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College basketball's top returning player from each major conference team

Sporting News logo Sporting News 10/5/2017 E.Jay Zarett

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We're still a month away from the start of the 2017-18 college basketball season, but it's never too early to look ahead and wonder about what it might bring.

All of that starts, of course, with the players from our favorite teams. Which begs the question: Who are the best returning players for every major (and mid-major) conference team?

MORE: College basketball top-25 rankings

Some teams had obvious answers, like Miles Bridges at Michigan State. Other teams took a little more thought.

Here are the best returning players for every major conference team ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Mid-majors

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Cincinnati

Player: Jacob Evans

Position: Guard

Conference: AAC

A finalist for the Jerry West Award, Evans averaged 13.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, connected on 41.8 percent of his 3-point attempts and registered a team-high 46 steals.

Wichita State

Player: Landry Shamet

Position: Guard

Conference: AAC

Shamet was the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2016-17 after averaging 11.4 points and 3.3 assists per game. He was also a member of the MVC All-First Team, one of just two freshmen to ever earn that honor. As a freshman, Shamet was a knock-down shooter. He made 43.9 percent of his 3-pointers and shot 47.2 percent from the field. 

Connecticut

Player: Jalen Adams

Position: Guard

Conference: AAC

Adams averaged 6.1 assists per game as a sophomore, ranked 14th nationionally, and added 14.1 points per contest.

Gonzaga

Player: Johnathan Williams

Position: Forward

Conference: WCC

Williams tallied 10.2 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per contest in 2016-17 while shootingt 40 percent from 3-point range.

Saint Mary’s

Player: Jock Landale

Position: Forward

Conference: WCC

Landale averaged a team-high 16.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in 2016-17 while shooting 61.1 percent from the field.

ACC

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Boston College

Player: Ky Bowman

Position: Guard

Bowman averaged 14.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a freshman while shooting 44.9 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Clemson

Player: Shelton Mitchell

Position: Guard

Mitchell averaged 10.8 points per game and led the Tigers with 3.6 assists per contest and a 3-point shooting percentage of 45.4 percent. 

Duke

Player: Grayson Allen

Position: Guard

Allen is set to conclude his polarizing career at Duke this season. After averaging over 21 points per game as a sophomore, Allen’s numbers dipped in 2016-17 after he took over primary ball-handling responsibilities.

He finished the year averaging 14.5 points per game and shot just 39.5 percent from the field as a junior. But with Duke’s addition of Trevon Duval, Allen should have more opportunities for off-ball action, as well as spot up jumpers.

Florida State

Player: Terance Mann

Position: Guard

Mann will be the Seminoles' top returning scorer and rebounder (8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game) in 2017-18.

Georgia Tech

Player: Ben Lammers

Position: Center

Lammers averaged 14.2 points a game, second for Georgia Tech last season. He also tallied 125 blocks and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Louisville

Player: Deng Adel

Class: Junior

Position: Forward

Adel averaged 12.1 points and 4.5 rebounds on a Louisville team that went 25-9 in 2016-17. His return, along with the return of Quentin Snider, who averaged 12.4 points per game, gives Louisville two of its top three scorers back for 2017-18.

Miami

Player: Bruce Brown Jr.

Position: Guard

Brown finished the year averaging 11.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He also led Miami with 49 steals and recorded the program's first triple-double, against South Carolina State.

N.C. State

Player: Abdul-Malik Abu

Position: Forward

Abu led the Wolfpack last season in rebounding (7 per game), and averaged 11.8 points per contest.

North Carolina

Player: Joel Berry II

Position: Guard

Berry averaged 14.7 points and 3.6 assists per game as the point guard of the defending national champion Tar Heels.

Notre Dame

Player: Bonzie Colson

Position: Forward

Colson averaged a double-double last season (17.8 points and 10.1 rebounds) and was named a Third-Team All-American.

Pittsburgh

Player: Ryan Luther

Position: Forward

Luther averaged 5.7 points per game last season and is set to be the Panthers' top returning scorer. He sho 40 percent from 3-point range.

Syracuse

Player: Tyus Battle

Position: Guard

Battle will be Syracuse's primary scorer this year after averaging 11.3 points per game as a freshman and shooting 36.6 percent from 3-point range.

