Freshman 10: December 22

    
December 22nd, 2006
Happy holidays to everyone. While the longstanding theory that this is “the most wonderful time of the year” is arguable (March anyone?), the weird college basketball purgatory that lasts between finals and the start of conference play is a tough time for hoops fans. There haven’t been the normal amount of games since the last Freshmen 10 but there have certainly been some developments. Here’s some random thoughts that won’t be mentioned on the list:    

 

-          I got some e-mails saying I should’ve included Obi Muonelo of Oklahoma State on the last list. Well things haven’t gone so well for Obi since then. A practice floor puddle and broken ankle may have ended his season, making him the first player to succumb to the dreaded Freshmen 10 E-mail Jinx. So send plenty of Jon Scheyer e-mails in hopes the curse is for real.

-          Kentucky’s group of freshmen might not fill up a stat sheet but I’ve been pretty impressed with them. Stevenson, Jasper and Meeks all have great size and athleticism for their respective positions. They won’t be go-to guys in close games but they make the Wildcats a very good defensive team that shouldn’t be counted out in the SEC.

-          There are some very good freshmen at the mid-major level, which is pretty rare. Johnathan Rodriguez of Campbell, Steven Curry of Davidson, Jeremy Wise of Southern Miss., Pierre Curtis of James Madison, Ryan Wittman of Cornell, James Florence of Mercer and Robert Mitchell of Duquesne would be on the Mid-Major Freshmen 7 list right now if such a thing existed. Rodriguez would be the non-BCS freshmen of the year so far, averaging 16.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg and 3.5 apg for the Fighting Camels (who are far more intimidating than the traditional, passive camel).

-          There are some guys out there whose numbers may be inflated because of weak non-conference schedules (i.e. Eugene Harvey of Seton Hall). The most telling evaluation of freshmen for me is how they play in big games and tough atmospheres. The upcoming conference games should be able to sift out the real impact players from the flashes in the pan.

       

As always, if you have any problems with these guys or feel someone got left off, e-mail me. Just don’t be surprised if the player in question goes out for the season because someone missed a wet spot.

 

1.       Kevin Durant, Texas - CHN's Top 100 beat me to this one, but Durant is leading the Oden/Durant debate. Texas has played a relatively tough schedule and each game I expect Durant to fold under the pressure and he doesn’t (with the exception of the LSU game). Case in point, his 28 and 13 Wednesday against Arkansas where he decided to ditch the jump shot and show his incredible versatility. With the Allen Iverson trade, everyone has been talking about the Sixers tanking for Oden, but as a Philly fan I would have no problem with the No. 2 pick either.

        Stats- 21.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 2.2 bpg, 1.6 spg, 3.2 TO, 47.7 FG%, 40 3-PT%, 86.2 FT%

        Freshman perk- As part of his “consulting” with the Sixers, Larry Brown has offered to mentor         Durant on job stability.

2.       Greg Oden, Ohio State – It’s almost pointless for him to even suit up against teams out of the Top 25. His game becomes a series of dunks and put-backs with the occasional demoralizing block on some future accountant. While Saturday’s game against Florida will be a true test of just how dominant he’s going to be this year, his athleticism and size is just way too dominant for most of the Big Ten teams. The fact that he’s already up around 30 minutes per game, including 35 against Iowa State, is even scarier.

        Stats- 15.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 4 bpg, 1.5 TO, 73.5 FG%, 48 FT%

        Freshman perk- No comment necessary.

3.     Chase Budinger, Arizona – Consistency is a trait of truly special freshmen and Budinger has         exhibited that all season. His 55 percent shooting is remarkable for a freshman or a perimeter         player and especially a freshman perimeter player at Arizona. His basketball IQ is ahead of his years as he showed Wednesday night against a tough Memphis defense. Hopefully John Calipari         took notice.

        Stats- 17.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.8 spg, 0.7 bpg, 1.4 TO, 55 FG%, 36.6 3-PT%, 81.8 FT%

        Freshman perk- As seen here, photographers try to lessen the redhead stigma Budinger deals         with by methods of contrast.

4.       Brandan Wright, North Carolina – It has to be a strange situation for Wright playing behind Tyler Hansbrough. Wright may actually be more talented than Hansbrough and after dominating his whole life he has to defer to the guy playing on the block across from him. But he’s been efficient with the looks he’s gotten, leading the ACC with his 64.6 percent field goal shooting. If Roy Williams can find a way to utilize one of the most talented interior duos in the country to the limit of their potential, the Heels should go deep into March and perhaps more importantly to their fans, earn a 2-0 record against a Duke team that’s soft inside.

