 10–8
10 Notre Dame 9–9 11–7
11 Florida State 8–10 8–10
12 Pittsburgh 8–10 9–9
13 Wake Forest 6–12 2–16
14 Georgia Tech 2–16 8–10
15 Boston College 2–16 0–18

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Thomas Bryant would likely have been a first-round pick had he entered the NBA draft following his freshman year, but the 19-year-old center decided he would return to Bloomington before the regular season ended. “I knew I was having a good year, but I also knew that I needed to get better at so many things,” he says. “I wasn’t ready to take that step.”

Bryant is now primed to take a giant leap forward, thanks to an off-season conditioning program that focused on adding muscle to his 255-pound frame, trimming fat and broadening his skill set. Bryant led the Big Ten last season in field goal percentage (68.3), but that was largely because his limited range meant that most of his attempts came from near the hoop. A major reason the Rochester, N.Y., native chose Indiana over Syracuse and Kentucky was coach Tom Crean’s track record developing well-rounded big men such as Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh. Crean now expects Bryant to create plays on the perimeter using ball screens and to use his improved footwork to become a more effective perimeter defender. “We’ve got a saying around here: Slow feet don’t eat,” Bryant says. “And I want to eat.”

Too often as a freshman, Bryant let his emotions get the best of him. “I still want him to play hard, but he can’t let things like a bad call distract him,” Crean says. With the team’s lone senior, 6' 7" forward Collin Hartman, out indefinitely because of a left-knee injury, it will be crucial for Bryant and his fellow sophomores OG Anunoby and Juwan Morgan to be more effective and more mature.

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X-Factor: Junior guard Josh Newkirk

Coach Tom Crean says he will play point guard by committee, but if junior transfer Josh Newkirk can emerge as the leading man, it will free up the team’s more athletic finishers to score on the fast break.

Coach’s take: Tom Crean

“We were already going to be young with one one senior, but then Collin Hartman got hurt, so that makes a huge difference. Yogi made so many plays for us the last four years, but now that he’s gone, we will need to have all five positions moving without the ball. This is not going to be about giving it to one or two guys and letting them operate. I know our shooting is going to get better because in a typical two-hour practice we spend 40 minutes on it. This team is going to shoot a lot. You have to worry a little bit because we’re playing Kansas and North Carolina early. We’re going to have to get through that. We want to run after made baskets, which means deep outlets. Depth will really be a key for us. We’re going to have about eight or nine guys who can bring it up after a missed shot. We don’t care who’s running the break. We just want to bust it out and go.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
James Blackmon Jr. Jr SG 17.6 4.3 1.9 124.6 26% 70%
Thomas Bryant So PF/C 13.0 6.5 1.0 126.4 22% 64%
OG Anunoby So SF 10.2 5.5 1.2 118.4 18% 68%
Robert Johnson Jr SG/PG 9.8 3.6 3.3 122.6 18% 69%
Josh Newkirk Jr PG 9.3 2.2 2.7 104.8 21% 63%
De'Ron Davis Fr PF 8.0 5.0 0.7 109.2 19% 53%
Curtis Jones Fr SG 6.0 0.7 0.8 107.6 19% 42%

Projected Big Ten Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Wisconsin 14–4 12–6
2 Purdue 12–6 12–6
3 Indiana 12–6 15–3
4 Michigan 10–8 10–8
5 Michigan State 10–8 13–5
6 Maryland 10–8 12–6
7 Ohio State 10–8 11–7
8 Northwestern 9–9 8–10
9 Illinois 8–10 5–13
10 Iowa 8–10 12–6
11 Penn State 7–11 7–11
12 Nebraska 7–11 6–12
13 Minnesota 6–12 2–16
14 Rutgers 3–15 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here. Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

As Isaac Hamilton nursed a left-ankle injury over the summer, UCLA’s leading scorer giddily observed what would be waiting for him when he returned: teammates pushing the ball at every opportunity, as well as a motion offense based on reading and reacting, which gives everyone more freedom to create. “We get open shots and good looks almost every time down,” the 6' 5" senior guard says.

For Hamilton, who averaged 16.8 points last year, increased tempo and the playmaking of touted freshman point guard Lonzo Ball will amplify his strengths. Transition accounted for just 13.1% of UCLA’s possessions in 2015–16; more fast breaks means that Hamilton’s effectiveness on the run (1.248 points per transition chance last year) will translate into even more scoring chances. An efficient three-point shooter at 37.7%, Hamilton is not shy about launching it from anywhere, and Ball’s punctual deliveries should put the senior in prime position to let loose.

