College Basketball Handicapping: 10 Impact Freshmen
by Robert Ferringo - 12/18/2009
"Young people don't know anything. Especially that they're young."
- Donald Draper
- Robert Ferringo
In my humble opinion, freshmen are always the most overrated aspect of college basketball. It's easy for fans, media bobbleheads, and bettors to get sucked into the Hype of this guy or that guy or whoever is supposed to become the next basketball Jesus. Hype is the enemy of solid sports handicapping. And when it comes to college hoops no one is more over-hyped and overrated than first-year players.
For every Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley there are 150 Paul Harris'. And you are in big, big trouble if you find yourself wagering on a team, especially early in the year, that is going to be relying on a freshman to give them big minutes or produce significant numbers. The simple fact is that about seven months ago these guys were at prom. And while many of them have incredible potential and impressive athleticism, none of them have proven that they can play at this level.
So on that point, every time I hear some ESPN bobblehead (man, those guys really don't know what the hell they are talking about, do they?) trying to convince the masses that John Wall is the best player in the country I want to throw up.
Wall has some nice numbers. He's averaging 18.4 points, 7.1 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. He's hitting around 54 percent of his shots and shooting 40 percent from three-point land. He's been the go-to guy for the Wildcats and has run the show on this young team.
But, that said, if I were playing a game, tomorrow, for my soul, there are probably about 20 other players that I would want on my team before I got to Wall's name. Wall has put up those gaudy numbers but has done so against some absolutely dreadful competition. Kentucky has played the No. 251-ranked non-conference schedule so far this season and they have yet to play a team that I consider one of the Top 20 in the country. He also averages around 4.3 turnovers per game, which, to me, really negates the impact of all of those assists.
Is Wall good? Absolutely. Does he have the potential to be a great college player or solid pro? Definitely. But is he the best player in the country? Not even close.
Whether you think that Wall is the Second Coming or whether you think that he's the most overrated player on the most overrated team in the nation, you can't argue that he's making a tremendous impact for Kentucky. Below are the 10 other freshmen that I feel have been making the biggest impact for their respective teams so far this year:
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati - If Cincinnati is going to be as good as I think that they can be this year it will be because of Stephenson. He took over the Bearcats' game at Xavier down the stretch and has as much raw talent as anyone in the nation. He's averaging 12.9 points - the leading scorer for Cincy - and notching 5.9 rebounds on the wing, all while playing exceptional defense. He still has a long way to go, though. He is shooting only 20.8 percent from three-point land and needs to focus on shot selection.
Xavier Henry, Kansas - Henry is really the beneficiary of all of the attention that's given to Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. But he's taking advantage. Henry is the leading scorer on the No. 1 team in the nation and gives the Jayhawks something that they didn't have last year - a scorer on the wing. Henry is hitting an amazing 53.3 percent of his three-point shots (24-for-45) and if he keeps that up KU should stay on top of the college hoops mountain.
Brandon Triche, Syracuse - Triche is the starting point guard and No. 3 scorer for one of the four or five best teams in the country right now. His game reminds me a lot of former Notre Dame point guard Chris Thomas, and I think by the time Triche is a junior he will be one of the best guards on the East Coast. Triche is posting 10.3 points and 3.0 assists while hitting 58.5 percent of his shots from the field. And after a six-turnover debut he has posted a respectable 1.6-to-1 turnover to assist ratio.
Avery Bradley, Texas - Bradley is the lead guard and No. 4 scorer on the most talented team in the nation. He's pumping in 10.1 points per outing despite playing just 17 minutes per game. That is efficiency. He's knocking down 47 percent of his shots from the field and hitting 43.8 percent of his shots from three-point range. His role will change with the addition of Jai Lucas but Bradley will definitely stay in the mix on this squad.
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech - Favors is a beast underneath and has quickly become an anchor for this up-and-coming Tech team. Favors is notching 13.4 points and 8.3 rebounds per game while hitting an incredible 67.9 percent of his shots from the field. He is doing work with below average guard play and is also helping to make forward Gani Lawal better.
Kenny Boynton, Florida - On a team that was desperate for guard play, Boynton has brought swagger and production to the point for a surging Florida team. He leads the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and has a stellar 2.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio while handing out 4.0 assists per game. Boynton definitely needs to shoot the ball better. He's making just 38.3 percent from the floor and 23.9 percent from deep, but should improve.
Aaric Murray, LaSalle - Murray was supposed to be one of the missing pieces for a LaSalle team desperate to get over the hump. He has held up his end. Murray has been solid while giving the Explorers 10.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per outing. Some key losses have thinned out LaSalle's roster, which should put some more pressure on this key recruit.
Alec Burks, Colorado - If Colorado was going to make a move this year in the Big 12 they needed a second scorer to go with Cory Higgins. Burks has been it. The kid has been smooth getting to the basket and is the club's No. 2 option at 16.1 points per game. He is also adding 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 57.4 shooting, although his shot from deep (.294) needs work.
Matt Delladova, St. Mary's - The Gaels lost as much experience as any team in the nation heading into this year and really could have been primed for a hard fall. But this wild Aussie has been running and gunning St. Mary's back to prominence. Delladova puts up 14.8 points per game, 2.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and is making .396 of his three-point shots, and he hasn't missed a free throw (21-for-21) all season.
Derrick Williams, Arizona - The Wildcats are going to be up-and-down all season. But to this point the freshman Williams has actually been more consistent than some of the Arizona veterans. He has half as many turnovers as Nic Wise and Jamelle Horne, while managing to become the No. 2 scorer at 14 points per game. Williams has scored in double figures in eight of his last nine games and if Arizona is going to earn a postseason berth (any berth) he'll need to be consistent the whole year.
Here are some guys that have played key roles on their teams so far this year and are ones to keep an eye on: Luke Hancock (George Mason), Durand Scott (Miami), Cashmere Wright (Cincinnati), Bilal Dixon (Providence), Cully Payne (Iowa), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Chris Braswell (Charlotte).
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained around +170 Units and $14,000 for his $100 bettors since mid-February in college basketball. You can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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