Sports Illustrated’s 2017-18 college basketball projections are a collaboration between economist Dan Hanner, SI’s Chris Johnson and SI’s Jeremy Fuchs. The system uses college and AAU statistics, recruiting rankings and coaching data to project every Division I player and team. For a deeper look at how the system works, read this explainer. SI’s ranking of teams 1–351 has been more accurate than similar preseason rankings produced by ESPN, CBS Sports and noted analyst Ken Pomeroy for three consecutive years.
In the next installment of our preview, we’re unveiling our projected top 100 scorers overall, as measured by points per game, in the nation’s best nine conferences (American, ACC, Atlantic 10, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-12 and SEC) plus West Coast Conference contenders BYU, Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
For the second year in a row, a Davidson player is our projected top scorer. SIexpects Peyton Aldridge (No. 1) to match the 22.1 points per game Jack Gibbs put up for the Wildcats last season. And in case you were wondering: No, Aldridge, like Gibbs, is not the next Steph Curry, but La Salle coach Dr. John Giannini did refer to Aldridge in February as the “Larry Bird of the Atlantic 10.” Yante Maten (No. 4) is the best major-conference big man you don’t know about, and he’ll be the hub around which Georgia’s offense revolves this season. Marcus Foster (No. 5) instantly became Creighton’s featured scorer last season after transferring from Kansas State, and our model sees him increasing his per-game average by more than a point this season.
Whether Michael Porter Jr. (No. 6) can lead Missouri to its first NCAA tournament in five years is uncertain. What’s obvious is that the No. 2 recruit in the country will score, and score a lot, right away. Jerome Robinson (No. 9) won’t attract much attention in the ACC this season unless Boston College vastly outperforms our projection, but it’s easy to envision him filling up a lot of box scores in losing efforts. Markus Howard (No. 10) may not have been Marquette’s first choice at point guard when he arrived in Milwaukee last year after reclassifying, but by the time he took on a starter’s minutes workload toward the end of the Golden Eagles’ 2016-17 campaign, he was putting up more than 15 points per game. No qualifying Division I player made a higher percentage of his three-point shots than Howard’s 54.7 last season, and we expect him to firmly establish himself as one of the best players in the Big East in 2017-18.
There’s considerable risk involved in pegging Grayson Allen (No. 12), one of our favorites for National Player of the Year honors, to post such a high points-per-game average, because of the possibility freshman big man Marvin Bagley III will become Duke’s primary scoring option. Allonzo Trier (No. 15) was suspended until late January of last season after failing a test for performance enhancing drugs, but when he’s on the court, Trier figures to be the Pac-12’s most effective bucket-getter. Josh Okogie (No. 19) outperformed his three-star recruiting rating last season, and SI projects him to build on the promise he showed as a freshman by ranking among the top scorers in one of the nation’s toughest conferences, the ACC.
We like Miles Bridges (No. 21), our top candidate for NPOY, to lead the Big Ten in scoring. Injuries have plagued Reid Travis (No. 22) during his three seasons at Stanford, but there’s no doubting his potential to blossom into an elite Pac-12 player. This season, surrounded by a strong recruiting class led by four-star guard Daejon Davis, Travis has a real shot to play in his first tourney. Like Marquette teammate Howard, sharpshooter Andrew Rowsey (No. 23) is projected to make a big jump in his points-per-game figure, from 11.6 to 17.4, thanks in part to his near-automatic free throw stroke. (At 92.6%, Rowsey had one of the nation’s top five make rates from the line last season.) Florida will look to KeVaughn Allen (No. 29) to fill in a sizable chunk of the scoring hole left by the departures of Canyon Berry, Devin Robinson, Kasey Hill and Justin Leon. Collin Sexton (No. 37) set the single-season scoring record for Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League last year, and he should be the engine fueling Alabama’s offense during his first, and quite possibly only, college season.
Hamidou Diallo (No. 42) came close to going half-and-done after joining Kentucky in January and entering the NBA draft pool without signing with an agent, but he returned to Lexington to inherit the Wildcats’ go-to scoring role. After being overshadowed by Lonzo-mania last season, Aaron Holiday (No. 48) will take the reins as UCLA’s primary point guard while serving as its No. 1 offensive threat. Angel Delgado (No. 55) led Division I with 13 rebounds per game last season; we see him maintaining both that figure and a per-game scoring average above 15 points, which should put him in position to keep racking up double-doubles (He had 27 in 2016-17.) In Trae Young (No. 59), Oklahoma will have its most explosive scorer since Buddy Hield left campus.
Elijah Brown (No. 61) was one of the most coveted commodities on the transfer market after averaging 18.8 points per game for New Mexico last season, and he could get close to that mark this season under a head coach, Dana Altman, that has molded a top-25 offense at Oregon four years running. Tres Tinkle (No. 68), the son of Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, missed most of last season because of a broken wrist, but he averaged about 20 points in six games before suffering the injury. Lamarr Kimble (No. 75) could serve as part of one of the nation’s most prolific backcourt scoring tandems; we expect he and Shavar Newkirk (No. 38) to combine to average more than 31 points per game, provided the latter isn’t limited by an ACL tear sustained last year. Robert Williams (No. 80) may be a more familiar name for NBA draft devotees than college basketball fans at this point, but the potential 2018 lottery pick should see a significant uptick in his scoring as a sophomore.
Minnesota’s bid to make a surprise run at Michigan State in the Big Ten will hinge on Nate Mason’s (No. 83) ability to prop up an offense that finished below-average in league play last season. SIexpects a mammoth center for an even more attractive Big Ten upset pick, Isaac Haas (No. 85), to boost his scoring to help to make up for the departure of Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan to the NBA. Shannon Evans (No. 95) proved he was a high major-caliber guard by averaging 15 points per game for Arizona State in 2016-17 after transferring from Buffalo, and this season he’ll team with Tra Holder (No. 58) in a high-scoring backcourt that could get the Sun Devils within striking distance of an at-large bid come March. The suspension of highly touted incoming recruit Brian Bowen should open up more shots for Deng Adel (No. 98) at Louisville.