The arrival of Ball also means that 6' 3" senior Bryce Alford (16.1 points last year) can expend his energy more efficiently. Initiating and producing offense as a point guard took a toll on him last season; year-to-year drops in adjusted shooting off screens (50.0% to 43.6%) and in spot-up scenarios (58.9% to 48.0%) followed. “It’ll simplify it a lot for me,” Alford says. “I had so many roles, I didn’t know what I needed to focus on the most.”

Scouting the Bruins has gotten a lot more complicated. Says Bryce’s dad, coach Steve Alford, “You got guys like Bryce and Isaac off the ball—those are two hard handles.”

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X-Factor: Junior center Thomas Welsh

Thomas Welsh’s 56.3% shooting on jumpers inside 17 feet makes him ideal for pick-and-pops in the motion offense, but he’ll have to adjust to a faster pace and block more shots—the 7-footer averaged just 1.0 last year.

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Coach’s Take: Steve Alford

“We want to play with really good pace. Whether it’s a make or miss, we want to get it up, and obviously [Lonzo Ball] is the start of that. When ’Zo gets going downhill, he’s hard to play against and he creates so much offense for everybody. We weren’t very good defensively. A lot of that also had to do with how we played. We’re playing mostly with two centers, we did not have the stretch fours. That affects how you play. We weren’t near as athletic and fast. How we defended pick and rolls was not the way we wanted to. But out of necessity that’s how we had to do it. This year, it’s the most depth I’ve had in the frontcourt since I’ve been here. So we’re able to stretch the floor and do a lot more things defensively like this team is capable of doing.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Isaac Hamilton Sr SG 16.5 4.5 3.3 115.4 22% 85%
Bryce Alford Sr PG/SG 14.7 3.5 4.5 116.5 22% 80%
Lonzo Ball Fr PG 13.8 6.0 4.6 116.9 22% 77%
Thomas Welsh Jr C 11.8 8.8 0.7 126.5 17% 70%
T.J. Leaf Fr PF 10.5 6.9 0.9 111.5 20% 63%
Aaron Holiday So PG/SG 8.0 2.3 2.4 105.6 20% 56%
Ike Anigbogu Fr C 3.7 2.7 0.3 107.1 18% 25%

Projected Pac-12 Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Oregon 14–4 14–4
2 Arizona 13–5 12–6
3 UCLA 11–7 6–12
4 California 11–7 12–6
5 USC 9–9 9–9
6 Utah 9–9 13–5
7 Colorado 8–10 10–8
8 Washington 8–10 9–9
9 Oregon State 7–11 9–9
10 Stanford 7–11 8–10
11 Arizona State 7–11 5–13
12 Washington State 4–14 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Ivan Rabb never doubted; he only deferred. Before he even bounced a ball in Cal’s Haas Pavilion, he felt prepared to play pro basketball. His fabulous freshman year—during which he averaged 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds for an NCAA tournament team—had only bolstered that belief. But a few weeks removed from the season, he wavered on whether he wanted to play in the NBA.

He was told he’d be selected in the NBA draft lottery, and a new NCAA rule would have allowed him to participate in the combine and hear more concrete information, but he didn’t need it. By the April 25 deadline, Rabb had decided: The NBA wasn’t going anywhere, but he had more of his game to show off at Cal.

So instead of sweating in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Rabb decided to enjoy what would almost certainly be his final summer at school. (If he returns to Cal as a junior, the shock could register on the Richter scale.) He took a “life-changing” course, the “Blackness Gone Wild: Black Re-Presentation in Reality Television,” which reminded him to think about how he carries himself. He spent time at home. (He’s from Oakland.) And when he was on campus, he worked out as often as three times a day.

He accomplished specific goals—increasing his vertical, adding muscle in his lower body and improving his free-throw technique—but his hope this season is to show off his confidence. He was Cal’s most efficient offensive player last season, but he was fifth on the team in field-goal attempts. This season, coach Cuonzo Martin says he wants Rabb to touch the ball every possession.

“I want to show how smooth my game is now,” Rabb says. “People will know when they watch me how confident I am on the court.”

He's done deferring.

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X-Factor: Senior guard Grant Mullins

A graduate transfer, Mullins filled the only open scholarship Cal had to offer for the 2016–17 season. At Columbia, Mullins averaged 13.3 points and 3.3 assists a game. He will be a key scorer and distributor in a talented backcourt that includes freshman four-star recruit Charlie Moore and seniors Sam Singer, Stephen Domingo and Jabari Bird.

