With only seven Mondays until the first day of the college basketball season, we take a look at which players will lead the main statistical categories this season. Some picks were obvious, others were very difficult.
Points Per Game
2015-16 leader: Andrew Andrews, Washington, 20.9
2016-17 projected leader: Markelle Fultz, Washington
Pick your poison between Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, Washington’s Markelle Fultz, or UCLA’s trio of Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Lonzo Ball. I’m going with Fultz, a pre-season All-American and projected top 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Fultz is an elite scorer - he attacks the rim and also has a nice pull-up jumper that can extend to the three-point line. With Washington’s transition-hungry offense, Fultz might score even more than fellow Husky Andrew Andrews (20.9 PPG) recorded last season.
Rebounds Per Game
2015-16 leader: Josh Hawkinson, Washington State, 11.1
2016-17 projected leader: Josh Hawkinson, Washington State
This was a tough one. Washington State’s Josh Hawkinson (11.1 RPG), Cal’s Ivan Rabb (8.5) and UCLA’s Thomas Welsh (8.5) all return this season, which could lead to a very interesting race for top rebounder in the league. Look for Rabb and Welsh to snatch around 10 boards a game, but Hawkinson will go back-to-back as the Pac-12 rebound king. Also keep an eye on Arizona State’s Romello White, a freshman center.
Assists Per Game
2015-16 leader: Julian Jacobs, USC, 5.4
2016-17 projected leader: Lonzo Ball, UCLA
With the top of the assist list decimated by players leaving to the pros, picking Lonzo Ball as the top assist man in 2016-17 was done without hesitation. Already considered the best passer in the country (regardless of class), Ball should have no struggles racking up tally marks in the assist column with an elite offensive team in UCLA.
Steals Per Game
2015-16 leader: Gary Payton, Oregon State, 2.5
2016-17 projected leader: Tres Tinkle, Oregon State
Each of the top three thieves from last season (Gary Payton, Dejounte Murray, Brandon Taylor) have moved on, leaving the steals category up for much debate. Tres Tinkle, son of Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, recorded nine multi-steal games last season, and should pick up where Gary Payton left off. Tinkle’s teammate, Stephen Thompson Jr. (1.2 SPG) and USC’s Jordan McLaughlin (1.6 SPG) will also be in the running.
Blocks Per Game
2015-16 leader: Chris Boucher, Oregon, 2.9
2016-17 projected leader: Chris Boucher, Oregon
By far the easiest projection on this list is Chris Boucher repeating as the blocks leader in the conference. Not only was Boucher one of three players to send back more than two attempts per game, he also recorded 24 more rejections than the second player on the blocks list, Washington center Malik Dime. Boucher should take this category with ease.
Minutes Per Game
2015-16 leader: Bryce Alford, UCLA, 36.2
2016-17 projected leader: Bryce Alford, UCLA
Bryce Alford, son of head coach Steve Alford, is entering his senior season after finishing 47th in the nation in percentage of minutes played. There’s no reason to believe that Alford will see fewer minutes this season, even with a talented freshman trio of Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu now in the mix. Unless Steve moves to the NBA level someday, this will be the final season that he will coach his son - of course he will have Bryce on the court as much as possible.
2-Point Field Goal Percentage
2015-16 leader: Chris Boucher, Oregon, 66.7%
2016-17 projected leader: Malik Dime, Washington
For 2-point field goal percentage, it’s a safe bet that the leader will be a frontcourt player that spends the majority of his floor time near the rim. This season, the category will come down to Oregon’s Chris Boucher and Washington’s Malik Dime. The Husky center feels like a safe pick, given that Markelle Fultz will be double-teamed attacking the basket on multiple occasions this season, leaving the 220-pounder open underneath. As long as Dime doesn’t attempt too many transition alley-oop jams, he should be able to take this category.
3-Point Field Goal Percentage
2015-16 leader: Gabe York, Arizona, 42.1%
2016-17 projected leader: Dominique Collier, Colorado
Let’s give Colorado some love. Collier, a junior point guard, knocked down 40 of his 90 (44.4%) three-point attempts last season. On one of the top outside shooting teams in the country, Collier teamed up with George King (45.6%) and Josh Fortune (38.5%) to convert 163 triples. King and Collier and worthy picks, while Elijah Stewart (USC) and Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Arizona) should also be in the mix.
Free Throw Percentage
2015-16 leader: Andrew Andrews, Washington, 85.1%
2016-17 projected leader: Dillon Brooks, Oregon
Oregon forward Dillon Brooks is a do-it-all junior that is not only one of the top players in the Pac-12, but also will be in consideration for the All-American first team when it’s all said and done. Despite his contributions on the offensive and defensive end, Brooks’ free-throw stroke should not be ignored. Brooks has nailed 81.4% of his freebies since arriving at Oregon, and should expect to make trips to the free-throw line more frequently this season as he will possess the ball more than ever in the Ducks’ offensive attack.