With less than one month to go until the season returns, I'm looking ahead to the sophomores who can have the biggest impact in DI men's college basketball this year. This is not necessarily a best-of list; instead these are the most vital to their teams' success.
1. DaRon Holmes II, Dayton: Holmes was one of the best freshmen in the country last season who didn’t get the necessary pub. He should receive it this season as the Flyers are the team to beat in the A-10.
2. Malachi Smith, Dayton: See above. If Dayton reaches its potential this season then the combination of Holmes II and Smith will need to be elite.
3. Tucker DeVries, Drake: Coach Darren DeVries’ best player may be his son Tucker. Drake has weathered the transfer portal and put together a Missouri Valley title contender and a team that could win a game or two in March behind Tucker.
4. Tyrese Hunter, Texas: The Big 12’s freshman of the year at Iowa State is now in Austin where he will team up with Marcus Carr and help Chris Beard compete for a league title.
5. Chucky Hepburn, Wisconsin: Hepburn was one of the most valued players in the Big Ten last season. He will take on an even larger role for Greg Gard this season without Johnny Davis. He won’t just be a playmaker, but rather a shot maker.
6. Daimion Collins, Kentucky: The Wildcats need a breakout season from Collins. They should get one. And if it happens, Kentucky could reach its potential.
7. Ryan Nembhard, Creighton: Nembhard is healthy after a wrist injury sidelined him last season. He should be one of the best playmakers in the Big East on a team that was picked to win the league.
8. Jordan Hawkins, UConn: The Huskies’ coaching staff have praised Hawkins as the future for over a year. The future is now. Hawkins is ready to deliver.
9. Terquavion Smith, NC State: Smith is a stat-stuffer. If the Wolfpack are to have any chance of being in the postseason then Smith will need to be an All-ACC first-team player.
10. Jalen Cook, Tulane: The Green Wave are a trendy pick to challenge Memphis for second place behind Houston in the American. If that happens it will be because Cook was on fire for most of the season.
11. Harrison Ingram, Stanford: Ingram had the goods to turn pro but decided to stay put. He can do so much more than rebound. If he does, the Cardinal have a shot to move up considerably in the Pac-12.