It’s easy to throw out the cliché “the best part about freshmen is they become sophomores” because we know that’s when college basketball players improve the most. (Hey, it was a study and everything!)
The trickier part? Prognosticating which sophomores will improve the most.
For that, you need to be Nostradamus. But in this case, Seth Davis will do.
Davis, SI.com’s longtime hoops writer, always produces his “10 sophomore breakout candidates” column this time of year. He’s usually pretty accurate (he’ll note the air balls, like when he thought Wake Forest’s Tony Woods would shine last season), and this year’s version should be no different.
(He did discount the obvious choices like Texas’ Jordan Hamilton, San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard and Illinois’ Brandon Paul, among others.)
His solid picks: Vandy’s John Jenkins, K-State’s Rodney McGruder, UCLA’s Reeves Nelson, Villanova’s Maalik Wayns, Louisville’s Peyton Siva, Indiana’s Christian Watford and Duke’s Mason Plumlee. I won’t argue with any of those guys, who all should have fine seasons.
The riskier nods: Washington’s Abdul Gaddy (though any improvement would qualify as a breakout), UConn’s Alex Oriakhi (gonna be solid, but not great, especially when conference play rolls around) and North Carolina’s John Henson (I wanna believe in Henson, I really do).
Of all those players, Watford will post the best numbers (Hoosiers need him to), but I think Waayns will be the best of the bunch. He might not replace Scottie Reynolds’ scoring, but he’s the best player of the bunch.
Want more? I’m also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.