Thirty-Two Impact Freshmen, Part Two

    
October 20th, 2011
After going over the teams expected to win their regular season titles, we move on to talking about the top freshmen in each conference. Will all automatically take over and become the stars of their respective teams and leagues? It's tough to say at this point in the season, but that doesn't mean that we can't discuss it. Below are the picks for final 16 conferences, and Part One can be found here.

MAC: Kris Brewer (Kent State)
The Memphis native spent last season at Brehm Prep in Illinois, and his presence will add to the options that Rob Senderoff can call upon. The Golden Flashes are expected to contend in the MAC this season due to their returnees, but the ability of a player like Brewer will help as well.

MEAC: Dwight Meikle (Hampton)
Meikle was originally expected to attend St. John's but the school released him from his Letter of Intent in April, clearing the way for Hampton to land a player who could be among the best in the MEAC. Meikle's a versatile wing who can both score and attack the glass, something the Pirates will need if they're to win the MEAC.

Missouri Valley: Christian Kirk (Missouri State)
Kirk had to sit out his senior season due to Missouri transfer rules, but there's no doubt that Missouri State gets a player who is a serious candidate for Newcomer of the Year honors. As a junior at St. Charles (MO) High, Kirk averaged 17.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Mountain West: Hugh Greenwood (New Mexico)
Big things are expected from the Australian, who many expect to slide right into the starting role left open by the departed Dairese Gary. Greenwood averaged 17.1 points per game for the Australian U-19 team at the U-19 World Championships this summer in Latvia, and at 6'3", 209 he's got the size needed to play the point with a physicality not seen in many freshmen.

Northeast: Andrew Nicholas (Monmouth)
Nicholas has the ability to step in and play right away in the first season of the King Rice era at Monmouth. Nicholas can play both forward positions and is a versatile offensive player, something the Hawks need given their offensive issues last season (averaged just 60.5 points per game).

Ohio Valley: Nino Johnson (Southeast Missouri State)
Getting the Memphis native to commit during the early signing period last season was quite the coup for the Redhawks, who get a 6'8" forward more than capable of contributing immediately. Johnson's physical tools have made him the trendy pick to be the best freshman in the OVC, and it would come as no surprise if he were to make good on the preseason praise.

Pac-12: Josiah Turner (Arizona)
The case could be made that the Sacramento native is the best point guard in the Pac-12 before playing a game in college. He's that skilled, possessing the ability to make plays for himself as well as setting up teammates for quality shots. If Turner performs at the level many expect him to, don't be surprised if the Wildcats win the league.

Patriot: Justin Burrell (Holy Cross)
The Crusaders lost their leading assist man in Andrew Beinert, which could open the door for the 5'8" Burrell. The Virginia native averaged 20.0 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 steals per game as a high school senior and spent last year at Fishburne Military School in Virginia.

SEC: Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
Davis' upside (not going to go into the overused story of his growth spurt during high school) makes him a candidate to be one of the best players in America and not just one of the nation's best freshmen. The power forward can do a variety of things on both ends of the floor, and his play as a senior earned him a McDonald's All-America Game selection.

Southern: Adjehi Baru (College of Charleston)
With returning starter Willis Hall being lost for the season due to a torn ACL it was critical that the Cougars received some good news from the NCAA on Baru. Thursday brought that news, bolstering the frontcourt of a team expected to once again contend for the SoCon title. Baru averaged 19.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game at The Steward School in Richmond, Virginia last year.

Southland: Luke Mergerson (Texas State)
With just two starters returning the Bobcats will likely need to call on some of their nine newcomers to contribute this year. One of those players is Mergerson, who played at Duncanville (TX) High School. At 6'8", 240, Mergerson has the size needed to be an impact freshman in the Southland Conference.

SWAC: LeAntwan Luckett (Alcorn State)
Luther Riley takes over as head coach at Alcorn State with the hope being that he can turn around a program that won just six game over the last two seasons. Luckett will be a key component for the Braves, as he is a slasher who averaged just under 20 points per game as a high school senior. Luckett received offers from BCS programs but chose Alcorn, and the Braves could benefit greatly from his decision.

Summit: Matt Poches (Oakland)
Given the loss of big man Keith Benson, some may not think that Greg Kampe's Golden Grizzlies can win the Summit League again. But they will be right back in the mix thanks in large part to the number of contributors returning on the perimeter. There lies the problem for a talented player like Poches: when and how often can he get on the floor? But the freshman is athletic enough to help Oakland out if he can earn playing time.

Sun Belt: Mychal Ammons (South Alabama)
Ammons led his Vicksburg (MS) High team to a 6A state title last season, averaging 21.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game as a senior. And as Ronnie Arrow looks to rebound from a disappointing 2010-11 without four starters from that team, players such as the versatile Ammons will need to step up.

WCC: Gary Bell, Jr. (Gonzaga)
Mark Few put together a very good recruiting class and the Kent, Washington native is the centerpiece of it. Bell was the state's Mr. Basketball last year, and he also played on the same Seattle Rotary Select team as Washington freshman Tony Wroten Jr. Bell's versatility on the wing will help account for the loss of Steven Gray and allow the Zags to once again contend for a WCC title.

WAC: Shaquille Stokes (Hawaii)
It's probably a safe assumption that Stokes doesn't have issues with homesickness given the fact that the New York City native picked the furthest possible location to attend college. Stokes averaged 18.4 points and four assists per game as a senior at Lincoln (NY) High, helping lead the Railsplitters to a 29-3 record last season.