Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach

Posted by DCassilo on February 1st, 2013


David Cassilo is an RTC columnist who also writes about college basketball for SLAM magazine. You can follow him at @dcassilo.

What a couple of days it was for our freshmen across college basketball. On Tuesday, there was Nerlens Noel, who provided one of college basketball’s best performances of the year by blocking 12 shots in Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss. Meanwhile, his teammate Archie Goodwin posted 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. A day later it was Baylor’s Isaiah Austin stealing the show with 19 points and 20 rebounds. Elsewhere in the Big 12, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart had 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Anyone who believes talent is down this year for the freshman class just hasn’t been paying attention.


10. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

After starting the season on fire, Bennett has not been nearly as dominant in the Mountain West Conference. He clings to a spot this week after averaging 15 points and seven rebounds over his last two games. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

9. Cody Zeller – Indiana (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG

Zeller has drawn a lot of criticism this season, mainly because of expectations that were too high in the first place. When the dust settles, he’s still the top scorer and rebounder on the third-best team in the country. This week: February 2 vs. Michigan, February 7 at Illinois

8. Kelly Olynyk – Gonzaga (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 18 PPG, 6.9 RPG

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season

Kelly Olynyk is Making Waves For More Reasons Than His Haircut This Season.

With the below-average competition in the West Coast Conference, Olynyk isn’t posting monster numbers lately because he really doesn’t have to. He’s coming off a week in which he averaged 14 points and seven rebounds, while the Bulldogs cruised to two victories. This week: February 2 at San Diego, February 7 vs. Pepperdine

7. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

Early foul trouble against West Virginia on Monday had McLemore destined for his worst game in ages. But he still found a way to finish with a solid 13 points and four rebounds. It must be nice to have a freshman that you can pencil in for at least those numbers every night. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

6. Otto Porter Jr. – Georgetown (Last week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 15 PPG, 7.7 RPG

There’s no reason that Georgetown should have gotten better once Greg Whittington went out, but that is exactly what has happened. Porter had another two terrific games this past week. He tallied 17 points and 12 rebounds against Louisville and 20 points against Seton Hall. This week: February 2 vs. St. John’s

5. Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State (Last week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 20.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG

One deficiency in Thomas’ game is that he doesn’t get to the free throw line nearly enough for such a great scorer. Despite being an 80.8 percent shooter from the stripe, he’s attempting just 3.7 free throws per game. For comparison’s sake, McDermott attempts six freebies per contest. This week: February 2 at Nebraska, February 5 at Michigan

4. Jeff Withey – Kansas (Last week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 13.1 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 4.3 BPG

Over its last three games, Kansas’ opponents have shot 37 percent or below from the field. Most of that credit belongs to Withey, who is making an impact beyond blocked shots in the paint. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

3. Mason Plumlee – Duke (Last week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 11.1 RPG

After putting up good but not great numbers for a month in ACC play, Plumlee broke out on Wednesday with 32 points against Wake Forest. The former No. 1 on this list is definitely still in contention to regain the top spot. This week: February 2 at Florida State, February 7 vs. North Carolina State

2. Trey Burke – Michigan (Last Week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 17.9 PPG, 7.1 APG

While Burke has been outstanding all season long, he still doesn’t have the one signature game or moment that catapults him ahead of the field. Chances are we might see it this week, as Michigan plays Indiana and Ohio State. This week: February 2 at Indiana, February 5 vs. Ohio State

1. Doug McDermott – Creighton (Last Week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 23.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG

Creighton's Doug McDermott Is Lethal From Behind The Arc (Missouri Valley Conference)

Creighton’s Doug McDermott Is Lethal From Behind The Arc (Missouri Valley Conference)

It’s hard to make a case against McDermott right now, as he had back-to-back 20/10 games this week. He will have the stats at the end of the year to be a deserving winner, but it all comes down to how he and Creighton finish the season. This week: February 2 vs. Bradley, February 6 at Indiana State


5. Richard Howell – North Carolina State. Every week, Howell garners a little discussion but never sniffs the top 10. The senior has had at least 11 rebounds in his last nine games. Seven of those games have been double-doubles. It’s a quietly dominant season that should be getting more attention.

4. John Brown – High Point. The freshman I have the most trouble with each week is Brown. He’s averaging 17.5 PPG and 6.6 RPG this season, but High Point is just 10-10 and plays in a below-average league. Turning 21 years old in April, he is very old for a freshman, which is probably why he is having a big impact already.

3. Rasheed Sulaimon – Duke. Another talented freshman, Sulaimon is a little too up-and-down to make the top 10. Last week was a perfect example, as he had 25 points against Maryland but followed that up with six points against Wake Forest.

2. Kellen Dunham – Butler. Dunham was one of the reasons that Butler was able to survive Rotnei Clarke’s injury. Also a freshman, he has scored at least 11 points in four of his last five games. He’s a marksman from long range and went 5-of-6 from deep against Temple last Saturday.

1. Nate Wolters – South Dakota State. The numbers that Wolters is putting up are staggering. He’s averaging 20.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 5.6 APG. However, the Summit League isn’t great and South Dakota State isn’t even in first place in that conference. The Jackrabbits have won six in a row, though, and a strong finish to the season could allow Wolters to creep into the rankings.


After I posted the shot of Drew Nicholas last week, I exchanged emails with the Rush the Court editors about dramatic shots that prevented NCAA Tournament upsets. Another one that stuck out to me was Chris Lofton’s jumper for Tennessee that stopped an upset bid for 15-seed Winthrop. Of course, I picked Winthrop in that game because I loved that team, and Tennessee was perhaps the most overseeded team in NCAA history. Luckily, I finally got some redemption when I had Lehigh beating Duke last year.


