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Predicting 2016-17 Mountain West basketball stat leaders

A number of MW talents are now in the pros, so who will fill up the stat sheets this season in the Mountain West?

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Wyoming Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

There is a significant amount of roster turnover this upcoming season for the Mountain West. Superstars Josh Adams, James Webb III, Marqueze Coleman and Winston Shepard have all moved on, which means we will see a number of lesser-known players filling up the stat sheets this year. Take a look at which players should lead the conference in various statistical categories.

Points Per Game

2015-16 leader: Josh Adams, Wyoming, 24.2 PPG

2016-17 predicted leader: Elijah Brown, New Mexico

This should be a two-way race, similar to how it went down last year between Wyoming’s Josh Adams and Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris. This season it should be an intriguing battle between New Mexico’s Elijah Brown (21.7 PPG last season) and Wyoming’s Jason McManamen (14.4. PPG last season). Brown is, without a doubt, the best go-to scorer in the conference, logging six games of more than 30 points in 2016, including a 41-point outburst against Fresno State in late February.

Rebounds Per Game

2015-16 leader: James Webb III, Boise State, 9.1 RPG

2016-17 predicted leader: Cameron Oliver, Nevada

UNR’s Cameron Oliver is ready for the spotlight. With Boise State’s James Webb (9.1 RPG) and UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman (8.7 RPG) now in the pros, Oliver (9.1 RPG) stands alone as the purest rebounder in the league. Oliver had an impressive 22.5% rebound percentage last season, good enough for 98th in the country. This defensive rebounding effort allowed Oliver to grab 33 more defensive boards than any other player in the MW. Expect more dominance this season.

Assists Per Game

2015-16 leader: Marvelle Harris, Fresno State, 4.5 APG

2016-17 predicted leader: C.J. Siples, Air Force

This is an interesting one. Each of the top eight players in assists per game last season from the Mountain West are gone, making this category a complete crapshoot. I’m going with a dark horse, Air Force guard C.J. Siples, who averaged a modest 2.2 assists per game last year. Siples has a number of scorers around him, including Zach Kocur (57 made 3-pointers), Trevor Lyons (12.7 PPG), Hayden Graham (13.8 PPG) and Jacob Van, who shined down the stretch for the Academy.

Steals Per Game

2015-16 leader: Patrick McCaw, UNLV, 2.5 SPG

2016-17 predicted leader: Cullen Russo, Fresno State

With the top two MW thieves gone, there will also be a new steal king in 2016-17. Fresno’s Cullen Russo is the returning leader at 1.8 steals a night, and also finished 22nd in the country in steal percentage at 4.0%. The athletic wing should also see his minutes increase as a senior, especially with the graduation of do-it-all player of the year Marvelle Harris.

Blocks Per Game

2015-16 leader: Cameron Oliver, Nevada, 2.6 BPG

2016-17 predicted leader: Cameron Oliver, Nevada

This was one of the easiest predictions on the list. Oliver dominated the Mountain West last season in the blocking category, and no other returning player averaged more than 1.6 per game. I’d be shocked if anyone finishes within 0.5 blocks per game of Oliver. If you are looking for an upset, it’s possible that UNLV freshman Cheickna Dembele (a 6-10, 235-pound center for Mali) could provide a number of highlight rejections, but he is still fairly raw and may need to fight for significant playing time.

Minutes Per Game

2015-16 leader: Marvelle Harris, Fresno State, 36.7 MPG

2016-17 predicted leader: Jason McManamen, Wyoming

It’s a one-man show yet again in Laramie. This year, Jason McManamen is the featured star. The Cowboys will be in rebuild mode for at least this season, but it shouldn’t stop one of the silkiest shooters in the Mountain West. Wyoming will heavily lean on McManamen throughout the course of the season, so it only makes sense that he will be on the court more than any other player in the league.

2-Point Field Goal Percentage

2015-16 leader: Derrick Jones Jr., UNLV, 67.2%

2016-17 predicted leader: Tim Williams, New Mexico

Traditionally forwards and centers always lead in two-point field goal percentage, but swing man Derrick Jones Jr. posted a remarkable two-of-three shooting percentage last year at 67.2%. This year, the stat should be heavily dominated by the bigger guys in the league. New Mexico’s Tim Williams was fifth in the MW last season with a 60.4% mark, but it’s his teammate that should be the reason why Williams will be the most efficient scorer in the league. Opposing teams will be determined to lock down prolific scorer Elijah Brown, which should open up ample opportunities near the basket for Williams.

3-Point Field Goal Percentage

2015-16 leader: Jason McManamen, Wyoming, 44.7%

2016-17 predicted leader: Jason McManamen, Wyoming

Elijah Brown and Boise State’s Nick Duncan could be in the running, but Jason McManamen should have no problem recording the best 3-point field goal percentage in the Mountain West. He is a very efficient scorer (117.6 offensive rating), and also a volume shooter (tied for second in the MW in made 3-pointers). However, if Wyoming becomes too reliant on McManamen’s scoring, we could see his numbers start to dip considerably.

Free Throw Percentage

2015-16 leader: John Gillon, Colorado State, 87.9%

2016-17 predicted leader: Elijah Brown, New Mexico

There is no player in the Mountain West (maybe even the country) that has the knack for drawing fouls like New Mexico’s Elijah Brown. Sure, some may call it flopping from time to time, but his ability to fool defenders in order to get to the foul line is a true skill. Not only does Brown attempt so many free throws, he also connects, finishing third in the MW in free throw percentage last year at 85.1%. Nevada senior guard D.J. Fenner, who knocked down 85.5% of his freebies last season, is the only realistic threat to Brown.