Coach’s Take: Cuonzo Martin

“We have good young guys. We have good experience. We have five seniors returning. When you watch Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird do what they do, they have certainly improved, but you already knew the kind of players they are. But there are three guys who have done a great job so far. Grant Mullins has had a very smooth transition from Columbia. Charlie Moore has incredible composure and demeanor. And Stephen Domingo is a redshirt senior who has really improved shooting the ball.

“If you look out at the Pac-12, Oregon and Arizona look very dangerous. Utah and Washington have done a great job recently. You can’t sleep on any team, and I don’t think any of our guys will. They love to compete. They have shown that so far in practice, and I have big expectations for this group this season.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Ivan Rabb So PF 18.3 9.7 1.1 119.7 26% 83%
Jabari Bird Sr SG 16.1 4.6 1.6 118.8 22% 79%
Grant Mullins Sr PG 10.8 3.1 2.7 111.7 22% 63%
Charlie Moore Fr PG 6.7 0.6 2.4 104.7 21% 46%
Kameron Rooks Jr C 5.7 5.9 0.6 116.3 16% 53%
Don Coleman So PG 5.4 2.3 1.6 99.9 20% 41%
Sam Singer Sr PG 4.5 2.5 2.6 99.4 18% 47%

Projected Pac-12 Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Oregon 14–4 14–4
2 Arizona 13–5 12–6
3 UCLA 11–7 6–12
4 California 11–7 12–6
5 USC 9–9 9–9
6 Utah 9–9 13–5
7 Colorado 8–10 10–8
8 Washington 8–10 9–9
9 Oregon State 7–11 9–9
10 Stanford 7–11 8–10
11 Arizona State 7–11 5–13
12 Washington State 4–14 1–17

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

When the so-called “quiet period” ended last summer, and with it the moratorium on off-campus recruiting visits, North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried wasted little time in dropping in on Dennis Smith Jr., a consensus top-10 prospect from neaarby Fayetteville. On the first day they were permitted to, Gottfried and Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early visited Smith on the grounds of his high school, where a chartered helicopter delivered the coaches from out of a clear blue sky. More important than the attention the gesture garnered was its outcome: two months later, Smith committed to play for Gottfried.

Now Wolfpack fans are hoping Smith’s own much-hyped arrival pays similar dividends. The 6' 2" guard, whom SI projects as the second-most efficient player among this season’s 50 highest-scoring freshmen, is the driving force behind NC State’s expected turnaround after a dismal 16–17 record last season. With ball-dominating marathon man Anthony (Cat) Barber departed for the pros, Smith will be given the keys to an attack he can lead ably, with his top-level ball-handling and the kind of explosive athleticism that can lead to instant offense. At his season-opening press conference, Gottfried made clear that he thinks the rookie is up to the task. “I think Dennis Smith is the best guard in the country,” he said. “Period, hands down. That’s my opinion.”

What makes NC State such a strong bounce-back candidate is that Smith will not be flying solo. Flanking him in the backcourt will be senior Terry Henderson, a transfer who shot 38.5% from three at West Virginia and missed all but seven minutes of last season after tearing ankle ligaments, and sophomore Maverick Rowan, a former top-50 recruit who finished his freshman year with three 20-point games in the final month. And the Wolfpack’s frontcourt, where double-double machine Abdul-Malik Abu (14 last season, tops among ACC returnees) will be joined after nine games by five-star freshman Omer Yurtseven, a Turkish seven-footer who was suspended for the beginning of the season by the NCAA in relation to compensation from his Turkish club team. Given the talent already on board, when Yurtseven arrives, the Wolfpack could be ready for liftoff.

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X-Factor: Freshman forward Omer Yurtseven

A potential NBA lottery pick, Yurtseven is a mobile big man with finishing skills who once scored 91 points in a Turkish U-18 game and averaged 10.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in this summer’s U-20 European Championship. His nine-game suspension will give him only four games to get up to speed before ACC play, so NC State will need him to get up to speed quickly.

