LSU's Ben Simmons, Cal's Jaylen Brown and Duke's Brandon Ingram lead SI's top projected scoring freshmen in college basketball.

By Dan Hanner & Luke Winn
October 20, 2015

As the season nears, SI is revealing its player projections, conference forecasts and national rankings for the 2015-16. These are derived from our statistical projection system, a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI's Luke Winn and Chris Johnson that's now in its second year.

We used our projection model to generate individual stats for every player in each of the top 11 conferences. The individual projections are based on many factors: players' past advanced-statistical performance in the context of more than a decade of D-I player data; the predictive power of recruiting ratings, both on immediate freshman performance and longer-term development; coaches' abilities to develop and maximize talent, as well as their playing-time distribution tendencies; teams' estimated pace of play; and intel from teams on how their rotations will be structured, which helps us better forecast how many minutes and shots will be available to each player.

The fourth reveal of SI's projection-system output is the top 50 scoring true and redshirt freshmen, according to points per game:

Rank Name Team Projected PPG RSCI Rank
1 Ben Simmons LSU 17.2 No. 1
2 Jaylen Brown California 16.8 No. 3
3 Brandon Ingram Duke 15.6 No. 4
4 Jamal Murray Kentucky 14.4 No. 5
5 Malik Newman Mississippi St. 14.3 No. 8
6 Skal Labissiere Kentucky 13.8 No. 2
7 Henry Ellenson Marquette 13.6 No. 9
8 Stephen Zimmerman UNLV 12.6 No. 10
9 Derryck Thornton Duke 11.9 No. 13
10 Diamond Stone Maryland 11.4 No. 7

This could be the most international-dominated freshman class in college hoops history. Aussie import Ben Simmons (No. 1) projects as the top scorer, due to his all-around talents as a point forward and LSU's need for a new go-to guy in the wake of Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey leaving for the NBA. SI projects Canadian combo guard Jamal Murray (No. 4) to lead a balanced Kentucky team in scoring—but Haitian import Skal Labissiere (No. 6) won't be far behind. Mali-born Cheick Diallo (No. 13) should make a major impact at Kansas; Greek under-19 national team guard Tyler Dorsey (No. 20) projects to have a big role at Oregon; and another Aussie, Jonah Bolden (No. 25), will help bolster UCLA's frontcourt.

Rank Name Team Projected PPG RSCI Rank
11 Ivan Rabb California 11.2 No. 5
12 Antonio Blakeney LSU 11.0 No. 15
13 Cheick Diallo Kansas 10.8 No. 6
14 JaQuan Lyle Ohio St. 10.7 No. 30
15 Ethan Happ Wisconsin 10.7 3.5 stars
16 Dejounte Murray Washington 10.6 No. 45
17 Jawun Evans Oklahoma St. 10.6 No. 27
18 Caleb Swanigan Purdue 9.9 No. 16
19 Nick Emery BYU 9.5 No. 69
20 Tyler Dorsey Oregon 9.4 No. 23

Wisconsin's Ethan Happ (No. 15) is the lone player in SI's projected top-20 freshmen scorers who wasn't a top-100 recruit. The three-star, 6'9" power forward out of Milan, Ill., is a sleeper prospect; in 2014 he was named MVP of the prestigious Albert Schweitzer Tournament in Germany while starring for Team USA's U-18 squad. After redshirting for the Badgers in '14-15, Happ projects to start in their frontcourt and be their third-leading scorer. Maryland's Diamond Stone (No. 10), Ohio State's JaQuan Lyle (No. 14) and Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (No. 18) should challenge Happ for the title of top-scoring frosh in the Big Ten.

Rank Name Team Projected PPG RSCI Rank
21 Isaiah Briscoe Kentucky 9.3 No. 11
22 P.J. Dozier South Carolina 9.2 No. 24
23 Marcus LoVett St. John's 9.2 No. 76
24 Ray Smith Arizona 9.1 No. 18
25 Jonah Bolden UCLA 9.1 No. 36
26 Donovan Mitchell Louisville 9.1 No. 27
27 Jalen Brunson Villanova 8.8 No. 19
28 Dwayne Bacon Florida St. 8.8 No. 16
29 Dedric Lawson Memphis 8.7 No. 32
30 Thomas Bryant Indiana 8.6 No. 25

Louisville shooting guard Donovan Mitchell (No. 26) and Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson (No. 27) have talent to emerge as big-time stars as sophomores, while as freshmen they project to be valuable, complementary scorers on ranked teams. Thomas Bryant (No. 30) is an athletic center who fills a position of great need for Indiana, but his scoring ceiling is limited due to the presence of high-volume perimeter players Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams.

Rank Name Team Projected PPG RSCI Rank
31 Jalen Adams Connecticut 8.5 No. 20
32 Allonzo Trier Arizona 8.5 No. 12
33 Noah Dickerson Washington 8.4 No. 75
34 Jessie Govan Georgetown 8.4 No. 42
35 Prince Ali UCLA 8.3 No. 36
36 Deng Adel Louisville 8.3 No. 34
37 Jimmy Whitt Arkansas 8.2 No. 65
38 Josh Sharma Stanford 8.1 4.0 stars
39 Jalen Coleman Illinois 8.1 No. 37
40 Chase Jeter Duke 7.9 No. 14

Jalen Adams (No. 31) might be the next great UConn point guard, but he'll spend a year apprenticing alongside Seton Hall graduate transfer Sterling Gibbs before taking over the Huskies' offense. Deng Adel (No. 36) recently scored 35 points in Louisville's Red-White scrimmage, but will have to share minutes at small forward with Damion Lee, a grad transfer from Drexel.

Rank Name Team Projected PPG RSCI Rank
41 A.J. Turner Boston College 7.9 3.3 stars
42 Glynn Watson Nebraska 7.9 No. 80
43 Yankuba Sima St. John's 7.8 3.5 stars
44 Stevie Thompson Oregon St. 7.8 No. 54
45 Esa Ahmad West Virginia 7.7 No. 49
46 Malachi Richardson Syracuse 7.6 No. 29
47 Deyonta Davis Michigan St. 7.6 No. 26
48 Zylan Cheatham San Diego St. 7.6 No. 79
49 Eric Davis Texas 7.6 No. 47
50 Brandone Francis-Ramirez Florida 7.6 No. 31

Yankuba Sima (No. 43), the frontcourt anchor of Spain's U-19 team, is stepping into an ideal situation at St. John's, which had short-shorted center Chris Obekpa transfer in the off-season. A.J. Turner (No. 41), a non-top-100 forward, cracks SI's projections because he's joining a Boston College team that lost nearly all of its offense with the departures of Olivier Hanlan and Aaron Brown. Someone needs to score for the Eagles, and Turner is their highest-rated recruit.

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