March 19, 2008

Youngsters have huge impact once again

If someone is going to write a book about this season, it should be entitled, "Year of the Freshman, Part Two."

One season after the stellar play of numerous freshmen dominated the storylines in college basketball, a better and even more impressive group of newcomers followed.

Each of the 15 players selected to Rivals.com's Freshman All-America teams leads his team in scoring, rebounding or assists. Six lead their teams in two of those categories.

None were better than Kansas State's Michael Beasley, who put together perhaps the best freshman season in the history of college basketball. Beasley, an easy choice for Rivals.com's national freshman of the year, is averaging more points (26.5 to 25.8) and rebounds (12.4 to 11.1) than Kevin Durant did at Texas last season when Durant became the first freshman to win national player of the year awards.

Beasley is on track to become just the third freshman to lead the nation in rebounding. The others Loyola (Ill.)'s Kenny Miller in 1988 and Louisiana Tech's Paul Millsap in 2004 did it in mid-major conferences. Beasley did it in the Big 12, which is sending six teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Beasley nearly became the fourth player to lead the country in scoring and rebounding. As it is, he's third in scoring. Beasley also shattered a freshman record with 27 double-doubles, breaking former Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony's mark of 22 set in 2002-03.

The Pac-10 led the way with four selections on our teams, including three on the first team. The Big East and SEC were next with three apiece, and the Big 12 and Big Ten each had two.

