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Small-School NCAA Basketball Stars Who Will Challenge for 2013-14 Scoring Title

C.J. MooreCollege Basketball National Lead WriterSeptember 26, 2013

Small-School NCAA Basketball Stars Who Will Challenge for 2013-14 Scoring Title

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    Oakland's Travis Bader was the NCAA's fifth-leading scorer last season.
    Oakland's Travis Bader was the NCAA's fifth-leading scorer last season.Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    It's usually a given that a small-school guy will win the NCAA scoring title. That changed last season when Virginia Tech's Erick Green became the first player from a major conference to lead the NCAA in scoring since Glenn Robinson did it in 1993-94 for Purdue. 

    Why is it always the small-school guys racking up the gaudy numbers?

    Well, it usually comes down to opportunity plus ability, and the small-school guys are usually in situations with endless opportunities to get up shots. 

    Green just happened to be an NBA talent on a bad team—he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, but will play overseas this year in Italy.

    This season, considering history, the mid-major players should be gunning to top the NCAA leaderboard. Of course, they'll have to battle Creighton's Doug McDermott, last year's runner-up to Green and now in a major conference, the new Big East.

    These 10 candidates should give McDermott a run for the title.

     

    All advanced stats unless otherwise noted come from KenPom.com (subscription needed). 

Troy Huff, North Dakota

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    North Dakota senior wing Troy Huff's speed makes him an extremely difficult cover. Last season, Huff attempted almost half (47 percent) of his shots at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.com

    If defenders are able to keep him from getting in the paint, the 6'5" Huff also has the ability to rise up and hit a jumper. He's not a great shooter, but at 35.6 percent from three, he's good enough that defenders have to respect him at the perimeter.

    Huff, who averaged 19.2 points per game as a junior, also typically gets at least one easy bucket a game thanks to his defense. He averaged 2.4 steals per game last season.

    In North Dakota's offense, there's no question he's the go-to guy. Huff took 34.9 percent of UND's shots when he was on the floor last year. 

Jerrelle Benimon, Towson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Jerrelle Benimon was a huge part of Towson's amazing turnaround last year. The Tigers went from one win in 2011-12 to 18 in 2012-13, and that was without a chance at the postseason. 

    What was most impressive about Benimon, who transferred from Georgetown, was the number of minutes (36 per game) he logged at his size (6'8", 245 pounds). 

    For the year, Benimon averaged 17.1 points per game, but that number could go up this season. Over his last eight games, he averaged 20.3 points, and Towson went 7-1 over that stretch. 

Javon McCrea, Buffalo

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    Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

    Former Duke guard Bobby Hurley is the new coach at Buffalo, and he'll get his chance to get his type of player in quickly, as Buffalo has five seniors. 

    This year, however, Hurley knows he should build his offense around Javon McCrea. The Buffalo big man averaged 18 points per game last year in an offense geared to get him the ball. He took nearly a third of Buffalo's shots, and when he didn't get the initial shot, he rebounded 13.6 percent of Buffalo's misses. 

    Hurley told Bleacher Report soon after he got the job that he wants to play fast. That could be one major change from last season, and more possessions should lead to even more opportunities for McCrea to get his points. 

Billy Baron, Canisius

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Billy Baron followed his dad from Rhode Island to Canisius and helped his old man jump-start the turnaround. The Golden Griffins went from 5-25 in the final year under Tom Parrotta to 20-14 in the first year under Jim Baron. 

    Billy is talented enough to play at a bigger school—he started at Virginia and had interest from Purdue when he decided to leave Rhode Island, according to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman—and that's typically a recipe for huge numbers at a small school. 

    Last season, Billy averaged 17.2 points and 5.0 assists. He might be too unselfish to win a scoring title, but the Golden Griffins graduated Harold Washington and Isaac Sosa, the only other two players to average double figures last season. That could force Billy to take on even more of the scoring. 

Augustine Rubit, South Alabama

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    USA TODAY Sports

    South Alabama big man Augustine Rubit averaged 19.4 points per game last year, but there is one reason to believe Rubit's average could drop this year.

    The Jaguars are now coached by former Butler assistant Matthew Graves, and Butler has been a program with typically balanced scoring. In Graves' 10 seasons as an assistant at Butler, the most anyone ever averaged was 18 points per game. 

    What the Butler guys like are advanced numbers, and Rubit's advanced numbers say that he's an efficient scorer who should be able to score in any system. Last year, Rubit drew 7.2 fouls per 40 minutes and shot a solid 79.5 percent at the line. He also was an elite rebounder, pulling down 14.7 percent of his team's misses.

    Graves will look at those numbers and realize it makes sense to feed the beast. 

Devon Saddler, Delaware

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Delaware senior guard Devon Saddler has put up big scoring numbers throughout his career (17.7 points per game), and he's the ultimate opportunity scorer.

    Saddler plays a lot of minutes (37.8 per game last year), takes a lot of shots (15.3 attempts per game last year) and gets to the free throw line often (5.2 fouls drawn per 40 minutes last season). Saddler has increased his average each year, and last season he averaged 19.9 points per game. 

Anthony Ireland, Loyola Marymount

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Anthony Ireland plays on one of those teams where he might as well shoot because the other options aren't very good. 

    Loyola Marymount won just one game in the WCC last year, and the one bright spot, if you want to call it that, is Ireland put up nice numbers, averaging 20.2 points per game. 

    Ireland played a ton of minutes (37.5 per game) and took nearly one-third of his team's shots.

    His team's struggles didn't seem to impact his numbers either. During a 14-game losing streak, he still averaged 20.5 points per game. 

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis

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    Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

    UC Davis guard Corey Hawkins is an efficient chucker. 

    It's rare to see "efficient" in front of "chucker," but Hawkins' shooting numbers were impressive in his first year at UC Davis, where he averaged 20.3 points per game. The former Arizona State guard made 40 percent of his threes, 50.8 percent of his twos and shot 84.2 percent at the free throw line.

    Hawkins' numbers were so good that he was in elite company. Other guards around the country with similar offensive ratings and usage numbers were Baylor's Pierre Jackson and Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, two guards who were drafted in the 2013 NBA Draft. 

Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Kyle Vinales nearly transferred this offseason, but then he realized he had a good thing going at Central Connecticut State. 

    What player would want to leave a place where he gets to play and shoot as much as he wants? 

    Last season, Vinales averaged 21.6 points in 38.2 minutes per game and took 32.3 percent of his team's shots. He had five games with 30 or more points with a season-high of 42 points in a loss at Wagner. 

Travis Bader, Oakland

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    Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Travis Bader is likely going to set an NCAA record for three-pointers next season so he might as well add a scoring title to his list of accomplishments.

    Bader has made 357 threes in his career and trails former Duke guard J.J. Redick for the NCAA record by 100 threes. Considering Bader made 139 last year and 124 as a sophomore, he should break the record barring an injury. 

    All those threes last year helped him on his way to fifth in the NCAA in scoring at 22.1 points per game.

    Bader plays in an uptempo system for a coach willing to ride a great scorer. Two years ago, former Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton led the NCAA in scoring at 26.2 points per game. 

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