- Markelle Fultz may not be on an NCAA tournament team, but he'll have plenty of scoring opportunities this season.
Sports Illustrated’s College Basketball Projection System is a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner and SI’s Luke Winn and Jeremy Fuchs that produces our 1-351 team rankings, conference predictions and player statistical forecasts. For a deeper look at how the system works, read this explainer.
We simulated the season 10,000 times and generated median stats for every player in the top eight conferences (AAC, ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) as well as our other forecasted at-large bid candidates (Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, BYU, Wichita State, San Diego State and Princeton). Today we’re unveiling our projected top 50 freshman scorers, according to raw points per game, from that set of teams.
These projections are based on the predictive power of recruiting rankings, advanced stats from Nike’s EYBL AAU circuit (if applicable), the quality of a player’s coach and teammates, and how each freshman fits within the context of his 2016–17 roster.
|5||Dennis Smith Jr.||North Carolina St.||PG||15.4||120.1||22%||87%|
It’ll be an upset if Washington’s Markelle Fultz (No. 1) isn’t the top freshman scorer. He’s in an optimal situation for big numbers: The Huskies play fast—they get nine more possessions per game than a D-I average team—and he’ll be relied on to carry their offense as a lead guard. His fluid scoring and playmaking ability will be reminiscent of recent Ohio State product D’Angelo Russell, and Fultz’s projected stat line (18.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.2 apg) is similar to what Russell did in his one-and-done college season (19.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 5.0 apg).
While Kentucky’s Malik Monk is the ninth-ranked prospect in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index for the Class of 2016, he’s No. 3 on this list due to his track record of high-usage scoring in the EYBL and the significant role he’ll need to play in the Wildcats’ offense.
|8||Jonathan Isaac||Florida St.||SF||12.8||116.7||21%||69%|
|10||Miles Bridges||Michigan St.||SF||12.5||104.9||25%||68%|
SI’s projections don’t have UCLA’s Lonzo Ball (No. 6) matching the triple-double (23.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 11.5 apg) he averaged at Chino Hills (Calif.) High School last season, but they do see him being an efficient auxiliary scorer and highly valuable playmaker. Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (No. 10) projects to have the highest usage rate of any elite freshman not named Fultz, Tatum or Monk, but Bridges will need to outperform his middling efficiency forecast to turn the Spartans into a Big Ten contender.
|12||Marcus LoVett||St. John's||PG||10.9||101.4||19%||82%|
|15||Josh Langford||Michigan St.||SG||10.2||109.8||21%||62%|
St. John’s point guard Marcus LoVett (No. 12) is the first redshirt freshman in the top 50. He had to sit out 2015–16 after being deemed a partial academic qualifier by the NCAA but is ready to assume a starting role for the rebuilding Red Storm.
BYU’s TJ Haws (No. 14), meanwhile, is the oldest freshman on this list; he graduated from high school in 2014, spent the past two years on an LDS mission in France and is already married. He projects to score 10.3 ppg for the Cougars—only slightly less than the 11.3 his older brother, Tyler, scored as a BYU freshman in 2009–10.
|21||Tyson Carter||Mississippi St.||PG||9.7||102.6||19%||73%|
|25||Tony Carr||Penn St.||PG||9.4||107.8||19%||70%|
|26||Bruce Brown||Miami FL||SG||9.4||106.5||21%||61%|
|28||Omer Yurtseven||North Carolina St.||C||9.1||111.2||20%||56%|
|29||Mario Kegler||Mississippi St.||SF||8.7||105.2||20%||56%|
Syracuse’s Tyus Battle (No. 23) would’ve been projected for double-digit points had ex-Nebraska wing Andrew White III not graduate-transferred to play for the Orange. NC State big man Omer Yurtseven (No. 28) is the biggest question mark in the top 50; he scored a ridiculous 91 points in a Turkish U18 game in May, but is still waiting to be cleared as an amateur by the NCAA.
|33||Sam Cunliffe||Arizona St.||SG||8.3||106.5||19%||57%|
|38||Dewan Huell||Miami FL||FC||8.0||106.1||19%||55%|
|40||Cassius Winston||Michigan St.||PG||7.7||106.6||21%||53%|
Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland (No. 35) is an under-the-radar, four-star recruit our projection system likes based on his EYBL advanced stats. He should earn enough minutes as a wing reserve and be a nice, auxiliary piece of the Bearcats’ offense. Zach Collins (No. 39) is the first McDonald’s All-American to begin his career at Gonzaga, and he should be the Bulldogs’ first big man off the bench and a valuable complement to frontcourt veterans Przemek Karnowski and Johnathan Williams.
|42||Tony Bradley||North Carolina||C||7.6||118.4||16%||55%|
|43||Eric Vila||Texas A&M||SF||7.6||95.8||19%||58%|
|44||Temple Gibbs||Notre Dame||PG||7.4||104.4||21%||52%|
|45||Schnider Herard||Mississippi St.||C||7.4||103.1||19%||51%|
|46||Jethro Tshisumpa||Arizona St.||C||7.4||103.8||18%||55%|
|47||Mike Watkins||Penn St.||PF||7.3||102.0||18%||55%|
|50||Shamorie Ponds||St. John's||PG||7.2||105.4||20%||48%|
Eric Vila (No. 43) is an unheralded recruit out of Spain who could earn minutes as an oversized wing for a Texas A&M team with a talented frontcourt. The Big 12’s biggest sleeper freshman, meanwhile, might be Kristian Doolittle (No. 48), who projects to be a key role player on a new-look Oklahoma team in Year 1 after Buddy Hield.