Coach’s Take: Mark Gottfried

“I think [Abdul-Malik Abu's] shooting is improved. I think Malik’s ability to score around the basket has improved. You know, he’s a guy that has been really good there in the last couple years but I think he feels and we feel that he can be even better - using both hands, his right hand, left hand on the block, using his speed and athleticism. You look from his freshman year to his sophomore year I thought he took one pretty good step from where he was. This year it has to be one more step. He’s gotta be a reliable scorer every night for this team. And he’s in a much better place to do that this year. So I think his shooting’s improved, [his ability] around the basket’s improved. We’re gonna try to put him in situations where we can get him some one on one opportunities. I think also he might step out every now and then and have the ability to make some perimeter shots. I don’t think that’s his greatest strength, but if he can keep some guys honest from there, that’s gonna be good. Hopefully he’ll have a really good year.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Dennis Smith Jr. Fr PG 15.4 5.5 4.5 120.1 22% 87%
Abdul-Malik Abu Jr PF 12.9 7.9 1.2 113.9 25% 67%
Maverick Rowan So SG 12.4 3.8 1.2 111.6 19% 74%
Terry Henderson Sr SG 11.4 3.7 1.6 119.1 19% 70%
Omer Yurtseven Fr C 9.1 5.9 0.8 111.2 20% 56%
Torin Dorn So G 7.4 2.7 1.0 108.1 20% 43%
BeeJay Anya Sr C 4.5 4.4 0.4 109.3 14% 48%

Projected ACC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Duke 15–3 11–7
2 North Carolina 13–5 14–4
3 Virginia 13–5 13–5
4 Louisville 11–7 12–6
5 Syracuse 11–7 9–9
6 NC State 10–8 5–13
7 Miami 9–9 13–5
8 Clemson 9–9 10–8
9 Virginia Tech 9–9 10–8
10 Notre Dame 9–9 11–7
11 Florida State 8–10 8–10
12 Pittsburgh 8–10 9–9
13 Wake Forest 6–12 2–16
14 Georgia Tech 2–16 8–10
15 Boston College 2–16 0–18

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 19. West Virginia | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

Bob Huggins had to stand perfectly still for three hours this summer as the university worked to create a nearly life-size hologram of the 63-year-old coach in the basketball facility. It would be the only moment of stillness in an off-season full of player movement.

The Mountaineers lost forwards Jonathan Holton and Devin Williams, their two best players and rebounders, as well as Big 12 sixth man of the year Jaysean Paige. Williams, who averaged 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds, was their go-to player late in games. Holton was a key offensive rebounder (3.6 offensive boards, 19th in the nation). Their replacements will come from a group of forwards, but the leader thus far is Esa Ahmad. Though the 6' 8" sophomore averaged just 4.9 points last season, Ahmad—a former No. 46 recruit—is primed for a big year.

“He’s playing really well right now,” says Huggins. “He gives us size on the perimeter. A lot of people are playing three guards. Esa is a guy who can guard a smaller guy and use his height to his advantage.”

Ahmad will be joined by senior forwards Nathan Adrian, who shot 40.9% from three, junior Elijah Macon, who averaged 3.0 rebounds in 13.2 minutes last year and senior Brandon Watkins, who played sparingly after returning from a left ACL tear.

West Virginia will continue their “Press Virginia” scheme that led to ranking first in steals and second in turnovers forced. The key, says Huggins, is continuing to be a good rebounding team. The Mountaineers finished second in offensive rebounds last season, and will need to rely on the new frontcourt to keep it up. Says Huggins: “We got to continue to do the things we’ve been so good at.”

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X-Factor: Freshman forward Sagaba Konate

After leaving Mali in 2014 for Pennsylvania, Sagaba Konate was not highly recruited out of high school. But the 6' 8" freshman forward is earning rave reviews from the coaching staff about his defense. “He’s a very good shot blocker, and he’s got really good physical strength,” says Huggins.

Coach’s Take: Bob Huggins

“Talking to [Sports Illustrated] means that everyone thinks we’re going to get back to the NCAA tournament. I’m not sure. Our three guards are good. And they put a bunch of work in at continuing to get better. We played some guys in positions they hadn’t played in, and I think they’re much more comfortable now. When you play at the pace we play at defensively, [the guards have to] somehow get slowed down and under control on offense. I think that was a work in progress as well. They’ve been much, much better.

“Nate Adrian is playing really well. He’s shooting the ball well. We’re in good shape. We got to continue to do the things we’ve been so good at, continue to defend the way we’ve defended, continue to create turnovers like we have. And we have to continue to be one of the better rebounding teams in the country. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Daxter Miles Jr. Jr SG 12.0 3.2 1.6 112.8 20% 67%
Tarik Phillip Sr PG 11.6 3.5 3.0 107.2 24% 66%
Jevon Carter Jr PG 11.0 3.4 3.1 112.1 21% 70%
Esa Ahmad So PF 9.5 5.6 1.8 106.0 20% 69%
Teyvon Myers Sr SG 7.4 3.0 1.5 100.1 18% 57%
Nathan Adrian Sr PF 7.2 4.6 1.4 115.6 15% 60%
Elijah Macon Jr PF 6.9 4.2 0.8 104.0 22% 42%

Projected Big 12 Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Kansas 15–3 15–3
2 West Virginia 10–8 13–5
3 Baylor 10–8 10–8
4 Texas 10–8 11–7
5 Iowa State 9–9 10–8
6 Oklahoma 9–9 12–6
7 Texas Tech 9–9 9–9
8 Oklahoma State 6–12 3–15
9 Kansas State 6–12 5–13
10 TCU 6–12 2–16

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 20. UConn

Wednesday November 2nd, 2016

Find the rest of our college basketball preview package here.

