Resetting the Year of the Freshman


What's fascinating about this group of freshmen, which started with all eyes on four players but expanded to six, is that, despite the intensity of the spotlight, no one has fallen off during the course of the season.

That doesn't mean they've been flawless.

Kansas coach Bill Self could see it coming. He told ESPN's Andy Katz after November's Champions Classic that despite the super talent in the freshman class, they would still be introduced to struggle.

"We get too giddy about certain guys because of the unknown," Self said. "When guys are seen and studied and figured out, there will be a roller coaster for all these kids."

Kentucky forward Julius Randle has, on the whole, been the most dependable and steady player all season on a very young roster. But Tuesday night at LSU, his game showed signs of its mortality. He produced a season-low six points.

The Tigers ran double-teams at Randle all game, which resulted in 3 of 11 shooting and three turnovers. His five rebounds made it just the fourth time this season he didn't have at least eight. LSU was one of the few teams that could match UK's frontcourt size and Randle had trouble adapting to their length.

The fun part has been watching these freshmen figure out how to correct their flaws. If they've had one common thread it's that their lows don't stay there. These guys are finding ways to get better.

Don't take my word for it. See for yourself.

Saturday presents a rare opportunity to catch arguably the nation's six best freshmen college basketball players in action on the same day.

Randle will start things off as Kentucky travels to face Missouri at 1 p.m. ET. Kansas featuring forward Andrew Wiggins and center Joel Embiid are up next at 4 p.m. when they play at Texas. Both Duke's Parker and Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis will face off before a capacity crowd of more than 34,000 at the Carrier Dome at 6:30 p.m. Arizona's Aaron Gordon rounds out the day as the Wildcats take to the road against California at 10:30 p.m.

Jabari Parker, Duke

18.8 PPG | 8.1 RPG

Peaks: Parker's alley-oop against Kansas drew comparisons to a similar dunk Grant Hill converted in the 1991 NCAA title game, when he was a freshman. Parker was also the first freshman since Kevin Durant in 2006-07 to score 20 or more points in his first seven games. Parker now owns Duke's freshman record with 12 20-point games, breaking the mark held by Gene Banks.

Valleys: He admitted to hitting his wall during three games against Elon, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech at the end of December and in early January. During that stretch, he shot just 31 percent from the field and averaged 10.3 points. He was held to a season-low seven points on 2-of-10 shooting in the loss to Irish.

Key stat: Parker is starting to expand his game into rebounding. He grabbed a career-high 15 against Miami and followed that with 14 against Florida State and 11 against Pittsburgh. Before this stretch, he had only four games with 10 rebounds all season.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...