Rivals.com Freshman All-America First Team
G Jerryd Bayless, Arizona, 6-3, 195
The Numbers: 20.0 ppg, 4.1 apg, 40.8 3-pt FG%
The Buzz: This former five-star recruit arrived in Tucson with a reputation as a prolific scorer, and he certainly backed it up. Bayless ranks third in the Pac-10 in scoring and broke the 30-point barrier in three consecutive games during one stretch in February. Bayless leads the league with 185 free throws made and is fourth in free-throw percentage at 83.7 percent. He also proved to be a solid distributor, ranking sixth in the league with 4.1 assists a game.
Video: Bayless in action
G Eric Gordon, Indiana, 6-4, 220
The Numbers: 21.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 34.7 3-pt FG%
The Buzz: One of the most dangerous scorers in the nation, this explosive shooting guard led the Big Ten in scoring from the first week of the season to the end of the league tournament. Gordon fell into a shooting slump in the final weeks of the season, but he never stopped beating defenders off the dribble and drawing fouls. He has attempted 271 free throws nearly 70 more than anyone else in the league and shot 84.5 percent from the free-throw line, which ranks fifth in the league.
Video: Gordon in action
G O.J. Mayo, USC, 6-5, 200
The Numbers: 20.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.6 spg, 40.8 3-pt FG%
The Buzz: The Trojans would not be back in the NCAA Tournament if not for Mayo, who carried their offense all season. Mayo has scored in double figures in all but one game and scored at least 20 points in 18 of the Trojans' 32 games. During a key stretch where the Trojans won six of seven, Mayo averaged 25.7 points and shot 53 percent (28 of 53) from 3-point range. He also finished tied for fifth in the Pac-10 in steals.
Video: Mayo in action
F Michael Beasley, Kansas State, 6-10, 240
The Numbers: 26.5 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 53.5% FG
The Buzz: Beasley put together what may be the greatest freshman season ever, posting gaudy numbers that surpassed those of former Texas star Kevin Durant - who last season became the first freshman to win national player of the year awards. Beasley is on track to become the third freshman to lead the nation in rebounding, and he ranks third in scoring. Beasley also has been extremely consistent, racking up a freshman record 27 double-doubles, which broke Carmelo Anthony's mark of 22 set in 2003.
Video: Beasley in action
C Kevin Love, UCLA, 6-10, 250
The Numbers: 17.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg
The Buzz: The Bruins went from having virtually no inside scoring threat to boasting one of the best in the nation, thanks to the addition of this bruising big man. Love, who excelled at getting position around the basket and drawing contact, ranks sixth in the Pac-10 in scoring and leads the league with 232 free-throw attempts (he shot 76.3 percent from the free-throw line). But Love's biggest strength is rebounding. His 362 rebounds are the most by a Bruin since Bill Walton in 1974.
Video: Love in action
Rivals.com Freshman All-America Second Team
G Derrick Rose, Memphis, 6-4, 195
The Numbers: 13.9 ppg, 4.5 apg, 1.6-1 A/T ratio
The Buzz: This dynamic playmaker added the one element the Tigers have been missing in past seasons, a point guard who could score and distribute the ball. Rose excelled at attacking off the dribble and creating offense, making him an ideal fit for the Tigers' drive-and-dish style of play. He has led the Tigers to 33 wins and ranks first on the team in assists, second in scoring and third in rebounding.
Video: Rose in action
F James Harden, Arizona State, 6-5, 200
The Numbers: 17.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.1 apg, 52.9 FG%
The Buzz: The best gauge of Harden's impact is Arizona State's remarkable improvement. The Sun Devils, who won just two Pac-10 games last season, won nine league games this year and were on the verge of landing an NCAA Tournament bid. They also swept their two-game series with Arizona for the first time since 1995. The versatile Harden played just about every role possible. He ranks first on the team in scoring and steals and second in rebounding and assists.
Video: Harden in action
F Donte Greene, Syracuse , 6-11, 226
The Numbers: 17.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg
The Buzz: Greene is one of just three players in the Big East who ranks in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding and blocks (Connecticut junior Jeff Adrien and USF senior Kentrell Gransberry are the others). Greene ranks fifth in scoring, 12th in rebounding and fourth in blocks. He was at his best in Syracuse's 85-73 win at Seton Hall on March 5, scoring 19 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing out four assists and blocking three shots.
Video: Green in action
F Blake Griffin, Oklahoma, 6-10, 240
The Numbers: 15.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg
The Buzz: Griffin, who would have been the Big 12 freshman of the year if not for Beasley, represents just about everything coaches look for in a big man. Griffin has a powerful frame, a great motor and does most of his damage around the basket. The future star ranks eighth in the Big 12 in scoring, fourth in rebounding and third in field-goal percentage. He combined to score 47 points and grab 31 rebounds in wins over Baylor and West Virginia, two NCAA Tournament teams.
Video: Griffin in action
F Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, 6-9, 220
The Numbers: 17.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 57.4 FG%
The Buzz: Patterson suffered a season-ending ankle injury with three games left in the regular season, but the Wildcats would not be headed to the NCAA Tournament if not for his steady contributions. Patterson scored in double figures in 26 of 28 games and led the team in rebounding by a wide margin. He averaged 21.5 points and 10 rebounds in home wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt, the SEC's two-highest seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Video: Patterson in action
Rivals.com Freshman All-America Third Team
G Jonny Flynn, Syracuse, 6-0, 186
The Numbers: 15.9 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 2-1 A/T ratio
The Buzz: The Orange have found their point guard of the future in the promising Flynn, who is the only player to rank in the top 15 in the Big East in scoring (10th), assists (third), assist-to-turnover ratio (seventh), steals (15th) and free-throw percentage (eighth). Flynn played at least 40 minutes in 11 of the Orange's last 13 games. He posted a 1.9-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over that stretch.
Video: Flynn in action
G Nick Calathes, Florida , 6-6, 185
The Numbers: 15.7 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.9 rpg, 1.6 spg
The Buzz: Few players were more valuable to their teams than the versatile Calathes, who led the Gators in scoring, assists and steals and was third in rebounding. Calathes seems to do everything well, but his superb vision and passing skills are what set him apart. His 193 assists are the most of any player in the SEC and his 2.1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio ranks third in the league. He scored 24 points, dished out eight assists and had eight rebounds in the Gators' 81-70 win over Kentucky.
Video: Calathes in action
F Robbie Hummel, Purdue, 6-8, 208
The Numbers: 11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 46.5 3-pt FG%
The Buzz: Hummel's stats don't stack up to those of some other top freshmen, but the savvy swingman played a pivotal role for a Purdue team that far exceeded expectations by finishing second in the Big Ten. Hummel was at his best in the biggest games, scoring 21 points in Purdue's win at Wisconsin and scoring a career-high 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in Purdue's win over Michigan State. He is shooting a league-high 46.5 percent from 3-point range.
Video: Hummel in action
F Anthony Randolph, LSU, 6-10, 205
The Numbers: 15.6 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.3 bpg
The Buzz: If Randolph had played for a better team, the promising big man would be getting talked about as one of the nation's top young players. Randolph ranks in the top five in the SEC in rebounding (third) and blocks (third) and is 13th in scoring. The Tigers ripped off a surprising four-game winning streak at the end of the regular season and Randolph averaged 20.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks over that stretch.
C DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh, 6-7, 265
The Numbers: 11.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.1 bpg
The Buzz: Blair proved to be more than an adequate replacement for departed center Aaron Gray, putting together 14 double-doubles, including a 15-point, 20-rebound performance in the Panthers' win over Duke. The wide-bodied big man also was a disruptive force on defense: He leads the Panthers in steals.
Video: Blair in action



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