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Super sophomores

These 10 players are my picks to have breakout years

Posted: Tuesday December 6, 2005 1:15PM; Updated: Tuesday December 6, 2005 1:47PM
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Pickoff Challenge

I was glad we had a genuine fan of The Radiators leading off the pickoff this season. I just wish that Jason Linder, whose favorite Rads song is Crazy Mona, hadn't "cracked that whip" over my behind! Jason went 6-4 while I went a subpar 4-6.

See if you can build on Jason's early lead. Send in your predicted scores for all 10 of the games listed below, as well as a few sentences explaining your pick in the featured game. If you're a Radiators fan, be sure to include the name of your favorite song. And if you're not a Rads fan, become one today!

Featured game: Duke vs. Texas

Other games:
Iowa at Iowa State
Oklahoma State at Gonzaga
Indiana at Kentucky
Illinois at Oregon
Nevada at UCLA
Ohio State at Saint Joseph's
Marquette at Wisconsin
California at Kansas
Boston College at Maryland

One of the best things about covering college basketball is the chance to see young players improve from year to year. The biggest step forward is usually taken between a player's freshman and sophomore year. The reasons are threefold: Young men's bodies change drastically after going through a college-level strength program for a full year. They need that year to get used to reacting more quickly than they had to in high school. And they often have a better opportunity for playing time as a sophomore due to the graduation or early defection of older players.

For the past couple of years, I have weighed in around this time with a list of sophs who I believe are ready to make just such a leap. Mind you, this is not a list of the 10 best sophomores in America. Rather, it's simply a primer on some impact players who will feel like they're fresh faces, even though they're not freshmen anymore.

At the bottom I've also provided a look back at last year's list to revisit how prescient I was (or wasn't). Herewith the list:

Arron Afflalo, 6-foot-5, guard, UCLA

Pts. Rebs. FG% 3-pt. %
Freshman 10.8 3.3 44.2 38.6
Sophomore 18.1 4.3 50.0 44.7

Skinny: Doesn't get as much pub as his flashier backcourt mate, Jordan Farmar, but Afflalo is big and smooth, and as you can see from his shooting percentages he has become much more efficient on offense.

Brian Butch, 6-11, forward, Wisconsin

Pts. Rebs. Assts. FG% 3-pt. %
Freshman 3.6 2.5 .2 42.2 32.0
Sophomore 14.7 7.2 2.0 55.9 38.5

Skinny: Don't look now, but Doug Gottlieb's favorite whipping boy is becoming a very good college player. Butch still shies away from contact, but there aren't too many players his size with such good perimeter skills.

Rahshon Clark, 6-6, forward, Iowa State

Pts. Rebs. Blks. FG% 3-pt. %
Freshman 7.3 4.1 .7 54.0 69.6
Sophomore 15.7 5.4 1.28 62.3 42.3

Skinny: I was actually surprised at Clark's listed height, because he plays so much bigger. He's an explosive offensive rebounder who is just figuring out some offensive moves.

Ra'Sean Dickey, 6-9, forward, Georgia Tech

Pts. Rebs. FT%
Freshman 5.1 3.2 60
Sophomore 14.0 7.0 64.3

Skinny: Anybody who saw Dickey play in short spurts last year can't be surprised he is emerging as a dominant inside force. All he needed was the chance to play, and with the Yellow Jackets losing all five starters form last year's team, Dickey has made the most of his chance.

Shan Foster, 6-6, guard, Vanderbilt

Pts. Assts. FG% FT%
Freshman 9.2 1.1 44.1 81.4
Sophomore 16.6 2.2 52.5 61.5

Skinny: Foster is a versatile scorer on an up and coming team. My guy, Chris Dortch, editor of Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook, says he's the best player in the SEC.

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