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Inside the College Game | Nothing Special

Sat, 01/30/2010 - 12:48am
You either loved or hated Tyler Hansbrough.

You either wanted to break his nose again because you found his “Psycho T” personality and the inordinate amount of lust from adult male members of the media toward him to be revolting, or you loved his grit.

Either way, you felt something about Tyler Hansbrough.

You felt something about O.J. Mayo, too. He was either the centerfold of what's wrong with prep basketball, or a gem in a special, deep recruiting class that excited everyone. Derrick Rose and Kevin Love were the same way, though maybe a little bit easier to love.

And you loved Kevin Durant and hated Joakim Noah and felt like Greg Oden was an international man of mystery (which has been dubiously clarified this week). But you had to feel something.

I look at today's set of college basketball, and I don't really feel much of anything. Sure, I have a ton of respect for Evan Turner and his deft ability to run the point for a team that still seems to not realize how good it could be. I'm impressed with Scottie Reynolds' dramatic improvements this year, from inefficient combo guard to true leader. And I guess I like Kalin Lucas, when he's not in Tom Izzo's doghouse.

But thanks to a mass exodus of interesting stories to the NBA, college basketball is mired in a season fated to be forgotten by all but those who root openly for the team that wins on April 5 in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Coaches are the stories this year – most notably John Calipari. But coaches are around every year. After all, when is USC not committing some violation in some sport? When is Bo Ryan not leading a team of scrappy underachievers?

There's not a whole lot to take from college basketball this year. John Wall's a pretty impressive player, but one-and-done's are getting to be so regular that, to be memorable, you're going to have to put up stats like Durant and Michael Beasley or dominate down the stretch like Rose and Carmelo Anthony.

Maybe Wall can do it. Maybe not. He's the top pick either way, but is he memorable as a college player? I'm not buying it.

John Wall and DeMarcus CousinsJohn Wall and DeMarcus CousinsThis isn't to disuade you from watching college basketball. There have been some really good games this year. There's also always the chance that something happens that turns the tide. Let's not forget 2006 was pretty unremarkable entering February. Then Noah and Florida got hot, and George Mason pulled off a string of stunning wins unlike any team in tournament history.

I'll always remember the 2005-06 college basketball season. Will I remember 2009-10? I'm not counting on it. But I'm going to watch, wait and see.

Diapers, sure. But where's the dandy?

Part of the problem this season is, Wall has been an exception. The cream of this year's freshman crop has been disappointing at a level unseen in recent seasons.

The end of prep-to-pro draft entrants was supposed to bring an annual cycle of star-ready freshman into college basketball, and for the most part, it did just that for three years. In the fourth year since the rule was in place, there's been a conspicuous drop off.

Before the season started, NBADraft.net created its annual incoming freshman consensus rankings. The methodology is to come up with an agreed upon ranking system using top high school scouts who run Rivals, Scout, Hoops Masters and HoopScoopOnline. The idea being that, while sometimes these guys are wrong, they should ideally not all end up wrong.

Well, the top 25 players from that list have played in a combined 460 games and scored 3780 points. Sound impressive? What it means is the average top-25 freshman is putting up 8.22 points per game this season.
 
To give that number some context, the Rivals' top 25 players 2007-08 freshman class, which, granted, was an exceptional one by all measures, posted a per-player, per-game average of 14.63. As you're about to see, that's higher than all but three players (Wall, teammate DeMarcus Cousins and Florida's Kenny Boynton) in this entire top 25.

Check out this chart for the full breakdown:


