Stoglin, McCrea among sophomores poised for breakout seasons
Efficiency stats can identify underrated sophomores who are ready to step up
Maryland's Terrell Stoglin should play starring role under new coach Mark Turgeon
Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas was able to score in limited minutes as a freshman
The SI.com Breakout Sophomore Formula is a fine forecasting tool, albeit with some limitations. Its goal is to identify players who showed signs of potential stars as freshmen, but weren't on the floor for enough minutes to look like stars on a traditional stat sheet. The breakout candidates, by rule, can't have played much more than 50 percent of available minutes; that way we avoid making far-too-obvious selections such as UConn's Jeremy Lamb (68.3 percent of minutes), Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. (76.2) or Baylor's Perry Jones (81.7). Among the pool of limited-playing-time guys, we look for those who still used possessions at a significant rate (around 24 percent or higher), with a respectable offensive efficiency rating (at the very least, 100.0, which equates to a point per possession). We don't want to make guesses about guys who used possessions at role-player levels, because, as Basketball Prospectus proved in 2007, "players who are not very involved in the offense tend to stay that way."
Last year, the formula was relatively successful, creating a Breakout Starting Five that included Texas' Jordan Hamilton, who went from averaging 10.0 points as a freshman to 18.6 as a sophomore and was all-Big 12; and Reggie Johnson of Miami, who went from an oversized bit player to a near double-double average of 11.9 points and 9.6 rebounds. It also identified Villanova's Maalik Wayns, whose scoring average jumped from 6.8 points to 13.8, and was perhaps a little too bullish on UCLA's Reeves Nelson, who like Johnson nearly averaged a double-double, but didn't see a major surge in scoring.
Unfortunately, the formula was even more bullish on one of Nebraska's German imports, Christian Standhardinger, who had taken over the Huskers' offense (with impressive results) in his short spurts as a freshman. It seemed that he had the makings of a 20-point scorer if given enough P.T. The formula's main shortcoming was its inability to forecast that Standhardinger would never get out of coach Doc Sadler's doghouse; choose to leave the team in December with plans of transferring to La Salle; then, in January, get cited for public indecency in a Lincoln park, after a police officer found Standhardinger with his shirt off and his pants down in a car, along with a shirtless lady friend, at 3:40 a.m. La Salle decided to pass on him after that, and he eventually returned to Germany. While the formula does a decent job, it appears to have a blind spot for libidinous malcontents.
Keep that in mind while digesting our breakout quintet for 2011-12. (All data is from kenpom.com)
Freshman points per game: 11.4
Percent minutes played in 2010-11: 53.8
Percent of team possessions used: 26.9
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 105.2
The Terrapins are in for a rough season; new coach Mark Turgeon went to the extent of telling the Baltimore Sun, "I've taken over programs where the personnel was not where it needed to be, but never at this level." One exception is Stoglin, an underrated recruit out of Tucson, Ariz., who didn't assume a featured scoring role until mid-February when he went off for 20-plus points four times in a five-game stretch. He could emerge as one of the ACC's better backcourt scorers and should be the highest-usage player in what Turgeon expects to be a four-guard attack. With Jordan Williams gone and no real frontcourt to speak of, Maryland doesn't have many other options.
Freshman points per game: 7.5
Percent minutes played in 2010-11: 34.9
Percent of team possessions used: 27.3
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 115.0
Thomas shot so frequently off the bench last season that one Cleveland Plain-Dealer column about him was headlined, "If it's going to Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, it's likely going up." He took 30.5 percent of the Buckeyes' attempts when he was on the floor -- a higher rate than even Jared Sullinger or William Buford -- with reasonable efficiency, and somehow avoided disrupting team chemistry. Thomas seems so hard-wired to score that it's unlikely his habits will change as his minutes increase. Don't be surprised if he outscores Sullinger on occasion, especially when opponents' game plans are focused on stopping the All-America power forward.
Freshman points per game: 10.9
Percent minutes played in 2010-11: 52.3
Percent of team possessions used: 26.3
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 110.2
He's the best player on this list but also the one I'm least certain about, due to offseason reports about him gaining weight on his 300-pound frame rather than shedding it. Smith would be a statistical monster if he could handle playing closer to 30 minutes than 20. As a freshman he had the nation's second-best offensive rebounding percentage (19.5) after Morehead State's Kenneth Faried, and Smith did that in the Pac-10, not the Ohio Valley Conference. Smith's usage rate is that of a low-post star -- it was two-tenths of a percentage higher than Marcus Morris' last season -- but his fitness level needs to catch up.
Freshman points per game: 11.8 ppg
Percent minutes played in 2010-11: 53.5
Percent of team possessions used: 28.5
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 111.1
Following in the footsteps of Faried, McCrea looks like the next undersized, forward who'll make a huge impact in a smaller conference. He didn't turn 18 until Nov. 5 of last year and is just 6-foot-6, but his per-minute numbers in the MAC were amazing. McCrea had an excellent efficiency rating despite his elevated usage, plus ranked fifth nationally in offensive rebound percentage (17.0) and 50th in block percentage (8.5). Had McRea cracked the U.S. Under-19 roster for the FIBA world championships -- he was one of the final cuts from the camp in Colorado Springs -- he wouldn't be so far under the radar heading into his sophomore year.
Freshman points per game: 9.7 ppg
Percent minutes played in 2010-11: 51.2
Percent of team possessions used: 24.2
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 112.4
Power forward Yancy Gates was the face of the Bearcats last season, and Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright comprised their starting backcourt, but it was Kilpatrick, their sweet-shooting sixth man, who had the highest usage rate. He took 26.3 percent of shots while he was on the floor, and was Cincy's most accurate long-range option, at 37.7 percent. The loss of four senior rotation players (Rashad Bishop, Ibrahima Thomas, Larry Davis and Darnell Wilks) should free up more minutes for Kilpatrick, who could very well end up as the leading scorer of a balanced, Big East title contender.
Freshman points per game: 7.2
Percent minutes played in 2010-11: 37.7
Percent of team possessions used: 26.5
Offensive Efficiency Rating: 100.3
He's no Chris Warren (yet), but Nelson is the Rebels' best returning backcourt scorer, and will have no qualms about putting up loads of shots in the first year after Warren's departure. The 30-point game Nelson had in a loss to Auburn, in which he went 7-of-12 from long range, offered a glimpse of what he could do as a gunner. He certainly has the name to be a star -- who doesn't like saying Dundrecous? -- but needs to develop the training habits of a star. Last December, teammate Terrance Henry said of Nelson, "He's very lazy in practice. He's not like a practice player, you know what I'm saying?" We know what you're saying, but still ... his game numbers fit the formula.