Jan. 12, 4:15 p.m.: Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski shared a sentiment during ACC media day that I found interesting. College basketball and the media “promote freshman more than juniors and seniors and eventually that will take its toll on our game,” Krzyzewski said. “The NBA is already marketing college basketball by the fact we do so much with freshman because by the next year they are gone.”
While Krzyzewski has a strong point, I do not think it rings true this season. Scour the nation and you won’t find a Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose. The past two seasons, we have seen two of the strongest freshmen classes in memory. The four players mentioned above, along with the likes of O.J. Mayo, Eric Gordon, etc., were as good as everyone expected them to be since they starting receiving hype in the ninth grade.
No freshman deserves that hype this season. There are plenty of impressive freshmen, but none is dominating the game like the top newcomers did the past two seasons. The freshman who has impressed me the most has been Georgetown’s Greg Monroe. At one point, Monroe was ranked as the top player in his high school class, but his ranking (which means nothing in the end) started to slip late in his high school career. Since arriving at Georgetown, he has been better than advertised.
1) Greg Monroe, Georgetown: Monroe was just two assists shy of a triple-double against Providence. The Hoyas are an NCAA tournament team that has proven it can contend with the best in the nation’s best conference.
2) Samardo Samuels, Louisville: Samuels is a beast. He is tied for a team-high 13.6 points per game, while also averaging 8.7 rebounds. Like his team, he has been up and down. His worst game came in the Kentucky victory.
3) Tyreke Evans, Memphis: This is not the same Memphis team from last season, but Evans, who averages 16.4 points per game, is helping to keep the Tigers in line for a top five seed in the NCAA tournament. His move to point guard was a necessity.
4) Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest: The 6-9 Aminu is averaging 12.7 points and 8.7 rebounds for a Wake Forest team that has emerged as a favorite in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have a chance at a No. 1 seed.
5) Willie Warren, Oklahoma: The team revolves around Blake Griffin, but Warren is second on the Sooners in scoring (15.8 ppg). He had two 30-plus scoring games right before Christmas.
6) Courtney Fortson, Arkansas: Fortson, a 5-11 guard from Montgomery, Al., is having a tremendous freshman year for the Razorbacks, who are one of the biggest surprises in the country. Fortson averages 14.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.9 assists.
7) DeMar DeRozan, Southern California: He is a great athlete but not the player Mayo was last season for the Trojans. DeRozan is averaging 12 points and 5 rebounds for a Trojans team that has failed to live up to preseason hype.
8) Seth Curry, Liberty: He is averaging 20 points per game and shooing 40 percent from three-point range. Somehow, he slipped through the recruiting cracks. If you haven’t heard, he’s got an older player who can play, as well.
9) Jrue Holiday, UCLA: He has been solid but not spectacular. The same can be said of the Bruins, who aren’t as strong as last season after losing Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook.
10) B.J. Mullens, Ohio State: The biggest disappointment has been Mullens, but only because expectations were set so high for the Buckeyes’ newcomer. He has scored in double figures in back-to-back games and has begun to show more promise.
January 12, 2009; 4:19 PM ET
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