This season's fabulous crop of freshmen has stolen the majority of the headlines through the first two-and-a-half months of college basketball season.
Now it's time to show some love for a super group of sophomores who have their teams excelling in conference play and preparing for deep runs in the NCAA tournament.
In compiling Greg Anthony's Sophomore Starting Five, I have chosen a top point guard, shooting guard, two forwards (with no differentiation between power and small) and a center. It's a difficult task to pick just one guy at each position because there is so much phenomenal talent at the college level. The starters have been supplemented by some honorable mention players as warranted.
Who do you think are the best second-year players in the game? Drop me a note at the address at the bottom of the column and share your thoughts. And if you have any burning college basketball questions, send them my way and I'll try to answer them in a future column.
Without further ado, here is my all-sophomore squad:
Point guard: D.J. Augustin, Texas (20.2 ppg, 6.2 apg): Augustin is the prototypical point guard. He shoots with range, he finishes in traffic and has great court vision. His decision making has improved markedly. Augustin has done the unthinkable: making many Longhorn fans forget about Kevin Durant, who split after a year for the fame and fortune of the NBA. That alone is an impressive feat.
Honorable mention: Ty Lawson, North Carolina (13.6 ppg, 5.6 apg). Trevon Hughes, Wisconsin (13.7 ppg, 2.9 apg) .
Shooting guard: Wayne Ellington, North Carolina (17.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg) . The way Ellington can stretch a defense, the way he plays in big games and his effectiveness and efficiency is what's most impressive. He is a great athlete, capable of creating his own shot. And like all great shooting guards, Ellington is a gamer who wants to take the big shot. With his skills, he has taken pressure off Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson. Most important come tournament time: Ellington is money at free-throw line.
Honorable mention: Gerald Henderson, Duke (12.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg). Scottie Reynolds, Villanova (17 ppg, 4.3 apg).
Forward I: Tyler Smith, Tennessee (13.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg). What's most impressive about Smith is the way he has elevated his game and picked up his teammates. This is particularly true of guard Chris Lofton, who hasn't had the type of season most expected. Still, Tennessee hasn't struggled and much of the credit has to go to the steady Smith. He leads the Volunteers in free-throw percentage, field-goal percentage, steals and rebounds. Not easy to do in coach Bruce Pearl's frenetic system.
Forward II: Darrelll Arthur, Kansas (13.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg) . The Jayhawks have as much talent as anyone in the land. Even when KU started the season with standout Brandon Rush slowed by injury, Arthur made sure his team didn't miss a beat. Arthur has been able to learn from playing with a lot of other talented athletes. The experience he got last year makes him look very comfortable on the floor in all situations. He is the perfect complement offensively and defensively for coach Bill Self.
Honorable mention: Raymar Morgan, Michigan State (16.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg). Chase Budinger, Arizona (17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg) . DaJuan Summers, Georgetown (11 ppg, 5.5 rpg).
Center: Brook Lopez, Stanford (16.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Lopez is a lottery pick lock. He's a big guy who doesn't shy away from contact and thrives in traffic. After missing the first nine games because of academic issues, Lopez came right and demanded that opponents double team him on the block. He's a throwback center with solid shooting touch and underrated passing ability. With Lopez back in the system, the Cardinal, which started slowly, will be fine when it matters in March.
Honorable mention: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame (19.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg).
- Wayne Ellington