Fab Melo, Vander Blue among sophs to watch (Cont.)
Fr: 3.0 mins, 0.7 pts, 0.1 assts, 25.0% fg, 20.0% 3fg
Soph: 24.9 mins, 12.3 pts, 3.6 rebs, 1.4 assts, 50.0% fg, 46.5% 3fg
Brust had a reputation as a big scorer coming out of suburban Chicago, but you wouldn't have known it last season: He played a total of six minutes after the Big Ten season began. Now that he is a sophomore, Brust has already established himself as a premiere marksman. He tied a school record when he made seven three-pointers in a win over BYU. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain that against stronger competition. In Wisconsin's losses last week to North Carolina and Marquette, Brust scored nine points in each game and shot a combined 2 for 10 from three. As long as opposing defenses key on senior point guard Jordan Taylor, Brust is bound to get plenty of open looks.
Fr: 18.9 mins, 5.1 pts, 2.0 assts, 34.5% fg, 34.4% 3fg
Soph: 30.1 mins, 11.9 pts, 3.6 assts, 52.5% fg, 52.8 3fg
I must confess that as a fellow member of the under-six-feet set, I am partial to diminutive fellows like Bright. Last season he struggled while trying to make the adjustment from a high school scorer to a college point guard. His improvement in that department, combined with junior guard Jeremy Green's foolish decision to enter the NBA Draft, has enabled Bright to play a lot more minutes as a sophomore. Bright is feisty and quick, and he still looks more like a scorer than a point guard on the floor. But given the way his field goal percentages have skyrocketed -- a product of better shot selection and stronger legs -- that may not be such a bad thing.
Fr: 9.6 mins, 1.5 pts, 1.8 rebs, 0.4 assts, 37.3% fg, 66.7% ft
Soph: 26.3 mins, 7.1 pts, 6.7 rebs, 2.0 assts, 43.9% fg, 70.0% ft
Olander was a part-time starter last season, but his minutes dwindled as his frail body wore down. With the arrival of Andre Drummond it appeared Olander's role with the Huskies would diminish even further as a sophomore, but he returned to campus 20 pounds stronger and has proven to be a much better complement to Drummond than junior forward Alex Oriakhi. Olander has started all but one of UConn's games, and during the one game he came off the bench he played 31 minutes in the Huskies' win over Arkansas on Saturday. Olander has the size to clean up his teammates' misses on the glass, and his ability to make midrange jumpers makes UConn a lot harder to defend.
Fr: 9.7 mins, 1.5 pts, 0.7 assts, 28.3% fg, 60% ft
Soph: 25.1 mins, 8.7 pts, 1.6 assts, 51.2% fg, 71.4% ft
There wasn't much playing time for Starks last season behind Chris Wright, which is good because the slightly-built Starks wasn't ready to assume command. When Wright missed three games late in the season because of a wrist injury, Starks took over the point and Georgetown lost them all. Starks was supposed to battle with fellow reserve Vee Sanford for the starting job this year, but Sanford, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, transferred to Dayton in the offseason, opening up even more opportunity to play. So far, Starks has taken full advantage. He is still a long way from being a knockdown shooter, but his ability to manage the Hoyas' intricate, Princeton-style offense is a major reason they are off to a 7-1 start.
Gaddy was cruising along until he tore his ACL in early January. He's off to a strong start in his junior season. Let's hope he finishes it this time.
This choice may seem obvious in retrospect, but it wasn't so apparent at the time. Henson never became a dependable scorer as a soph (that is happening now), but he would have been an NBA first-round pick if he hadn't decided to come back to Chapel Hill.
Jenkins's three-point percentage dropped from his freshman to his sophomore years, but his improved versatility allowed him to nearly double his scoring average from 11.0 to 19.5. Jenkins is currently averaging 21.5 ppg as a junior and is one of the most feared three-point shooters in the country.
Solid choice. After being a bit player as a freshman, McGruder averaged 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds over 30.6 minutes for the Wildcats last season.
I'm glad I projected Nelson's breakout when he was a sophomore and not a junior. He did enjoy a decent uptick last season -- his scoring average went up but his field goal percentage went down -- but he has been a total disaster as a junior. After Ben Howland suspended and then reinstated him last month, Nelson missed the team flight to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. He also sat out the entire second half of the Bruins' loss to Texas on Saturday.
Another good call. Oriakhi was a full-time starter and the leading rebounder for the 2011 NCAA champion.
Plumlee was better as a sophomore than he was as a freshman, but he did not have the breakout season I predicted. If he had, the Blue Devils would not have been so physically overwhelmed by Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen.
Siva spent most of his freshman season playing understudy to Edgar Sosa. His three-point percentage dipped considerably from his freshman to his sophomore year, but in every other way he took a big step forward. He's not a huge stat guy, but he is a winner.
Watford was a good player his freshman year. His numbers went up some as a soph but it would be a stretch to call it a breakout.
Money. Wayns stepped into the Wildcats' starting lineup as a soph and was the team's third-leading scorer. With Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes now gone, Wayns is running the show full-time and averaging a team-leading 18.7 points and 4.4 assists.