10. Glenn Robinson III – Michigan (Last Week – 10)
2012-13 stats: 12.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG

GR3 continues to be an integral part of Michigan’s success. His offensive confidence seems to be growing by the game, as he is 12-of-15 from the field in his last two contests. Like the rest of the Wolverines, a big week lies ahead. This week: February 2 at Indiana, February 5 vs. Ohio State

9. Semaj Christon – Xavier (Last Week – 9)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 4.6 APG

For Christon to take his game to the next level, he will need to become a threat from deep. The freshman is just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc on the season. It should be priority No. 1 heading into the offseason. This week: February 2 at Richmond

8. Archie Goodwin – Kentucky (Last Week – 8)
2012-13 stats: 15.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.3 APG

While Noel got a lot of the credit for Kentucky’s win over Ole Miss, Goodwin’s night flew under the radar. He finished with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists in the win. He’s as important to the team’s success as Noel. This week: February 2 at Texas A&M, February 5 vs. South Carolina

7. Jahii Carson – Arizona State (Last Week – 3)
2012-13 stats: 17.6 PPG, 5.3 APG

The fall from No. 3 to No. 7 has very little to do with what Carson did this week. As mentioned above, his fellow freshmen just had monster performances. Carson wasn’t too bad in his own right, averaging 18.5 points and five assists in two games this week. This week: February 2 at Washington, February 7 vs. California

6. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State (Last Week – 7)
2012-13 stats: 13.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.8 SPG

Just when you think Smart is cooling off, he has a night like he did on Wednesday. Against Iowa State, Smart finished with 21 points, six rebounds, seven assists and four steals. The Cowboys needed it all, as they won by just two points. This week: February 2 at Kansas, February 6 vs. Baylor

5. Shabazz Muhammad – UCLA (Last Week – 5)
2012-13 stats: 18.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG

Is Arizona Overrated?

Muhammad has been the top scorer for UCLA.

After looking like it righted the ship, UCLA has now dropped three of its last four games. It hasn’t been Muhammad’s fault. He’s averaging 18.3 PPG and shooting 49 percent from the field over that span. This week: February 7 vs. Washington

4. Isaiah Austin – Baylor (Last Week – 6)
2012-13 stats: 14.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG

We saw Austin’s potential on full display in Wednesday’s game, as he finished with 19 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Oklahoma. That’s as impressive a line as you’ll see from any big man in Division I, let alone a freshman. This week: February 2 at Iowa State, February 6 at Oklahoma State

3. Nerlens Noel – Kentucky (Last Week – 4)
2012-13 stats: 10.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 4.7 BPG, 2.4 SPG

By now you know that Noel racked up 12 blocks on Tuesday against Ole Miss. That gives him 94 for the season and six straight games with at least six blocks. Anthony Davis never had a streak like that longer than two games last season. This week: February 2 at Texas A&M, February 5 vs. South Carolina

2. Anthony Bennett – UNLV (Last week – 2)
2012-13 stats: 18.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG

It’s been surprising to see how little Bennett has been playing lately. He hasn’t hit 30 minutes of action in any conference game this season. That cannot be discounted as a reason his production has suffered. This week: February 2 at Boise State, February 6 at Fresno State

1. Ben McLemore – Kansas (Last week – 1)
2012-13 stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG

I find it very interesting how McLemore started the season. On the opening night, he had 12 rebounds and five assists. Since then, he hasn’t topped eight rebounds or three assists. Yet his stock has steadily risen since that first game. It’s probably a credit to Kansas, who has not needed him to do everything to win. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU


5. Dana Altman – Oregon (Last week – 3)
Record: 18-3

Even with Wednesday’s blowout at the hands of Stanford, the Ducks are still one of this season’s biggest surprises. The fact that they even reached No. 10 in the polls this early in the season is an accomplishment worth recognizing. This week: February 2 at California, February 7 vs. Colorado

4. Brad Stevens – Butler (Last week – 1)
Record: 17-4

It’s been a mixed bag since Rotnei Clarke came back for Butler. He had 24 points and nine assists in the team’s win over Temple last Saturday, but the team lost badly on Thursday to Saint Louis. Stevens will have to figure out how to make it work. This week: February 2 vs. Rhode Island, February 6 vs. St. Bonaventure

3. Mike Krzyzewski – Duke (Last week – 5)
Record: 18-2

How well Duke and Coach K is dealing with injuries will likely be revealed this week, as the Blue Devils have two major tests. It has really been surprising how much Ryan Kelly meant to this team. This week: February 2 at Florida State, February 7 vs. North Carolina State

2. Bill Self – Kansas (Last week – 2)
Record: 19-1

The win-streak is now up to 18 games for the Jayhawks. The Big 12 is looking like a done deal since Kansas is two games up in the conference and has already beaten all three second-place teams (Kansas State, Oklahoma and Baylor). Good work, Mr. Self. This week: February 2 vs. Oklahoma State, February 6 at TCU

1. Jim Larranaga – Miami (Fl.) (Last week – 4)
Record: 16-3

Miami is the first team in the ACC other than Duke and North Carolina to start conference play 7-0 since Virginia in 1981. As we hit February, this is your team to beat in the conference, and that seemed crazy a month ago. This week: February 2 at North Carolina State, February 5 vs. Boston College

DCassilo (19 Posts)

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One response to “Award Tour: Fabulous Week For Freshmen; Jim Larranaga Is New No. 1 Coach”

  1. Adam says:

    So you name the ten best players and the five who don’t get enough attention and you exclude Mike Muscala? Come on now. Let’s be real.

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