        Stats- 15.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.4 bpg, 1.0 spg, 1.6 TO, 64.6 FG%, 58.9 FT%

        Freshman perk- His friends treat him like Shaq, but refuse to say whether it’s because of         his size         and skill or the fact that he shoots better from the field than the foul line.

5.       Daequan Cook, Ohio State – Not only are the Buckeyes’ freshmen dominant on the college level, but they should translate well to the NBA. Cook is the prototypical swingman and doesn’t get the attention he deserves because of the hype surrounding Oden and Mike Conley. Although his scoring is down with Oden back, Cook and his 50 percent three-point shooting should get plenty of open looks with more frequent double teams on the big man. He’ll go against a tough defender in Corey Brewer Saturday and we will see just how good his offensive game is.

        Stats- 16.1 ppg, 6 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.1 TO, 55.6 FG%, 50 3-PT%, 71.4 FT%

        Freshman perk- This happened… for some reason.

6.       Darrell Arthur, Kansas – Clearly Bill Self was listening to me and realizes a team’s leading scorer should play more than half of a game. But Arthur’s minutes still aren’t increasing. They’ve got Boston College on Saturday so Self might not have the luxury of sitting Arthur. If you’re reading this Bill, let the kid play, not only is he a great defender (although foul-prone), but he showed against Florida he’s got a knack for coming up big in big games.

        Stats- 13.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 2.4 bpg, 1.5 spg, 60.4 FG%, 78.4 FT%

        Freshman perk- While Bill Self hasn’t given him the playing time he deserves, his intramural flag                         football team has really worked hard to get him in the game.

7.       D.J. Augustin, Texas- I’m not sure what happened to Augustin since the last ranking, but obviously he’s adjusted to the college game. He’s averaging almost 22 points in the last three games and put the team on his back in the Longhorns victory over LSU when Durant struggled. This young Texas team is going to need a strong point guard to get the most of their talent and Augustin is starting to step up after a slow start.

        Stats- 13 ppg, 5.9 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 spg, 3.4 TO, 50.6 FG%, 45 3-PT%, 84.1 FT%

        Freshman perk- No punch line here, doesn’t sound like Augustin has been handed anything in his life.

8.       Spencer Hawes, Washington – Hawes is another late bloomer this season and was able to gain my favor with the highly valuable “strong play in a big game” when he tangled with Glen Davis Wednesday. Hawes is averaging 20 points per game over his last four and is living up to his preseason hype. If Hawes and Brockman consistently play like they did Wednesday when they dominated Davis, it will put Washington in the Pac-10 driver’s seat.

        Stats- 14.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.5 bpg, 0.3 spg, 3 TO, 60.8 FG%, 69.7 FT%

        Freshman perk- Even after getting outplayed, Glen Davis gave Hawes some top secret diet tips so         he can be “robust” if they meet in the NCAA tournament.

9.       Ryan Anderson, California – The Pac-10 has been the surprise hotbed for freshmen this year with relatively unheralded guys like Anderson putting up better numbers than the hyped guys in the ACC and Big East. The Bears haven’t really played anyone but you can’t argue with Anderson’s numbers. He’s scored between 9 and 25 points in every game this year and has been between 5 and 12 rebounds in each contest. Cal is going to need Anderson to step up and play in the paint a little more with the loss of DeVon Hardin.

        Stats- 17.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.9 bpg, 0.4 spg, 1.2 TO, 51.8 FG%, 44.6 3-PT%, 81.6 FT%

        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.

10.    Taj Gibson, USC – Maybe the reason that 40 percent of this week’s Freshmen 10 comes from the Pac-10 is wimpy scheduling, but Gibson is the only freshman in the country averaging a double-double. He has six double-doubles this year and is very efficient in the paint, shooting 60 percent from the field. He has a problem turning the ball over, including 11 (!) against Kansas (not sure how that number is correct) but I’ll cut him some slack and keep a close eye on him to see if he falters against better competition in the Pac-10.

        Stats- 12.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.8 bpg, 0.6 spg, 60 FG%, 64.7 FT%

        Freshman perk- Trojan basketball fans are using Gibson as a guinea pig to learn how to pamper a         freshman (legally) for next year.

 

Heading out

 

Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech; Tajuan Porter, Oregon; Paul Harris, Syracuse

 

Honorable mention

 

Quincy Pondexter, Washington; Ishmael Smith, Wake Forest; Mike Conley, Ohio State; Brandon Costner, NC State; Eugene Harvey, Seton Hall; Patrick Beverly, Arkansas; Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech; Jerome Dyson, UCONN; Jonathan Rodriguez, Campbell; Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati; Wayne Ellington, UNC; Christian Polk, Arizona State; Wesley Johnson, Iowa State; Jeremy Wise, Southern Miss; Hasheem Thabeet, UCONN.