Unless, however, you are one of the lucky few to be on the Freshmen 10. Thanks to David Stern, college basketball not only has difference-making freshmen this season, there are bona fide stars being introduced to the country.
Every two weeks I’ll keep tabs on these kids, as I’m sure most teams expecting to be in the NBA Lottery this summer will be, and give the lowdown on which freshmen are living up to the hype.
Due to the early-season cupcake schedules for most of the big-time programs (sorry Georgia Southern fans) the first edition will be comprised of familiar names. But later in the year when the competition gets going, the list will shake up as the flops (i.e. Luke Zeller) and the surprises (i.e. Dominic James) take form.
Keep in mind, rankings are cumulative so one solid week won’t necessarily mean a spot on this prestigious list.
1. Greg Oden, Ohio State - Won’t be his last time on the list but it might be his last for awhile due to his wrist injury. Yeah, I know he hasn’t played yet, but he’s still the best freshman, and could be the most dominant player in the country, even if he doesn’t come back until January. He also has the chance to make the biggest impact on the national title picture of anyone when he gets back. Reports out of Columbus have him up to 280 pounds and working hard on his healthy left hand, which should have the other Big Ten “contenders” (and I use that term loosely) worried.
Freshman perk- The kids on Oden’s floor cut all his food for him at the dining hall so he doesn’t aggravate his wrist injury.
2. Kevin Durant, Texas - Some more thanks to David Stern, as well as Oden’s injury, because Durant is getting the attention he deserves as the No. 2 freshman in the country. After a poor 7-19 performance in a loss to Michigan State (which included 1-8 from three), Durant broke out in the Longhorns close win over St. John’s the next night with 29 points, 10 rebounds and a huge improvement (5-6) from beyond the arc. The kid isn’t shy of shooting the ball so expect a young Texas team to live and die by Durant’s stroke.
Stats- 22.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.6 bpg, 48 percent from floor, 41 percent from three.
Freshman perk- Fraternities expanded the height of their doorframes to 6-10 in hopes of luring Durant… sororities did the same.
3. Chase Budinger, Arizona - Arizona is another team with a lot of talent and potential, but also with a “1” in the loss column. With the in flux of youth into the game it’s tough to judge a team this early, but Budinger, not Marcus Williams, looks like the go-to guy for a somewhat experienced Wildcats team. More impressive than his team-leading 22.7 points per game (and his hair) is the 60 percent field-goal shooting, 90 percent foul shooting and 7-14 from three.
Stats- 22.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 0 steals, 0 blocks
Freshman perk- Discounts at the finest salons Tuscon has to offer.
4. Derrick Caracter, Louisville - He’s another kid who hasn't played yet but Caracter has been on the radar for awhile. He had 25 and 11 in a surprisingly narrow exhibition win over Georgetown of Kentucky and Louisville will hope to have the 300-pound man-child back for a Dec. 5 showdown against Arizona.
Freshman perk- He was given the bottom bunk without even the slightest contention from his roommate.
5. Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets are back this season thanks to a strong freshmen class that has four rooks playing over 15 minutes per game. Crittenton leads the bunch from the point guard spot which means the obligatory Stephon Marbury comparisons are coming fast. Hopefully for Tech fans, Crittenton can win a little more than Starbury. The assists are already there (10 vs. Jackson St., 9 vs. Georgia St.), as are the turnovers, but it’s his ability to score, as was evident late in the Jackets’ game against Purdue, that could make him one of the top point guards in the ACC this year.
Stats- 15.4 ppg, 6.2 apg, 4.0 rpg, 2.4 spg, 47 percent from field, 5-7 from three
Freshman perk- Other freshmen line up at the court near Crittenton’s dorm in hopes of receiving the honor of having their ankles broken by one of his crossovers.
6. Paul Harris, Syracuse - Carmelo Anthony set the standard pretty high for impact freshmen under Jim Boeheim, but Harris is doing his best to live up to Melo’s legend. He’s coming off the bench for the Orange but playing starter minutes and dominating the ‘Cuse’s traditionally soft early-season schedule. At 6-5, Harris is playing the two or three but you wouldn’t know it by his gaudy rebounding numbers, something Syracuse is going to need in their 2-3 zone.
Stats- 10.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 0-7 3-point FGs, 15-26 FT shooting
Freshman perk- Complete snowball fight immunity this winter, quite the honor at the ‘Cuse.
7. Brandan Wright, North Carolina - Tar Heel fans can now exhale, I could never commit an atrocity as horrible as leaving a North Carolina player off a list of the top freshmen. UNC is a team that needs their freshmen to simply be complementary this season with Tyler Hansbrough carrying much of the load, so Wright, along with fellow phenoms Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, won’t have the pressure of typical UNC freshmen. Wright’s only breakout game came against Gardner Webb, but he was solid against a surprising Winthrop squad. Tonight’s match-up with Gonzaga will be a good test to see if he can live up to his potential.
Stats- 14.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.0 bpg, 60 percent from field, 7-15 from foul line
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. Spencer Hawes, Washington - He’s up here mostly on potential as Quincy Pondexter, another of the strong Huskies' freshmen, is playing better in the early going. But Hawes and sophomore Jon Brockman have the chance to be one of the best frontcourt’s not only in the Pac-10, but in the country, which should help lessen the loss of guards like Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones. Hawes had a strong opener against Pepperdine that included a surprising 7 assists, but his 6 blocks against Sacramento State should be a more familiar sight in Washington.
Stats- 11.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 3.3 bpg, 65.5 percent from field
Freshmen perk- Other freshmen can bid on the right to have Hawes on their intramural volleyball team.
9. Mike Conley, Ohio State - Whether Oden is healthy or not, his high school teammate Conley is going to be running the Buckeyes this season and so far he’s looked more than capable. He highest scoring game has only been 13 against Eastern Kentucky but Thad Matta should be more encouraged by his assists which have been both plentiful and spectacular. Once Oden gets back, maybe John Feinstein will get to write a sequel.
Stats- 9.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.6 apg, 2.8 spg, 63 percent from field
Freshman perk- The Ohio State track team has left a scholarship open for him, you know, just in case.
10. Tajuan Porter, Oregon - You won’t find him on any High School All-American lists (or any rollercoasters) but the 5-6 guard is on the list of national leaders in scoring. He’s fifth in the country in points and leads the nation in three-pointers thanks in large part to the school record 10 he hit against Portland State en route to 38 points. Sure he’s not going to keep it up, but in one of the best freshman classes ever, right now the smallest of them all is playing the best.
Stats- 24.0 ppg, 4.0 apg, 3.4 rpg, 4.4 turnovers per game, 1.4 spg, 95 percent from foul line, 26-48 three-pointers.
Freshman perk- After breaking school single-game freshman scoring record, was the shortest person ever to be anointed “Big Man on Campus.”
Honorable mention- Darrell Arthur, Kansas; Wayne Ellington, UNC; Tywon Lawson, UNC; Gerald Henderson, Duke; Jon Scheyer, Duke; Lance Thomas, Duke; Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech; Zack Peacock, Georgia Tech; Daequan Cook, Ohio State; D.J. Augustin, Texas; Stanley Robinson, UCONN; Robin Lopez, Stanford; Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga; Patrick Beverley, Arkansas.