The Breakout Sophomore Formula uses advanced stats to identify high-scoring potential in players who didn't light up traditional box scores as freshmen. This season's candidate pool, in the name of avoiding breakout picks that are too obvious, was restricted to players that averaged single-digit points as freshmen and received not much more than 20 minutes of playing time per game.
While they were on the floor, though, these players took a substantial percentage of their team's shots (in most cases, 23% or higher) with a respectable degree of efficiency (preferably an offensive rating of at least 100, or one point per possession), and there's reason to believe they could see increased minutes as sophomores. The formula doesn't have fixed parameters, but the underlying theory is that high-volume shooters tend to behave like it from the beginning, even in limited playing time, and those who can pair high usage with efficiency in Year 1 are the most promising breakout candidates.
Now in its seventh season, the formula had two successful picks in its 2014-15 edition—North Carolina's Kennedy Meeks and Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes, forwards who made the leap to valuable, double-digit-scoring roles on title contenders. It also had bad luck with picks who transferred during the season (Deonte Burton left Marquette for Iowa State, and Leland King left Brown for Nevada) or were sidelined with medical issues (South Florida's Chris Perry, who didn't play after Jan. 24). Historically, the formula has IDed on-the-brink scorers such as Wisconsin's Sam Dekker, VCU's Treveon Graham, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick and Texas' Jordan Hamilton before they were stars.
The 2015-16 picks start with one name you're certain to know—a title-game hero—and then get more obscure:
1. Grayson Allen, 6'5" SG, Duke
Freshman minutes per game: 9.2
Freshman points per game: 4.4
%s of team possessions used / shots taken: 22.0 / 23.6
Offensive efficiency rating: 118.3
Allen is the only returning Duke player who took even 20% of the team's shots while he was on the floor. He's almost assured of major minutes as a starting combo guard in '15-16. The role he assumed in the NCAA tournament—as a sparkplug with a title-game usage rate (30%!) equal to Frank Kaminsky's—suggests Allen is ready to be a high-volume scorer, and his remarkable efficiency level suggests Duke can thrive by putting the offense in his hands.
Every time Allen got significant chunk of playing time in March and April, he morphed from bench guard into go-to-guy. On each of the four occasions he earned more than 15 minutes of playing time, he used possessions at a D'Angelo Russell level:
2. Konstantinos (Dinos) Mitoglou, 6'10" PF, Wake Forest
Freshman minutes per game: 22.3
Freshman points per game: 9.7
%s of team possessions used / shots taken: 19.9 / 23.4
Offensive efficiency rating: 110.8
Mitoglou came to the Demon Deacons with little-to-no international recruiting hype, due to him serving as an auxiliary option on Greek youth national teams that featured bigger frontcourt prospects, such as potential NBA first-rounder Vassilis Charalampopoulos and 7-footer Georgios Papagiannis. But at Wake, Mitoglou emerged as a valuable stretch-four in his first season, hitting 38.5% of his threes, posting the team's highest offensive efficiency rating, and serving as its second-highest-volume shooter in ACC play (at 24.3% of the Deacs' shots). He became a permanent member of Wake's starting lineup at the end of January, and with two veteran bigs gone from the '14-15 rotation—Darius Leonard exhausted his eligibility and Aaron Roundtree transferred—there's room for more Mitoglou minutes.
3. Bonzie Colson, 6'5" PF, Notre Dame
Freshman minutes per game: 12.1
Freshman points per game: 5.6
%s of team possessions used / shots taken: 21.8 / 21.6
Offensive efficiency rating: 126.1
The Irish played four-guard, spaced-out smallball in 2014-15, and so The Bonz's only opportunities came in the form of relief for veteran big man Zach Auguste. In those short spells, though, Colson's efficiency was stunning: He had an offensive rating of 135.0 in ACC play, shooting 69.5% inside the arc and 78.8% from the line. While his shot volume is below the normal threshold for a Breakout Formula pick, the fact that he used 25% or more of the Irish's possessions four times in February and March (against Boston College, Syracuse, Duke and Wichita State) made me willing to make an exception. Colson is so effective at close range that it's hard to imagine him not being a double-digit scorer in expanded playing time—and plenty of minutes were freed up by the departures of workhorse seniors Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton.
4. Johnathan Motley, 6'9" PF, Baylor
Freshman minutes per game: 21.5
Freshman points per game: 7.7
%s of team possessions used / shots taken: 23.9 / 24.5
Offensive efficiency rating: 96.0
Senior Taurean Prince is expected to be the centerpiece of Baylor's offense, and rightly so; he's a talented inside-outside scorer and an All-America candidate. But Motley could very well emerge as a No. 2 option this season and a No. 1 option in 2016-17. He carried the Bears' scoring attack on a few occasions in December and January of his freshman season, and during their August exhibition tour of Canada, he led them in points in three out of four games, including scoring 44 points in 37 minutes of a doubleheader against the University of Ottawa. Motley's mediocre freshman-year efficiency keeps him from being a perfect breakout candidate, but he has star potential if he can improve his accuracy around the basket.
5. Chris Cokley, 6'8" PF, UAB
Freshman minutes per game: 17.2
Freshman points per game: 7.9
%s of team possessions used / shots taken: 23.2 / 25.5
Offensive efficiency rating: 109.2
Cokley was so productive off the bench as a freshman that he was named Conference USA's sixth man of the year. In C-USA games, he had UAB's second-highest offensive efficiency rating (116.3) while taking its highest volume of shots (28.0%), and also posted the team's second-highest offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. There may not be a clear path for Cokley to join the Blazers' starting lineup, what with 4-5 combo
back from a team that upset Iowa State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but there's certainly an argument for getting Cokley more minutes. He's a backup with more value than most mid-major frontcourt starters.
And now, the appendix: a list of sophomores I very much like but considered formula-ineligible for various reasons:
• Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga (should be fantastic, but also somewhat obvious, and he'll be in the same trio-of-stars frontcourt rotation as last season, so it'll be difficult for his stats to change significantly)
• Justin Jackson, North Carolina (played too many minutes already)
• Wade Baldwin, Vanderbilt (not a high-volume shooter)