Virginia

Player: Devon Hall

Position: Guard

Hall should see more scoring opportunities. He averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds for the Cavaliers last season.

Virginia Tech

Player: Justin Robinson

Position: Guard

Robinson started 33 games last season and averaged 10.4 points per contest. He also shot 35.8 percent from 3-point land and dished out a team-high 4.8 assists per contest.

Wake Forest

Player: Bryant Crawford

Position: Guard

Crawford reached double-figures in 30 games, averaging 16.2 points and 5.5 assists per game, the first Wake Forest player to do so since Chris Paul in 2004-05.

Big East

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Butler

Player: Kelan Martin

Position: Forward

Martin led a Butler in points per game (16.0) and rebounds per game (5.8) last year. He enters the season 23rd on Butler’s career scorers list.

Creighton

Player: Marcus Foster

Position: Guard

Foster averaged a team-high 18.2 points per game in 2016-17, was a unanimous first-team All Big East selection and led Creighton to its first NCAA Tournament since 2014.

DePaul

Player: Eli Cain

Position: Guard

Cain led DePaul in scoring last season, averaging 15.6 points per game. He was second on the team in assists (2.7 per game) and in rebounds (4.5 per game).

Georgetown

Player: Jessie Govan

Position: Center

Giovan is the only returning Hoya who averaged a double-digit scoring last year. He averaged 10.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest.

Marquette

Player: Markus Howard

Position: Guard

Howard shot 54.7 percent from 3-point range as a freshman, best in the country. He also led Marquette with 13.2 points a game despite averaging only 22 minutes played.

Providence

Player: Rodney Bullock

Position: Forward

Bullock has averaged double-digit scoring totals in back-to-back seasons and tallied a career-high 15.7 points per contest in 2016-17. He has knocked down 43.9 percent of his career 3-pointers, and led the Friars with 6.4 rebounds per game last year.

Seton Hall

Player: Angel Delgado

Position: Center

Delgado was the nation's top rebounder last season (13.1 per game) and also averaged 15.2 points per game. He was a member of the 2017 All-Big East First Team and won the Haggerty Award, given to the Metro New York region's top player.

St. John’s

Player: Shamorie Ponds

Position: Guard

Ponds became the team's leading scorer as a freshman last season, averaging 17.4 points per game.

Villanova

Player: Jalen Brunson

Position: Guard

Brunson started 39 games for a Villanova team that won the NCAA championship in 2015-16 and followed that by averaging 14.7 points and 4.1 assists per game last season. He also shot 37.8 percent from 3-point range.

Brunson was a member of the Big East All-First Team in 2016-17 and was one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the country’s top point guard.

Xavier

Player: Trevon Bluiett  

Position: Guard

Bluiett scored 20 or more points in 19 games for the Musketeers and finished 2016-17 averaging 18.5 points as well as 5.7 rebounds per game.

Big Ten

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Illinois

Player: Leron Black

Position: Forward

Black averaged 8.1 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds per contest and should be featured heavily under new coach Brad Underwood.

Indiana

Player: Robert Johnson

Position: Guard

Johnson is the lone returning player who averaged double-figure scoring totals in 2016-17. He  averaged 12.8 points and 2.5 assists.

Iowa

Player: Jordan Bohannon

Position: Guard

Bohannon wwas one of just two players in the last 25 seasons to tally 175 or more assists and 85 or more 3-pointers in their first collegiate season. He finished the year averaging 10.9 points and 5.1 assists per contest.

Maryland

Player: Justin Jackson

Position: Forward

Jackson averaged 10.5 points per game, shot 43.8 percent from 3-point land and was Maryland’s top rebounder at six per game.

Michigan

Player: Moritz Wagner

Position: Forward

Wagner started all 38 games for Michigan and finished the year averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 assists a game.

Michigan State

Player: Miles Bridges

Position: Forward

Bridges was a 2016 McDonalds All-American and projected to be a one-and-done-player. But after a successful freshman year at Michigan State, he announced in April he would be returning to the Spartans for at least one more season.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 2016-17, both tops for Michigan State, while shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range to lead the Spartans to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota

Player: Nate Mason

Position: Guard

Mason led the Gophers with a team-high 15.2 points per game and 62 steals. He tallied a double-figure scoring in 30 of Minnesota’s 34 games.

Nebraska

Player: Glynn Watson Jr.

