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School: Colorado | Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard | Height: 6-5 | Weight: 190
Hometown: Woodland Hills, Calif.
2011-12 Averages: 10.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.8 APG
Looking for somebody who can flat-out shoot? Keep your eye on the Buffaloes' sophomore point. A member of the Pac-12 Conference All-Freshman Team, Dinwiddie averaged 10 points (third among Pac-12 freshmen) and 1.8 assists in 27.4 minutes and finished second on the team with 42 three-pointers in 36 games, all starts (a school freshman record). The sharpshooter -- he had 14 games in which he made at least 50 percent of his shots -- ranked first among first-year Pac-12 players in free throw percentage (.816 percent, another school freshman record) and three-point percentage (43.8 percent). He ranked fourth among all players in the conference in both categories. The hot-shooting freshman played a big part in Colorado's winning four games in four days, coming from a sixth seed to win the Pac-12 Tournament. Dinwiddie, who had shot only 5-for-18, 1-for-7 from three over the first three days, came alive in the championship game, scoring 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting, including 4-for-4 from three in the finale (a 53-51 victory over Arizona). Dinwiddie didn't take a free throw in the finale, but shot 92.8 percent from the line (13-of-14) in the tournament, going 8-for-8 in the opening win over Utah and 4-for-4 in the semifinal upset of Cal. He's eager to prove Colorado's big finish last season was no fluke and that CU is better than its sixth-place preseason pick. Getting another shot at Baylor in the Charleston Classic, the team that knocked the Buffs out of last year's NCAA Tournament would make for a good starting point in doing that.
Key Stat: .402/.438/.816
Dinwiddie hit over 40 percent of his shots from in front of and behind the arc while converting over 80 percent of his shots from the foul line. He was the only freshman in the Pac-12 to do all three.
Did You Know: Dinwiddie was the 2011 Los Angeles City Section Player of the Year as a senior, leading Taft High School to a 29-3 record and city championship?
School: Dayton | Class: Senior
Position: Guard | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 182
Hometown: Homewood, Ill.
2011-12 Averages: 13.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.4 SPG
Career Averages: 13.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.4 SPG
Second-year coach Archie Miller's Flyers, picked eighth in the A-10 preseason poll, have a tough task in replacing forward Chris Johnson, one of the greatest all-around talents in Dayton basketball history. Senior point guard Kevin Dillard will help fill the void. Last season, his first with Dayton after transferring from Southern Illinois, Dillard was named All-A-10 Second-Team, was the team's co-MVP with Johnson, and was MVP of the 2011 Old Spice Classic. On the season, Dillard was second in the conference and 16th in the nation, averaging 6 assists per game, and he led the Flyers in scoring (13.3 PPG), steals (1.4) and minutes (32.7). He was even better in A-10 play, leading the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4), finishing third in free throw shooting (.880) and averaging 13.8 PPG. He was at his most dangerous at the foul line, where he shot .827, a career-best, and third for the Flyers, who shot .778 from the line, a school record and the second-best mark in the nation. Dillard became a reliable scorer last season, reaching double-figures a team-high 27 times and in 14 of the Flyers' final 15 games. That reliability will be counted on, as Dayton, which has made three consecutive trips to the NIT, tries to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
Key Stat: 198
That's number of assists Dillard handed out last season, the second-most in a season in Dayton history (and 18 behind Negele Knight's school record set in 1989-90).
Did You Know: Dillard was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2008. That award has been a springboard to the NBA, as every winner from 2000 through 2007 has made it to the Association. Previous winners in that period are Darius Miles (2000), Eddy Curry (2001), Dee Brown (2002), Shannon Brown (2003), Shaun Livingston (2004), Julian Wright (2005), Jon Scheyer (2006) and Derrick Rose (2007).
|With much of last season's cast gone, Isaiah Canaan is even more key to Murray State this season.|
School: Murray State | Class: Senior
Position: Guard | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 195
Hometown: Biloxi, Miss.
2011-12 Averages: 19.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG
Career Averages: 13.6 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG
The reigning Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and the preseason choice as well, Canaan will be the main man at the wheel as the Racers look to improve on last season, when they started 23-0, recorded their 25th straight winning season (only Syracuse, Kansas and Arizona have longer streaks), won a school-record-tying 31 games, and took home a third straight OVC regular-season title (the 23rd in school history). The three-time All-OVC performer's shooting is a big reason for his success. He enters his senior season 19th on the school's all-time scoring list and is within striking distance of becoming the sixth player in school history to score 2,000 career points. He's also 75 assists away from moving into the school's all-time top 10 in helpers. Canaan had at least 76 dimes in each of the last two seasons, with 120 last year, second-best in the OVC and the 12th-best season in school history. Last season, Canaan did it all, becoming the first Racer to lead the team in scoring (19.1 PPG) and assists (3.6 APG) in more than a decade (Isaac Spencer in 2000-01). He was also among the nation's best guards, ranking 24th in scoring, sixth in three-pointers (2.97 per game), 13th in three-point shooting (.456), 36th in free throw percentage (.858) and 47th in steals (1.91).
