If you followed college basketball closely last year, you knew who these guys were. If all goes according to plan in 2018-19, they could become household names.
Here is NCAA.com’s all-sleeper team:
C Bruno Fernando, Maryland
Fernando is a physical freak who should see more playing time this season. As a freshman, he averaged 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 22.4 minutes per night. That equates to 18.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes.Fernando has the talent to become college basketball’s version of Deandre Jordan – a large, strong human that blocks, dunks, or rebounds (and sometimes two of those things at once). His problem as a freshman was that he didn’t always know where to be, and he fouled too often.
That said, Fernando still probably deserved more minutes than he got as a freshman. He should play more in Year 2. While there’s reason to be optimistic about his jump shot (he made 74 percent of his free throws), Fernando is the rare center who creates floor spacing based solely on his magnetic interior presence. He’s such a scary lob threat that defenders who’d rather be hugging shooters have no choice but to collapse; even in the 3-point revolution, dunks are the most efficient shot in basketball.
And, yeah Fernando knows how to dunk.
On defense, he’s a stout, explosive rim protector who has the physical tools to contain ball handlers in pick-and-roll situations. Fernando’s technique needs to improve in that area, and Maryland would prefer him to wreak havoc around the hoop anyway. But if he improves this offseason, you’ll be hearing Fernando’s name quite a bit.
F/C Chase Jeter, Arizona
Arizona’s 2017-18 roster is pretty much gutted, and somebody is going to need to take the shots and snare the rebounds for the Wildcats.
Jeter will have a bigger role at Arizona than he had at Duke. He has the potential to become Fernando-lite but hasn’t accomplished as much to date; he generally looked lost for the Blue Devils on both ends.
But few 6-10, 240-pounders can move and explode like Jeter can. He has the ability to overwhelm foes with his strength and athleticism.
At Duke, his skillset lagged far behind his physical tools. A year of observing and developing should help him there, and while Arizona figures to slip in 2018-19, this is an ideal situation for Jeter to flourish and find his game. Expectations are low in Tucson. If Sean Miller lets him play through mistakes, Jeter has the goods to become an impact player by the time Pac-12 play rolls around.
F Oshae Brissett, Syracuse
Brissett was a bit of a mixed bag as a freshman. A plus athlete at 6-8, he was one of the only players on Syracuse who could create a decent shot. He averaged 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Brissett is exactly the kind of player who works in Jim Boeheim’s zone – long and active, with a motor that runs high.
With all of that said, it’s hard to get past the fact that he shot 35 percent from the floor, making him one of the least efficient players in the country.
But college players generally become more efficient over time, and he was often asked to bail Syracuse out of less-than-ideal shot clock situations. Brissett made 33 percent of his 3s on a high number attempts as a freshman, which isn’t great, but is respectable. Get that number up to 36 percent, and the Orange will welcome him to fire.
He’s just so active, and is the kind of guy who gives your team more possessions based on sheer hustle and explosiveness. Brissett was a key reason why Syracuse went further than anyone expected in the tournament. Don’t be shocked if he averages close to a double-double this season. If he can crack 40 percent from the field, Brissett does so many other things that he'll have a huge impact on winning.
G Phil Booth, Villanova
Booth is easily the most recognizable player on this team, but his role figures to change in 2018-19.
He was the perfect fifth starter on Villanova’s national championship squad – Booth rarely botches a defensive assignment, can attack scrambled defenses, and is a good shooter. But he’ll need to do more as a senior with all of the Wildcats that left.
Booth isn’t a great athlete, but he can do a little bit of everything on offense. He hit a sizzling 38 percent of his 3s last year and averaged 10 points per game. He didn’t run pick-and-rolls too often but showed nice playmaking chops when he did; with Jalen Brunson off to the NBA, expect Booth to be the primary initiator far more often in his final college season.
He’ll share that load with incoming freshman Jahvon Quinerly, but returning Villanova players have a way of making sizable jumps in between seasons. Booth is already good, but Jay Wright and his staff have a track record of helping good players develop into great ones.
With more opportunities, it’s not out of the question that Booth averages 20 points per game this season.
G Ky Bowman, Boston College
Boston College had the most sneaky-fun backcourt in the country last season, led by Bowman and lottery pick Jerome Robinson. Bowman already posted big numbers as a sophomore – he averaged 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists – but with Robinson gone and another year to develop, Bowman should go off.
He’s an absolute savant in ball screens. Bowman went for 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists against Duke last season; he’s essentially responsible for starting the “Marvin Bagley can’t guard on the perimeter” narrative.
Bowman shot 36 percent from 3 last season, but that clip doesn’t do him justice. He’s one of the best pull-up 3-point shooters in the country, which is an extremely difficult shot. But a willingness to jack them can have lasting positive effects on an offense. Defenses must guard every inch of the court against Bowman, which opens up opportunities for himself and teammates.
Bowman also shot 45 percent from 3 as a freshman, so perhaps he can land in the middle as a junior. He’s already a three-dimensional scorer; with Robinson gone, Bowman could approach 25 points per game.
Of course, Boston College fans hope a big season from Bowman translates to winning. We’ll see. Regardless, look for this explosive point guard to put on a show in 2018-19.