Position: Guard

Watson shot a team-high 39.7 percent from behind the 3-point line and averaged 13 points per game, second on the Cornhuskers.

Northwestern

Player: Vic Law

Position: Forward

Law averaged 12.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on a team that made earned its first NCAA Tournament bid in school history.

Ohio State

Player: Jae’sean Tate

Position: Forward

Chris Holtman will rely heavily on Tate, who has 1,094 career points at OSU. He averaged 14.3 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.

Penn State

Player: Tony Carr

Position: Guard

Carr led Penn State with 13.2 points and 4.2 assists per game last season.

Purdue

Player: Vincent Edwards

Position: Forward

Edwards shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range . and following Caleb Swanigan’s departure for the NBA, is set to have an even bigger role for the Boilermakers. He finished last season averaging 12.6 points. 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. For his career,  he has 1,000 career points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 made 3-pointers.

Rutgers

Player: Corey Sanders

Position: Guard

Sanders led Rutgers in scoring, averaging 12.8 points per game under first-year coach Steve Pikiell. He also averaged a team-high 3.2 assists.

Wisconsin

Player: Ethan Happ

Position: Forward

Happ will enter 2017-18 as one of the best returning players in the country. He averaged 14 points and nine rebounds per game last season and led Wisconsin to the Sweet 16.

Big 12

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Baylor

Player: Manu Lecomte

Position: Guard

Lecomte averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 assists per game and averaged 40.8 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Iowa State

Player: Donovan Jackson

Position: Guard

Jackson averaged 6.4 points per game as a sophomore and connected on 45.4 percent of his 3-pointers.

Kansas

Player: Devonte Graham

Position: Guard

Graham averaged 13.4 points per game and shot 38.8 percent from 3-point range. He started all 36 games for Kansas last season and was named as a second-team All-Big 12 player. He finished second in the conference with 2.6 3-pointers made per game.

Kansas State

Player: Kamau Stokes  

Position: Guard

Stokes scored 11.7 points per game last season and led the Wildcats with 100 assists (2.9 per game) while shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range.

Oklahoma

Player: Khadeem Lattin

Position: Forward

Lattin, the lone returning starter from Oklahoma’s 2016 Final Four run, was second in the Big 12 with 2.1 blocks a game last year. He also chipped in 8.4 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.

Oklahoma State

Player: Jeffrey Carroll

Position: Forward

Carroll averaged 17.5 points per game and shot 44.4 percent from behind the arc last season. He is one of just four Big 12 players to ever finish in the top 10 of the league in scoring, rebounding (6.6 per game) and 3-point shooting percentage.

TCU

Player: Kenrich Williams

Position: Guard

Williams, the NIT’s Most Outstanding Player last year, averaged 11.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest. He also recorded his second career triple-double last season against Richmond.

Texas

Player: Andrew Jones

Position: Guard

Jones averaged 11.4 points per game as a freshman while also leading the team in 3-pointers made and assists.

Texas Tech

Player: Keenan Evans

Position: Guard

Evans shot 43.2 percent from behind the arc last season, finishing fourth in the Big 12. Evans also scored 20 points or more seven times last season.

West Virginia

Player: Jevon Carter

Position: Guard

Carter, the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, last season, also directed the WVU offense and led the team in points (13.5) and assists (3.7) per game. He also grabbed five rebounds per contest and improved his 3-point percentage to 38.9.

Pac-12

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Arizona

Player: Allonzo Trier

Position: Guard

Trier missed half of last season due to suspension, but when he did play, he was phenomenal. In 19 games, he averaged 17.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range.

Arizona State

Player: Tra Holder

Position: Guard

Holder has started 87 games over his three seasons playing in Arizona State’s backcourt and averaged 16.2 points and 3.2 assists per game as a junior.

California

Player: Kinglsey Okoroh

Position: Center

Okoroh averaged just 4.6 points on 3.7 attempts per game. But on defense, he set a Cal single-season record with 74 blocks.

Colorado

Player: George King

Position: Guard

King led Colorado in rebounding last season, averaging 6.8 per contest, while also chipping in 11.1 points per game.

Oregon

Player: Payton Pritchard

Position: Guard

Pritchard averaged 7.4 points per game in 2016-17 and recorded a team-high 141 assists (3.6 per contest).