Key Stat: .446/210
That's Canaan's career three-point shooting percentage and three-point field goals made. Both rank second in school history. His .446 ranks second to Jeff Martin (1986-89) by three/100ths of a point, while his 210 FGMs are 41 behind leader Frank Allen (1989-93). He could leave as the school's leader in both categories as he shot at least 45 percent in two of his three seasons and has never made fewer than 54 threes in a season.
Did You Know: Canaan began the season as the leading active scorer in the Ohio Valley Conference. His 1,374 points are 18 more than Tennessee State forward Robert Covington.
School: St. John's | Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 202
Hometown: Missouri City, Texas
2011-12 Averages: 17.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.6 SPG
Like so many young teams, St. John's had trouble scoring last season, especially from three. A definite bright spot, however, was D'Angelo Harrison, the guard that had the sensational freshman season and stayed -- unlike teammate and fellow Big East All-Rookie Team guard Moe Harkless, who won Big East Rookie of the Year then left for the NBA. Harrison was named to this year's preseason All-Big East Second Team, and will lead the Johnnies, who were picked for 10th. He'll try to build on his freshman season during which he led the team in scoring (17.0 PPG) while putting in a school-freshman-record 544 points. He also led the team in three-point shooting (.367), free throw shooting (.804) and steals (1.6, SPG), making 52 thefts one more than Harkless and Sir'Dominic Pointer. His .800 free throw shooting stood out on a team that shot 68 percent for the season. Harrison, the third-ranked scorer nationally among freshmen, had 28 double-figure-scoring games, led St. John's in scoring 15 times, in rebounding once and in assists seven times and saved the best for last. He capped off his freshman campaign by recording his first double-double, a 12-point, 10-rebound effort against Pittsburgh. That day was one of mixed emotions, however; he recorded his first double-digit rebounding game, setting highs in offensive and defensive rebounding, but also shot 4-for-18 and 0-for-6 from three in the loss to the Panthers. Harrison, like the Red Storm, believes a year older will translate into being a year better.
Key Stat: .367/76
That's Harrison's shooting from behind the arc and three-point field goals made. He shot more than 80 points higher than the team's average. His 76 three-point FGMs set a school record (four more than Avery Patterson's 2007 total) and was 22 more than the rest of the team combined.
Did You Know: Harrison's 17.0 season scoring average is second for a freshman in St. John's history, behind only Felipe Lopez, who averaged 17.8 in 1994-95. He came in just ahead of Chris Mullin, the school's all-time scoring leader, who averaged 16.6 PPG in his freshman season of 1981-82.
School: Auburn | Class: Senior
Position: Guard | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 206
Hometown: Uniontown, Ala.
2011-12 Averages: 12.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.4 SPG
Career Averages: 10.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.5 SPG
If the Tigers are to improve on their 10th-place SEC preseason ranking, Frankie Sullivan will have to play to huge part. The team's leading scorer, three-point shooter and steals leader last season, Sullivan is poised to have an even bigger final season on The Plains. He's no longer suffering effects of a torn right ACL which forced him to miss the early parts of the 2010-11 season and slowed him at times last season. Despite the injury, he led the Tigers in scoring 11 times last season and put up a career-best 22 points on four different occasions. Sullivan is the eighth-leading scorer amongst returning players in the SEC and coach Tony Barbee will be counting on him to play even more than his team-leading 31.8 minutes (just out of the top 10 in the SEC). Sullivan has proved he can do more than score, as he led Auburn in rebounding on three occasions last season, led the team with 44 steals (1.4 SPG ranked 10th in the SEC) and was third on the team in charges taken. Barbee will need Sullivan to continue to be a threat from beyond the arc (his 1.9 three-pointers per game last season paced the team and were seventh in the SEC) and hopes he can improve on his .317 shooting. Auburn could certainly use a lift in the latter category, as the Tigers finished 11th in the 12-team conference in three-point shooting last season -- about the only bright side in that being that Alabama was No. 12.
Key Stat: 31.8
Sullivan played a career-best 31.8 minutes per game last season, which amounted to 1,021 minutes, the first time he surpassed the 1,000-minute mark in his college career.
Did You Know: You know about Sullivan's ability to finish at the rim; he's also quite the finisher in the classroom, needing only three and a half years to complete his studies (he received his degree in Sociology last December). He's the first Tiger to graduate early since Marquis Daniels, who did so in 2003.
|Pierre Jackson has come up big for Baylor on several occasions.|
School: Baylor | Class: Senior
Position: Guard | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 180
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.