When he first returned to campus this summer, senior shooting guard Rodney Purvis decided to go for a run. Specifically, he wanted to do the Husky run, a longstanding UConn tradition in which players jog 3.1 miles around campus. He finished in 28 minutes and decided that time wasn’t good enough.

So he submitted himself to the athletic trainers and strength coaches and endured seemingly endless sprints and sessions on the Versaclimber (a device that simulates scaling a ladder) to improve his cardio conditioning. And when it was time for the official Husky run, on Sept. 28, he shaved more than three minutes off his time. When he reached the finish line, coach Kevin Ollie locked him into an embrace. “I remember the first year at the Husky run, he barely made it,” Ollie says. “Now he’s in great shape, and we need that to accomplish our goals this season.”

This year, UConn’s goal is to play fast. Under Ollie, the Huskies have never finished better than 214th in adjusted tempo, according to kenpom.com, and last season they ranked 292nd out of 351 Division I schools. But Ollie believes UConn has too many talented guards—particularly, Purvis, sophomores Jalen Adams and Terry Larrier and freshman Alterique Gilbert—to rely solely on halfcourt offensive setups.

When he wasn’t running this summer, Purvis was working on his rebounding. Ollie wants the 6' 4" Purvis to have the kind of impact on the glass that the 6' 1" Shabazz Napier did as a senior in 2013–14, when he averaged 5.9 boards. And Ollie has given Purvis permission to push the fast break when he brings down defensive rebounds. “I do anything this year,” Purvis says, “I’m going to rebound, and I’m going to run.”

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X-Factor: Redshirt sophomore forward Terry Larrier

Larrier sat out last season after transferring from VCU, where averaged 6.6 points and 3.0 rebounds a game as a freshman. He’ll likely step into a role similar to that of the departed Daniel Hamilton. Ollie believes Larrier, who is 6' 8", will be one of the fastest and most effective wings in the country.

Coach’s Take: Kevin Ollie

“We have a motto on our team: The open man gets the shot. I want these guys to love each other and play with each other and enjoy each other. That’s what a true brotherhood is about—it’s about all of us representing UConn. If we can do that, I think we have a great team. I think we have an athletic team. We have eight sophomores and freshmen—eight guys with under two years of experience. We’re going to be young, but those guys are very talented. Once we put it all together, I think we can have a special year.  But it takes mental toughness. It takes extra effort. We have to be better together. I think if we are team-based, not individually based, we can do something magical here.”

Projected Depth Chart

Name Class Pos. PPG RPG APG ORtg Volume Mins
Rodney Purvis Sr SG 16.3 3.7 2.3 109.5 24% 86%
Jalen Adams So PG 11.9 3.9 3.5 106.7 22% 82%
Terry Larrier So SF 10.1 5.3 1.0 105.6 22% 60%
Amida Brimah Sr C 7.9 5.2 0.3 125.9 15% 59%
Alterique Gilbert Fr PG 6.7 0.8 2.3 104.6 21% 48%
Juwan Durham Fr PF 6.5 4.5 0.6 104.7 19% 45%
Kentan Facey Sr PF 5.3 5.6 0.5 116.0 17% 49%

Projected AAC Standings

Conference Rank Team Proj. Conf. Record ’15-16 Conf. Record
1 Connecticut 13–5 11–7
2 Cincinnati 13–5 12–6
3 SMU 12–6 13–5
4 Houston 11–7 12–6
5 Temple 10–8 14–4
6 Memphis 9–9 8–10
7 UCF 8–10 6–12
8 East Carolina 7–11 4–14
9 Tulsa 7–11 12–6
10 Tulane 5–13 3–15
11 South Florida 4–14 4–14

More scouting reports: 1. Duke | 2. Kansas | 3. Kentucky | 4. Oregon | 5. Villanova | 6. North Carolina | 7. Virginia | 8. Wisconsin | 9. Gonzaga | 10. Arizona | 11. Purdue | 12. Xavier | 13. Louisville | 14. Syracuse | 15. Indiana | 16. UCLA | 17. California | 18. NC State | 19. West Virginia

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