As we get ready for the 2014-2015 college basketball season, it’s time to look ahead to some of the top scorers we have the privilege of seeing play this winter. While many of last season’s stars graduated or left school early for the NBA Draft, there is still plenty of talent remaining on campus. Although quite a few of the top returning scorers may not be familiar names to you because they play at smaller schools, you’ll want to know who they are before the season tips off — and especially before tournament time, when you just might want to pick them to go off and upset a big-name program in March Madness. One of the best recipes for finding an underdog Cinderella that can shock the world is to look for a star scorer that can fill it up against anybody.
Here, then, are the top 10 returning scorers in Division I men’s college basketball, ranked according to their scoring average from last season (from least to most, according to NCAA.com). If you don’t know their names, it’s time to learn them!
10. John Brown, High Point (19.5 points per game)
High Point junior forward John Brown (pictured) was named the 2013-2014 Big South Player of the Year after becoming the first player in league history to score 1,000 career points by the end of his second season. Brown poured in a career-high 34 points in a February win at Radford and went on to lead the Panthers to the NIT, where he threw down this SportsCenter-worthy dunk at Minnesota.
9. Isiah Umipig, Seattle (19.6 ppg)
Seattle’s Isiah Umipig enters his senior season looking to break his own school record, set in 2013-2014, for most three-pointers in a season (106 makes on 287 attempts). Umipig, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, scored 30 or more points five times in his first season playing for Seattle, including 35 at Omaha in December and 36 against Idaho in March, and has one final year of eligibility remaining.
8. Keifer Sykes, Green Bay (20.3 ppg)
Green Bay guard Keifer Sykes was named the 2013-2014 Horizon League Player of the Year as a junior, and is hoping for even greater things this season. Sykes put up big numbers against eventual Final Four team Wisconsin (32 points) and soon-to-be No. 1 seed Virginia (21 points) in non-conference games a year ago, so he can obviously play with the big boys. Sykes made headlines as a freshman when he went through three different jerseys (due to bleeding from his head) in a win over Butler.
7. Andrew Rowsey, UNC Asheville (20.3 ppg)
Of the 26 players in Division I that scored at least 20 points a game last season, only eight are still playing college basketball this year. One of them is UNC Asheville’s Andrew Rowsey, who made the Big South take notice when he posted the best scoring average in the league as a 5’10” freshman. Rowsey tallied 41 points in a February loss at Radford and scored in double figures in every game except one, a November trip to Duke.
6. James Daniel, Howard (21.0 ppg)
Continuing the trend of prolific scoring guards that stand six feet or less, James Daniel of Howard averaged more points than any freshman in the country a season ago (21 points per game). That’s more than Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, who went on to be the top two picks in the 2014 NBA Draft. Daniel scored over 30 points four times in a nine-game span, capped off with a 38-point February outburst against Hampton, and is the Preseason Player of the Year pick in the MEAC for 2014-2015.
5. Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara (21.3 ppg)
UC Santa Barbara big man Alan Williams led the Big West both in scoring and rebounding a season ago, including a 27-point, 20-rebound game in a February win over UC Davis. Williams’s 11.5 rebounding average was best in the nation, making him the first Gaucho in school history to accomplish that feat, and he also led his team in blocks and steals. Williams scored in double figures 27 times in 28 games, and we’d be shocked if any opponent holds him below 10 points this year.
4. Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington (21.8 ppg)
Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey improved his scoring average by 14.7 points per game from his freshman to sophomore seasons, the third-best jump in the entire country. (It’s safe to say it probably won’t skyrocket by nearly that amount again!) Harvey scored a career-high 38 points in 41 minutes to help EWU outlast Northern Colorado in overtime in February, draining 10 three-pointers in the process. The sharpshooter is also deadly from the free throw line, hitting at a nearly 90% clip as a junior.
3. D.J. Balentine, Evansville (22.8 ppg)
Evansville’s D.J. Balentine (pictured) played nearly 38 minutes a night as a sophomore, most in the Missouri Valley Conference, and led the league in scoring to boot. Balentine scored a season-best 43 points at Northern Iowa in January, and finished the year with back-to-back 30+ point outings against Drake and Wichita State in the conference tournament. Balentine can score from anywhere on the floor, including the foul line: He made 19 or more free throws in a single game twice last season.
2. Tyler Haws, BYU (23.2 ppg)
BYU standout Tyler Haws will spend his senior season attempting to lead the Cougars to their eighth Big Dance in nine years. Haws, who was born in Belgium, was the WCC Player of the Year in 2013-2014 and has more points through three years in Provo than any player in school history. He racked up a career-high 48 points in 50 minutes in a triple-overtime loss at Portland this past January.
1. Antoine Mason, Auburn, transferred from Niagara (25.6 ppg)
Niagara’s Antoine Mason averaged more points last season than any player not named Doug McDermott, and in a move that has to make Bruce Pearl ecstatic, will spend his final year as a college basketball player suiting up for the Auburn Tigers. Mason, who is working on a master’s degree, is eligible to play this season and should make an immediate impact on the SEC. Mason, whose father, Anthony, played in the NBA, scored at least 13 points in every game of his junior campaign for the Purple Eagles.