Projecting the ACC’s Breakout Sophomores

Posted by Brad Jenkins on November 2nd, 2017

Every preseason we take a hard look at the rosters around the ACC and wonder which returning players will make the leap from role player to key contributor. Lately we have watched many of those returnees come from relative obscurity to full stardom in just one season: players like Jaron Blossomgame (Clemson, 2015-16), Matt Farrell (Notre Dame, 2016-17), and John Collins (Wake Forest 2016-17). In most instances, few outside of the specific program expected such a drastic improvement. For example, raise your hand if you had Collins pegged as one of the ACC’s top three players last October. Thought so. Still, sometimes we can project significant leaps in production by looking at advanced statistics for players who are poised to see an increase in minutes and/or usage this season. For instance, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson surprised many observers by becoming a First Team All-ACC member as a junior. But if you closely examine his sophomore campaign statistics — 122.0 Offensive Rating, 58.7 percent true shooting percentage — it’s easy to see why his contributions shot up with a corresponding increase in playing time. In the second of this two-part series, here’s our list of potential breakout sophomores in the ACC this season.

Sophomore Surges

1) V.J. King – Louisville: 13.5 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 111.3 ORtg, 55.0% true shooting.

V.J. King posted impressive shooting numbers as a rookie which should lead to a major leap in production as a sophomore at Louisville. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

One of many Cardinals with professional-level potential, King posted promising shooting numbers last season from three-point range (42.1%) and at the charity stripe (82.1%). His minutes should double this year and his usage rate (19.6%) figures to increase as well — all meaning that we may be looking at a 14-plus point per game scorer this season in Louisville.

2) Kyle Guy – Virginia: 18.6 MPG, 7.5 PPG, 114.8 ORtg, 49.5% 3FG.

The word is that Guy will perform without his signature man-bun this season, but don’t expect him to slow down without it. Given multiple losses from the Cavaliers’ perimeter attack, Guy should be head coach Tony Bennett’s top guard this year. Guy posted two extremely impressive statistics for a freshman guard — 49.5 percent three-point shooting, and a turnover rate of only 10.6 percent.

3) Dewan Huell – Miami: 17.4 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 105.0 ORtg, 53.8% 2FG.

Huell entered college with a ton of potential and he may be well on track to meet those very high expectations. While playing behind departed senior Kamari Murphy as a freshman, Huell posted solid rates in block rate (5.0%) and on the offensive glass (9.8%). Now that he has an additional year of strength training under his belt, Huell should be ready to handle the physicality of the college game while taking a big leap in production.

Sleeper: Mamadi Diakite – Virginia: 14.0 MPG, 43.8 PPG, 110.1 ORtg, 58.0% 2FG.

Keep an Eye on Mamadi Diakite This Season (USA Today Images)

We really liked what we saw of Diakite as a redshirt freshman at Virginia last year. Even though the Cavaliers return two veteran starting post players — senior Isaiah Wilkins and redshirt junior Jack Salt — it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see the 6’9″ Diakite become Virginia’s best all-around big man. The numbers above show solid offensive efficiency, but Diakite is also an elite shot-blocker (12.1% block rate) and fairly active on the boards (8.2% offensive rebounding rate / 15.2% defensive rebounding rate).

Others to Watch: Torin Dorn – N.C. State & Ty Jerome – Virginia

Dorn looks a lot like the type of versatile wing player that new Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts has had success with in the past. The most impressive metric for Dorn is his career 56.1 two-point shooting percentage, which includes his freshman year performance at UNC-Charlotte. Jerome is slated to absorb many of the point guard minutes that belonged to London Perrantes — he may need to look for his shot more often than Perrantes did in his early years, however, as he posted an outstanding effective field goal percentage (60.5%) but only took 17.6 percent of Virginia’s shots when he was on the floor.

Not So Fast: Marques Bolden – Duke & Omer Yurtseven – N.C. State

Many were probably expecting young big men Bolden and Yurtseven to make our Sophomore Surges list; after all, both contemplated making the jump to the pros last spring. But while acknowledging that each player suffered a disappointing freshman campaign in part because of late starts — Bolden (injury, eight games) and Yurtseven (eligibility suspension, nine games) — take a closer look at each player’s statistics as rookies and try to find the NBA potential. Good luck. Both big centers shot well under 50 percent from the field on two-pointers and posted very high turnover rates (Bolden – 24.6%/ Yurtseven – 19.6%). In fact, Yurtseven’s numbers were even worse in ACC play — posting a 93.8 offensive rating on 43.2 percent shooting — and Bolden’s defensive rebounding rate (8.3%) was lower than that of most point guards in the league.

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