LSU's Simmons, Cal's Brown lead top projected freshmen scorers

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