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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.