As always, the rankings are cumulative, so these are the 10 best freshmen in the country this year. If you have any problems with these guys or feel someone got left off, e-mail me and I will notify the player you are bashing and tell him where to contact you.
1. Kevin Durant, Texas - Orginally, it looked like Durant would just be keeping this spot warm until Oden got back to full strength. Doesn’t seem like he’s ready to budge quite yet. I agree with Andy Katz that he eventually needs to play inside more instead of settling for jumpers, but while he’s in college, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to bang in the post. Generally the other team’s center is guarding him and he can catch the ball on the perimeter and get any shot he wants with his quickness. The matchup next week with LSU and Big Baby Davis should be interesting. I bet Durant gets the better of him (although LSU will win).
Stats- 23.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.4 bpg, 1.4 spg, 3.4 TO, 47.3 FG%, 93 FT%, 45.2 3-PT%
Freshman perk - His friends are pushing really hard to get a house off-campus next year, no matter what off-campus NBA city it’s in.
2. Chase Budinger, Arizona - I wasn’t that sold on Budinger before, because I didn’t think he excelled at any one thing. But after watching him against Illinois and especially against Louisville, I realized there really isn’t anything he doesn’t do well. He’s the best passer (better than Shakur), the best shooter (better than Radenovic) and probably the best athlete (better than the hugely disappointing Marcus Williams) on that Arizona team. Although I watched the Louisville game with the sound off (I tend to do that when I sense Dickie V at the beginning of the broadcast), I’m sure my assessment that he was scintillating was confirmed.
Stats- 19.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 0.6 bpg, 0.4 spg, 1.3 TO, 59.1 FG%, 80 FT%, 38.7 3-PT%
Freshman perk- While in New York this week, he and David Lee of the Knicks had a hotly contested audition for the lead role in White Men Can’t Jump 2.
3. Greg Oden, Ohio State - He would’ve been knocked off the list if he didn’t come back from injury because this is supposed to be based on each player’s performance this year but that one game was good enough for third. It hurts to put an enormous man who might be the next great big man in the NBA behind a kid who looks like Napoleon Dynamite, but Oden still isn’t full strength. In just 23 minutes, Oden went to the foul line 15 times. Granted it was against Valpo but there are some teams in the Big Ten that aren’t much better than Valpo. He’s going to absolutely dominate when league play starts.
Stats- 14 ppg, 10 rpg, 5 bpg, 3 TO, 75 FG%, 8-15 FTs
Freshman perk- They already have his table set up in the Madison Square Garden green room.
4. Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech - He doesn’t have the better stats than some of the players below him on this list, but he could be the most talented freshman in the ACC this year. He didn’t play well against Memphis and UCLA but I’m more impressed with the guards on those teams than I’ve been with any guards in the ACC. It scares me what he’ll do to Greg Paulus, I’d have a leg brace ready if I were the Duke bench.
Stats- 14.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 2.3 spg, 4.0 TO, 47.3 FG%, 76.5 FT%, 47.4 3-PT%
Freshman perk- The comparisons to Stephon Marbury are so profound, Isiah Thomas offered Paul Hewitt four 1st- round picks just out of habit.
5. Darrell Arthur, Kansas - Despite playing only 16 minutes against Florida he was the player of the game with 19 points and more aggressive play than anyone else on the court. I didn’t really know anything about him before that game but that’s arguably the best performance by a freshman in a big game this season. Since then he’s struggled a bit but Bill Self has to get him off the bench, he’s only averaging 21 minutes per game. I always thought you want to play your leading scorer as much as possible but then again, I’m not a coach.
Stats- 14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.2 apg, 2.1 bpg, 1.2 spg, 1.6 TO, 62.2 FG%, 79.4 FT%
Freshman perk- His roommates switched his toothpaste to Crest so he wouldn’t be reminded of the Jayhawks embarrassing loss to Oral Roberts earlier this season.
6. Tajuan Porter, Oregon - He’s slowed down some after starting the season on a Boykins-esque tear but the numbers say he’s got to be on the list. Despite a poor night, the Ducks were able to win at Georgetown so, unlike some of the players on this list, he’s not the go-to guy necessarily for his team. The assist to turnover ratio is terrible for someone who is supposed to be a point guard, but he’s still changing Oregon basketball.
Stats- 21.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 4.2 TO, 43.5 FG%, 95.7 FT%, 50.9 3-PT%
Freshman perk- Unlike high school, there are no lockers to get stuffed into.
7. Brandan Wright, North Carolina - Another guy who is playing well in big games, most notably 21 and 13 against Gonzaga and 19 and 8 against Tennessee. He’s definitely benefiting from the crazy attention teams are giving Tyler Hansbrough but being able to capitalize on those opportunities is going to make Carolina tough to beat this year. He’s more athletic than Hansbrough and could have a bigger impact on the defensive end in ACC play.
Stats- 15.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.0 bpg, 1.6 TO, 62.5 FG%, 55.6 FT%
Freshman perk- When he goes to parties with Tyler Hansbrough he gets a lot of touches when Hansbrough is double-teamed by the ladies.
8. Daequan Cook, Ohio State - Not a lot of people know about Cook because of Oden and fellow freshman Mike Conley but he might be the Buckeyes best player so far this year. He’s shown an ability to go inside and outside which will provide Thad Matta some flexibility as Oden gets more involved.
Stats- 17.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 bpg, 1.3 spg, 2.0 TO, 57.3 FG%, 68.4 FT%, 51.4 3-PT%
Freshman perk- He was given Lawrence North High School hoodies and sweatpants so people would start noticing him.
9. Paul Harris, Syracuse - He was in danger of dropping off the list until the last seven minutes of the game against Oklahoma State. Harris not only showed his explosiveness, but showed he can be a guy who wins games for the Orange. Once he finds his jumper and some consistency on a very inconsistent Syracuse squad, he’ll be the odds-on favorite for Big East Freshman of the Year.
Stats- 12.3 ppg, 6.9 bpg, 2.1 apg, 0.8 bpg, 1.6 spg, 2.3 TO, 50.0 FG%, 66.7 FT%, 1-13 3-PTs
Freshman perk- Unlike another Syracuse freshman phenom, he won’t have to worry about being called overrated in his senior year.
10. Ryan Anderson, California - Since he plays in the Pac-10 I feel like it’s okay to not know anything about him, and I don’t. He hasn’t been below 13 points or five rebounds all year and did a decent job in a match-up with Nick Fazekas, even though the Bears lost. Like Porter, it seems improbable that a guy who wasn’t a big-name recruit will continue this success, but for now I bet Cal is pretty pleased.
Stats- 18.3 ppg, 7.9 bpg, 0.6 apg, 1.0 bpg, 0.6 spg, 50.9 FG%, 85.7 FT%, 44.7 3-PT%
Freshman perk- When his roommate found out Anderson was on the basketball team he offered him his Oreos even though he, like, totally paid for them himself.
Heading out- Derrick Caracter, Louisville; Spencer Hawes, Washington; Mike Conley, Ohio State
Honorable mention- Quincy Pondexter, Washington; Wayne Ellington, UNC; Ty Lawson, UNC; Gerald Henderson, Duke; Jon Scheyer, Duke; Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech; D.J. Augustin, Texas; Robin Lopez, Stanford; Patrick Beverley, Arkansas; Hasheem Thabeet, UCONN; Jerome Dyson, UCONN; Jerry Smtih, Louisville.