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Super Sophomores to Watch

9/20/2013

You've no doubt heard plenty of chatter about incoming freshmen in college basketball. You'll have a chance to see ESPN top recruit Andrew Wiggins of Kansas face No. 2 prospect Jabari Parker of Duke in the State Farm Champions Classic on Nov. 12. In that same doubleheader in Chicago, Kentucky's great incoming freshmen class will be on display in a matchup versus Michigan State.

But don't forget about the sophomores. In an era where many of the nation's top players turn pro after one season, there's an intriguing crop of second-year players who could have a major impact in who walks away with the national title next spring.

Fortunately, you'll be able to see a number of them in ESPN Events' early-season tournaments. Here are the top five sophomores to watch:

5. Duke G Rasheed Sulaimon: The 6-foot-4 shooting guard not only contributed 11.6 points a game, but he became Duke's top perimeter defender as a freshman. Now that reinforcements are on the way in Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, Sulaimon could give opponents headaches on how to defend the Blue Devils. See how Kansas fares on Nov. 12 at the United Center.

4. Kentucky F Alex Poythress: The 6-7 Tennessee native came to college with plenty of hype, and disappointed some by averaging just 11.2 points and 6 rebounds as a freshman (despite shooting 58 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range). Now with Kentucky's big freshmen class on the way, Poythress will have to perform to get playing time. You'll get a chance to see how he responds on Nov. 12.

3. Michigan F Mitch McGary: The Indiana native carried Michigan to the national title game with a breakout NCAA Tournament. The 6-10 McGary only started two games before he reached another level in the NCAAs. McGary had 25 points and 14 rebounds in a Sweet 16 victory over Kansas. He added 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a Final Four win over Syracuse. Despite projections he'd be a first-round pick, the 21-year-old returned to school. He and the Wolverines will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Nov. 21-24.

2. Arizona State G Jahii Carson: With Allen Iverson-like fearlessness in driving the lane and a freshman school-record 177 assists, the 5-10 Carson was co-freshman of the year in the Pac-12 last season. Carson led all freshman in the nation at 18.5 points a game. Carson will be one of the most fun players to watch this season, and you'll get a chance to see the speedy guard play in the Wooden Legacy Nov. 28-Dec. 1.

1. Oklahoma State G Marcus Smart: There was disbelief at first when the reigning Big 12 player of the year announced he'd return for his sophomore season. Then pundits immediately began moving the Cowboys higher in their preseason polls. Smart, who was projected as a top-five NBA draft pick, brings scoring (15.4 points), toughness (5.7 rebounds), passing (4.2 assists) and quickness (2.9 steals) to a team that will challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. Watch Smart play three early-season games in the Old Spice Classic Nov. 28-Dec. 1.