Player Games Points PPG
1.
Derrick Favors 6-9 235 PF Georgia Tech 20 233 11.65
2.
John Wall 6-4 182 PG Kentucky 19 325 17.11
3.
DeMarcus Cousins 6-10 250 PF Kentucky 20 319 15.95
4.
Avery Bradley 6-3 180 SG Texas 20 248 12.40
5.
John Henson 6-10 185 PF UNC 20 61 3.05
6.
Xavier Henry 6-6 220 SG Kansas 20 281 14.05
7.
Lance Stephenson 6-5 210 SG Cincinnati 19 231 12.16
8.
Kenny Boynton 6-2 190 PG/SG Florida 20 299 14.95
9.
Renardo Sidney 6-10 270 PF Mississippi St. 0 0 N/A
10.
Abdul Gaddy 6-3 180 PG Washington 20 97 4.85
11.
Michael Snaer 6-4 185 SG Florida St. 20 169 8.45
12.
Keith Gallon 6-8 280 PF Oklahoma 20 216 10.8
13.
Jordan Hamilton 6-7 208 SG/SF Texas 20 178 8.90
14.
Mouphtaou Yarou 6-9 210 PF Villanova 9 30 3.33
15.
Dante Taylor 6-8 220 SF/PF Pittsburgh 20 97 4.85
16.
Ryan Kelly 6-10 220 PF Duke 19 33 1.74
17.
Daniel Orton 6-10 240 PF Kentucky 20 72 3.6
18.
Alex Oriakhi 6-8 230 PF UConn 20 106 5.3
19.
Wally Judge 6-9 220 PF Kansas St. 20 68 3.4
20.
Milton Jennings 6-9 200 SF Clemson 21 75 3.57
21.
Dominic Cheek 6-6 180 SG Villanova 20 105 5.25 
22.
Maalik Wayns 6-1 190 PG Villanova 20 173  8.65 
23.
Tyler Honeycutt 6-7 185 SF UCLA 14 80  5.71 
24.
Durand Scott 6-4 185 SG Miami 20 167  8.35 
25.
Dexter Strickland 6-3 175 SG North Carolina 19 117  6.16 

Total 460 3780 8.22

With that said, it's worth noting that many freshmen are making big impacts who weren't on this list. It's impossible to make a full list, but some that have stood out are Colorado's Alec Burks, La Salle's Aaric Murray, Gonzaga's Elias Harris and Marshall's Hassan Whiteside, who you've gotten a full dose of from this site in the last two weeks.

But more important in the grand scheme of things are the freshmen who are starting to come on or could play key roles for a team in the NCAA Tournament. Let's take a look at five freshmen who haven't necessarily been great so far, but should have big impact as the year continues.

Five to Watch:

John JenkinsJohn JenkinsPlayer: John Jenkins
School: Vanderbilt (16-3, 5-0 SEC)
Statistics: 20.7 mpg, 10.8 ppg, 48.9 3-point percentage
Outlook: Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, is a 3-point specialist right now, but he's developing a rounded game as he goes. He averaged 42.3 points per game as a high school senior, simply gunning his team through games. In college, he started slow. But in the last 10 games, Jenkins has averaged 13 points per game and given Vanderbilt a big kick as it continues its undefeated run through weak SEC competition. If he can continue to improve as the season progresses, Jenkins could be a perfect compliment to slasher Jeffrey Taylor, center A.J. Ogilvy and point guard Jermaine Beal.

Player: D.J. Richardson
School: Illinois (13-8, 5-3 Big Ten)
Statistics: 29.5 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 44.6 3-point percentage
Outlook: Though he's living in the shadow of teammate and point guard Demetri McCarney, Richardson may be the best prospect on the Illini. He's playing off-ball because of McCarney, but Richardson has the ability to play point guard deftly. He's a very intuitive player who played alongside Bradley and high school senior Cory Joseph, both top-10 recruits as ball-dominant guards, at Findlay Prep. As a result, he learned how to maximize what he does with limited touches. It's exciting to think he and fellow freshman Brandon Paul, a shooting guard, will get to develop together.

Player: Brian Oliver
School: Georgia Tech (15-5, 4-3 ACC)
Statistics: 15.3 mpg, 7.5 ppg, 40.9 3-point percentage
Outlook: Fellow freshmen teammates Favors and Mfon Udofia are more in the spotlight, but both have fallen short of expectations. Oliver, a 6-foot-6 forward, was rather unheralded, but he was a good all-around player in high school who could rebound and defend well for his position. He's also a knock-down 3-point shooter, the only player on the Yellow Jackets' roster that can say that. For that reason, he needs to get more playing time. Good news lately: He scored 20 points in a two-point loss at Florida State then 13 in a big win against Wake Forest. Maybe Paul Hewitt can wake up now.

Player: Brandon Triche
School: Syracuse (20-1, 7-1 Big East)
Statistics: 22.3 mpg, 10 ppg, 3.2 apg, 1 spg
Outlook: So far this season, Triche has been coach Jim Boeheim's secondary point guard when the game is on the line. But the 6-foot-4 starter is clearly a more talented player than Scoop Jardine, and it would be a shame if he didn't end up winning the job in the end. Triche was naturally a wing, but his conversion to point guard has been smooth. His shooting ability and size make him a very tough matchup as a lead guard, and while he's still not a natural playmaker, he works well in Syracuse's system, which calls for a lot of passing.