Oregon State

Player: Tres Tinkle

Position: Forward

In his only full season, Tinkle averaged 13.1 points and 5.4 rebounds as a freshman. He should return stronger than ever after missing the Beavers' 26 final games with a broken wrist.

UCLA

Player: Aaron Holiday

Position: Guard

While averaging just 26.4 minutes per game in 2016-17, Holiday registered 12.3 points per game to go along with 4.4 assists per contest while also shooting 41.1 percent from 3-point range.

USC

Player: Chimezie Metu

Position: Forward

Metu was named the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player following a 2016-17 season in which he averaged 14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Utah

Player: David Collette

Position: Forward

Collette reached double figures in all but one contest he appeared in last season and led Utah in scoring four different times. He also led Utah with 20 blocks on the year.

Stanford

Player: Reid Travis

Position: Forward

As a redshirt sophomore, Travis averaged 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 57.9 percent from the floor. He was the only player in the Pac-12 to finish the year ranked in the top five in both points and rebounds per game.

Travis was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and led the Cardinal in nine different statistical categories. He scored a career-high 29 points against Kansas in early December.

Washington

Player: Noah Dickerson

Position: Forward

Dickerson averaged 12.5 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds for the Huskies last season.

Washington State

Player: Malachi Flynn

Position: Guard

Flynn showed promise as a freshman last season, starting all 31 games and averaging 9.7 points a contest.

SEC

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Alabama

Player: Dazon Ingram

Position: Guard

Ingram knocked down 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers in 2016-17, tops for the Crimson Tide. He averaged 10.6 points per game and led Alabama with 3.3 assists per game.

Arkansas

Player: Daryl Macon

Position: Guard

A major reason for Arkansas’ success last season was Macon, who averaged 13.4 points per game and shot 45.3 percent from the floor.

Auburn

Player: Mustapa Heron

Position: Guard

As a freshman, Heron averaged 15.2 points per game, grabbed 6.1 rebounds and shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range.

Florida

Player: KeVaughn Allen

Position: Guard

Allen was Florida’s go-to scorer during its run to the Elite Eight in 2016-17, leading the Gators in scoring with 14 points per contest and a 37 3-point percentage. Allen was a first-team All-SEC player and he scored a career-high 35 points in the Gators’ Sweet 16 win vs. Wisconsin.

Georgia

Player: Yante Maten

Position: Forward

Maten’s a versatile forward who can score from all over the floor for Georgia. Last season, he averaged 18.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

Kentucky

Player: Wenyen Gabriel

Position: Forward

Gabriel is the Wildcats top returning player for a Kentucky team that made the Elite EIght. He averaged 4.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a freshman while playing just 17.8 minutes per contest.

LSU

Player: Duop Reath

Position: Forward

In his first season at the helm of the Tigers, coach Will Wade will have to rely heavily on Reath, who averaged 12 points and 6.2 rebounds per game last year.

Ole Miss

Player: Deandre Burnett

Position: Guard

Burnett scored in double figures in 26 games and eclipsed 20 points on 10 different occasions. Burnett also registered one steal per contest.

Mississippi State

Player: Quinndary Weatherspoon

Position: Guard

Weatherspoon was Mississippi State’s best player a year ago, averaging a team-high 16.5 points and 5.1 rebounds during the 16-17 season.

Missouri

Player: Kevin Puryear

Position: Forward

Puryear has averaged over 11 points per game in each of the last two seasons for Missouri and averaged six rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2016-17.

South Carolina

Player: Chris Silva

Position: Forward

Silva is the lone returning player who averaged double-figures for the Gamecocks' 2016-17 Final Four team. He put up 10.2 points as well as 6.2 rebounds last season. He’s in line to receive more touches with the losses of Sindarius Thornwell and P.J. Dozier.

Tennessee

Player: Grant Williams

Position: Forward

Williams was a member of the All-SEC freshman team a season ago after averaging 12.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Texas A&M

Player: Robert Williams

Position: Forward

Williams could be first round NBA draft pick following the year. As a freshman, he averaged 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while shooting over 55 percent from the field. He was also the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Vanderbilt

Player: Matthew Fisher-Davis

Position: Guard

Fisher-Davis started 22 games for Vanderbilt last season and led his team in scoring with an average of 13.9 points per game.

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