Will Max Abmas repeat as College Basketball’s scoring champ?

Can anyone dethrone March Madness superstar Max Abmas as the nation’s leading scorer? Abmas finished last season, averaging 24.7 points, slightly ahead of National player of the year Luka Garza and Detroit’s Antoine Davis. Numerous players could find themselves in the mix to score the country early to the next season. The odds are against Oral Roberts star guard as only two players this century repeated their country leading scoring season with another one — those being Reggie Williams (VMI) and Keydren Clark (St Peter’s). Nobody’s repeated their crown since 2007-08 when Williams did it.

Most likely candidates:

Antoine Davis, Guard, Detroit Mercy

2020-21 stats: 24.8 PPG

In his three seasons playing for the Titans, Davis proves on a nightly basis why he’s one of the nation’s prominent scorers, averaging over 24 PPG each of his seasons. Davis is only 250 points behind the program’s all-time scoring record, currently held at 2,319 points for a career. Detroit shoots take nearly half of their shots from beyond-the-arc, with a good amount coming from Davis. In addition to the high-volume shooting from deep, Davis consistently gets to the charity stripe, where the 6-2 guard shoots 89 percent. If anybody is “most likely” to lead the league in scoring that isn’t Abmas, odds are it’ll be Detroit Mercy’s, Antoine Davis. 

Taevion Kinsey, Marshall

2020-21 stats: 19.5 PPG

Kinsey came in the top-20 in my top-100 mid-major players’ list for a good reason. Last season, the freakishly athletic wing showed an improved jump shot, nailing 41 percent of his deep shots on limited attempts. In the rampant-paced offense of Dan D’Antoni, points will always be there, but if Kinsey takes closer to 4 or 5 three’s per-game while hitting on the same efficiency, there’s a legitimate chance. he averages in the 22+ point range. It’s not just beneficial that Kinsey shows shooting ability for the Thundering Herd, but it’ll vastly improve his NBA prospects. 

Peter Kiss Guard, Bryant

2020-21 stats: 16.6 PPG

Jared Grasso’s Bulldogs played the sixth quickest tempo in the nation last season, which stifled the Northeast conference throughout conference play. Bryant ran up and down the floor, en route to leading the conference in scoring by a sizeable margin. The teams’ top-two scorers finished with 16 points, Kiss being one, outgoing guard Michael Green the other — as Green leaves the team that’ll open up a bigger scoring role for Kiss this season. If the tempo continues being top-ten in the country, while Kiss continues as the focal point for Bryant, it’s reasonable to see a jump in scoring for the senior. 

Jalen Cone Guard, Northern Arizona

2020-21 stats: 9.2 PPG at Virginia Tech

Cone kicked off his career at Virginia Tech after reclassifying him into the 2019 recruiting class. Labeled as a top shooter in the class, Cone showed off his capabilities from outside by tricking in 45 percent of his three-pointers in 2019-20, which ranked fourth in the country, slightly above Villanova standout Saddiq Bey. Cone transferred after an injury-riddled sophomore season; despite receiving interest from several high-major schools, he chose an unconventional path. The Walkertown, NC native travels nearly 2,000 miles away to Flagstaff, Arizona. The spot left behind by 19 PPG scorer Cam Shelton, who left for Loyola Marymount, opens an opportunity for Cone to become a top scorer in the country. Coach Burcar’s Lumberjacks play a deliberate pact with less than 35% of their shots coming from outside–that could change this season with a sharpshooting guard running the show.

Jaden Ivey, Purdue

2020-21 stats: 11.1 PPG

Typically, only a couple of high-major players find themselves in the top ten in scoring because of how well-rounded many teams are, you’ll see Markus Howard, Myles Powell in the mix, but those teams never contended for a title. For Purdue’s rising guard, seeing him blossom into a top-ten scorer in the country is possible. In Purdue’s final seven games last season, Ivey averaged 15.5 points. When accounting for improved areas of his game, it’s reasonable to see a 20-point-per-game player. The precise area of improvement is finding consistency from the perimeter — there’s no question that Ivey can nail them, but 25 percent from deep isn’t his ceiling by a longshot. The Boilermakers have another All-American candidate in Trevion Williams, who could limit Ivey’s volume.

Drew Timme, Gonzaga

2020-21 stats: 19 PPG

Timme made noise from the opening tip last season, compiling 25 points against Kansas. In 16 of Gonzaga’s 32 games, Timme scored 20+ points, including a much-needed 28 points outburst against UCLA in the final four. There’s no question that Timme will thrive next season. However, Timme only played in the 30-minute range six times during conference play. Gonzaga will be stronger than ever on paper this season if the Zags continue dismantling the bottom-barrel WCC team that limits the preseason National Player of the year’s scoring ceiling. Timme’s footwork, ball-handling make defending him a nightmare; considering the skill around him, it’s unwise to double-team him. That all plays into account when evaluating what the preseason player of the year could do. Gonzaga will look different as both Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert depart that could allow Timme’s overall production to flourish. 

Rayshon Harrison, Presbyterian

2020-21 stats: 17.3 PPG

 Rayshon Harrison was one of four players averaging over 17 points as a freshman last season. Harrison only had a 27.8 usage rate last season, a number that’ll only get larger throughout his college career. Putting up that many points during your first college season in a year where no summer workouts took place shows how good Harrison could become down the line. There’s no doubt the 6-foot-4 Point guard is a premier scorer in college basketball. 

Under-the-radar candidates:

Quincy Olivari, Rice

2020-21 stats: 16.3 PPG

The Owls program now dubbed “Green Light U” for their love of letting players take three-point shots, which fits after consistently being a top-three team in attempts from outside per season. Olivari shot 40 percent from deep on 7.7 attempts per game during his sophomore season. When you’re part of a scheme that encourages frequent three-point shooting, and you’re an elite shooter, there isn’t much of a ceiling to an individual’s scoring. 

Jomaru Brown, Eastern Kentucky

Played 4 games in 2020-21

Brown led Eastern Kentucky scoring-wise in 2019-20 with an impressive 18.4 PPG; however, injuries limited Brown to three games last season, which aided in the emergence of Wendell Green, who transferred to Auburn. AW Hamilton teams run rampant, finishing top six in adjusted tempo in his three seasons since being poached from NC State. If Brown finds his form after the season-ending injury, he could be the top scorer in the Ohio Valley.

Jesse Zarzuela, Coppin State

If I had a category below “under the radar,” I would place Zarzuela in that dictation. It’s improbable this comes to fruition, but Coppin State played the fastest tempo last season, and Juan Dixon-coached teams take no shortage of threes. Zarzuela displays Max Abmas type range, including skilled shot creation in general, not just from the perimeter. The Eagles don’t have a tournament team, but Zarzuela’s scoring could wind up translating to D1 hoops. In a truncated 11 game season for Missouri-State West Plains, the incoming Coppin State guard drilled 54 percent (46-85) on three-point field goals. 

Conclusion:

The top-two contenders are Antoine Davis and reigning scoring champ Max Abmas without question. Anything can happen. I mean, who thought Abmas would go from 14 points to 24 points? An offseason of improvement goes a long way. The race for the country’s top scorer is always fun to monitor.

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