Player: Jordan Williams
School: Maryland (14-5, 4-1 ACC)
Statistics: 21.8 mpg, 7.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1 bpg
Outlook: Williams comes from Connecticut, where he simply dominated the competition with his size. But he's already emerged to the point where senior Greivis Vasquez is calling him the best big man he's played with. Williams has soft hands and a 6-foot-9, 245-pound frame that was made to bang. He's surprisingly agile around the basket and seems to be learning more about his game as he plays. In two years, he'll be among the ACC's best players, but right now, he's a key for a Terrapin squad that boasts a lot of experience around him.

Game Notes:

It's incredible to think of the impact Bob Huggins managed to leave in one season at Kansas State. Don't forget that Jacob Pullen and Dominique Sutton were both his recruits, and Frank Martin was his top assistant. Huggins is largely responsible for planting the seeds in Kansas State that have led to a top-10 team. … It was only a matter of time before Tennessee fell back to earth, but the short-handed efforts of a team aptly named the Volunteers are worthy of recognition. Great job by Bruce Pearl in the aftermath of three players facing suspension and one, Tyler Smith, the team's second-best player, being kicked out. … Aubrey Coleman is playing himself into the NBA Draft, but Houston isn't winning in a tough Conference-USA. … There's no question the Mountain West is a three-bid conference unless Brigham Young, UNLV or New Mexico experiences a meltdown. … North Carolina will make the NCAA Tournament, but they better find a point guard or they'll be stuck with a horrible seed. Larry Drew II is not the answer. … As always, you can contact me at [email protected] with comments, questions or suggestions. Thanks for reading.
LeroyJenkins
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season is pretty good in my opinion

maybe since every top ranked freshman isnt a lottery pick makes it boring for some

Slim
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these "diaper dandies" are

these "diaper dandies" are really all sophomores age-wise

I am not impressed by any freshman.

Bradley is aight tho he's the only "true" freshman I would say

JNixon
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Very true that Bob Huggins

Very true that Bob Huggins is responsible for some of the players we have now at K-State..But Martin has gotten the vast majority of our impact players besides Pullen and Sutton.

Newblazersfan
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Abdul Gaddy

He's the age of a high school senior - turned 18 about two weeks ago. There's no calling him too old.

Adi Joseph
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Just made an addition to the

Just made an addition to the column. I went through and calculated the average points per game of any top 25 freshma from Rivals' list entering the 2007-08 season. The totals: In 804 games played, the group had 11,761 points. That's an average of 14.63 points per game for any top 25 player in that year's rankings.

Averaging more than 15 points per game were: Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Bill Walker (who, maybe, you could say shouldn't count, granted -- he didn't help the average that much though), Donte Greene, James Harden, Anthony Randolph, Jerryd Bayless, Nick Calathes, Patrick Patterson and Jonny Flynn. The only players under five points per game were projects Jamelle Horne and Solomon Alabi.

Still, there's plenty of time to turn it around.

arc1212
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how about

JP kuhlman for davidson
i think he's averaging double figures
although it is the southern conference

Adi Joseph
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The idea was players who
The idea was players who will likely be playing in the NCAA Tournament. Kuhlman is a very good player who could be Davidson's new steal, though.
camd017
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under the radar

what about Arizona's Derrick Williams? He is averaging 16 points and 7.2 reb. a game. Yet, he gets no publicity because of the lack of respect the pac-10 is getting this year.

camd017
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would have been better off

would have been better off sticking with his orriginal commitment at Arizona.

UofAxWildcats
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Burks

man i played against alec burks in high school,,,,i didnt think that he could be projected a top pick like that in 2011,,,he deffinately needs to improve his jump shot

Adi Joseph
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Burks' jumper is definitely

Burks' jumper is definitely a question.

As far as Williams, I'm a big fan. But I'm not sure Arizona has much of a shot of making the NCAA Tournament unless they pull off the Pac-10 Tournament. 

Shwiggydog
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MWC

Hey, take a look at Tyler Haws of Brigham Young University. Freshman, posts 11.8 ppg and 4.7 rpg. Great player with a bright future.

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