2011-12 Averages: 13.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.8 SPG
Career Averages: 13.8 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.8 SPG
Baylor's smallest player may be the biggest reason the Bears are ranked No. 18 in the nation and looking for big things this season. Jackson stands 5-10, 180, but looms large in Big 12 country, where he was named the conference's Preseason Player of the Year. Those accolades come in the wake of Jackson's superb debut season in Waco, when he earned Honorable Mention All-America honors, was All-Big 12 Second-Team (he was First-Team according to ESPN.com), was unanimously named to the conference's All-Rookie Team and was ESPN.com's Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Winning is part of what Jackson does best, as he transferred from Southern Idaho after leading the Golden Eagles to the NJCAA Division I national title. He averaged 18.6 points, 3.8 boards and 4.4 assists in 36 games in leading CSI to the title. Jackson was at his best in conference play, where his 14.4 PPG ranked 10th and his .435 shooting from three (37-for-85) was second. He also was unselfish; he led the Big 12 in assists with 6.56 per game (118) and was fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.69). Jackson was as good regaining the ball as he was taking care of it, making 33 steals (1.83 steals per game) in conference play, second in the Big 12.
Key Stat: .935
Last season Jackson hit 93.5 percent of his "clutch free throws" -- free throws taken in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime. He converted 29 of 31 such attempts. His .935 was 30 points better than the nearest Bear, Brady Heslip (19-of-21) and he made four more than his nearest teammate, Quincy Acy (25-of-31).
Did You Know: Jackson has a shot at becoming only the third player in program history to reach 1,000 points in a two-year career at Baylor. Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson (1977-79) and William Chatmon (1969-71) also did it. Four-year Bears Terry Teagle and LaceDarius Dunn also reached the mark in their second seasons. Jackson would be the eighth player in the Scott Drew era to score 1,000 points.
School: Boston College | Class: Sophomore
Position: Forward | Height: 6-8 | Weight: 220
Hometown: Lakewood, Calif.
2011-12 Averages: 11.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.5 bpg, 0.5 SPG
With 12 of its 15 players on the roster being freshman or sophomores, Boston College is using that youth to its advantage; this current unit has 118 starts, contributes 75 percent of its scoring, 73 percent of its assists, and 70 percent of its rebounds and minutes. Some of the most important of those points, rebounds, assists, and minutes belong to sophomore forward Ryan Anderson. The versatile forward became only the 11th freshman in Big East history to lead his team in scoring and rebounding, and led all ACC first-year players in scoring while ranking second among ACC freshmen in rebounding. He ranked 20th and seventh in those categories overall. Anderson, who led B.C. in scoring 10 times and in rebounding 21 times, was the only Eagle to record a double-double last season, getting seven of them (the most among ACC freshmen), including a 22-point, 12-rebound game in the ACC Tournament against NC State. For his work, Anderson was named one of two unanimous picks to the ACC All-Freshmen Team (the other was Duke's Austin Rivers).
Key Stat: .539/16.3/9.0
Over the course of the final eight games of the season, Anderson went off, shooting 53.9%, scoring 16.3 PPG and pulling 9.0 RPG. He capped off the season with his 22-point, 12-rebound effort in the ACC Tournament.
Did You Know: Anderson led the Jackrabbits of Long Beach Poly High School to the Southern Section I-AA championship as a senior. He not only earned Gatorade State Player of the Year and Los Angeles Times Player of the Year honors but also California Mr. Basketball, the first player from Poly, the state's winningest program, to earn that honor.
School: College of Charleston |
Position: Guard | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 185
Hometown: London, England
2011-12 Averages: 13.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.9 SPG
Career Averages: 7.6 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG
It's a new era at the College of Charleston, as Doug Wojcik takes over as head coach for Bobby Cremins, and Lawrence becomes the focal point of the offense following the graduation of Antawaine Wiggins. The Cougars are in good hands with the London-born point guard. Lawrence is coming off a break-out season that saw him finish just out of the top 10 in the Southern Conference in scoring, while ranking third in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio and leading the conference in steals. On a team that lived by the three (C of C was second in the SoCon, canning 7.9 per game) Lawrence tied Wiggins with 1.9 three-point field goals per game (eighth in the conference). He proved he could light it up, scoring a career-best and a team-season-high 32 against Elon and showed that he was not shy about taking the shot. (His had 19 field goal attempts and 13 three-point field goal tries vs. Chattanooga on Dec. 19, both were team- and season-highs.) He also led the team with six three-point field goals against Appalachian State on Feb. 4. Lawrence is effective at the defensive end as well. His 58 steals led the Southern and, despite his diminutive frame, he tied for 11th in the conference in blocked shots, with 17. That was the same number of blocks as Appalachian State's 6-10, 290-pound center Isaac Butts.
Key Stat: .343
While Lawrence was one of the Southern Conference's best three-point shooters in the number of three-pointers made, his career .343 shooting percentage is an area he'd like to improve.
Did You Know: Lawrence was the youngest player on Great Britain's Olympic basketball team roster and was one of only two college players to make it on any of the 12 teams that competed in the London Games. (Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary's represented Australia).
University of Maryland alum Jon Cooper is an Atlanta-based freelance writer.