UNLV v San Diego State

Catching you up on the Freshman of the Year race

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College basketball has a different feel this season than it has in year’s past.


Because it’s not dominated by freshmen. There is no Anthony Davis or Kyrie Irving this season. The teams that are built around a recruiting class — Kentucky and UCLA, to name a few — are struggling, not overwhelming. The Player of the Year race includes a pair of seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.

But just because we haven’t seen the second-coming of Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony pop-up in the form of a first-year player doesn’t meant that there isn’t some impressive new talent being infused across the country.

Freshman of the Year: Anthony Bennett, UNLV

Bennett has played like a lottery pick through the first two and a half months of the season. He’s a big, strong power forward that’s averaging 18.5 points and 8.8 boards while shooting 56.2% from the field and 40.0% from three. He’s been the Rebel’s most dominant player, but also their best highlight reel; he’s a thunderous dunker in traffic with the handle and quickness to cross a defender over on the perimeter and get to the rim.

The All-Freshman Team:

  • G: Jahii Carson, Arizona State: The lightening quick Carson is the biggest reason why the Sun Devils are relevant in the Pac-12 race this season. East-coasters: he’s worth staying up late to watch. (17.3 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.3 rpg)
  • G: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: Smart’s shooting numbers are slowly starting to improve, but it’s his ability as a floor leader and defender that makes him so valuable. (13.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 4.5 apg, 2.7 spg)
  • F: Ben McLemore, Kansas: McLemore has a chance to go No. 1 in this year’s NBA Draft. He’s supremely athletic a great finisher at the rim and a lights-out three-point shooter. And he’s still realizing just how good he can be. (16.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 44.6% 3PT)
  • F: Anthony Bennett, UNLV
  • C: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky: Noel isn’t Anthony Davis, but he’s a long way from being a bust. One of the most dominant defensive forces in the country, Noel’s as athletic as they come and plays the game as hard as anyone. Anyone that calls him a disappointment hasn’t been paying attention. (10.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 4.2 bpg, 2.5 spg)

Other Notable Freshmen:

Nik Stauskas, Michigan: An athletic sharpshooter that fits perfectly in with the Wolverine offensive attack. (12.6 ppg, 49.5% 3PT)

Damyeon Dotson, Oregon: The Ducks’ leading scorer is averaging 13.7 points in Pac-12 play. (11.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, UCLA: Ben Howland’s trio of freshmen haven’t been quite as dominant as many expected them to be, but they’ve made UCLA a Pac-12 contender. Anderson’s melded nicely into the point-forward role, which Adams and Muhammad have been able to score on the wings.

Siyani Chambers, Harvard: The biggest reason the Crimson haven’t fallen off as an Ivy League contender is the play of their point guard. (12.7 ppg, 6.1 apg, 47.4% 3PT)

Semaj Christon, Xavier: Xavier is in the thick of the Atlantic 10 race despite being in a “down” year thanks to the Christon’s playmaking at the point. (14.9 ppg, 4.9 apg)

Chris Obekpa, St. John’s: Obekpa is blocking shots at the highest level in the country. His 17.1% block rate leads the nation. (4.6 bpg)

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Kris Dunn vs. Denzel Valentine; Two 6-0 teams from Ohio battle in Orlando

Kris Dunn
AP Photo
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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 3 Michigan State vs. Providence, 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

Two Player of the Year candidates lock horns on Sunday night as Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine battles Providence’s Kris Dunn. Both players are strong threats to record a triple-double each time they take the floor and both are key reasons why their teams are 6-0. The Friars could probably use this game a bit more than Michigan State since they enter this game unranked and could use another confidence-boosting win for a team filled with newer players. As for the Spartans, winning the Wooden Legacy would mean another great accomplishment before December even started for a team that has national title aspirations.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 23 Xavier vs. Dayton, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

These two 6-0 teams from Ohio will meet in Orlando in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational. The Musketeers have six different players averaging at least 9.7 points per game this season as they’ve received great balance on the offensive end. As for Dayton, Charles Cooke as emerged as a go-to player early this season while guard Scoochie Smith has also been outstanding. This will be the first time these two schools have played since Feb. 16, 2013.


  • One of the fun teams to watch this week has been Monmouth and their amusing end-of-bench antics. On the floor, the Hawks knocked off Notre Dame and gave Dayton a scare and they’ll face USC for the second time this season to close out the AdvoCare Invitational. The Trojans won the first one 101-90, but this is a 12:30 p.m. EST tip, so that could benefit Monmouth the second time around.
  • Wisconsin visiting No. 7 Oklahoma is an intriguing Sunday matchup. The Badgers could certainly use a true road win here as they’re off to a 4-2 start. The Sooners get more of a real test after only playing Memphis as a notable opponent their first three games.
  • Also going on in the AdvoCare Invitational is No. 20 Wichita State facing Iowa and No. 17 Notre Dame battling Alabama. The Shockers are going without senior starters Fred Van Vleet and Anton Grady as they try to escape Orlando with a win. Notre Dame is hoping to close out the event strong after its surprising upset to Monmouth.
  • Action also continues in Anaheim at the Wooden Legacy as No. 11 Arizona will take on Boise State, while Boston College plays Santa Clara and UC Irvine faces Evansville. Arizona will look to get back on the right track after the close loss to Providence in the semifinals.
  • No. 6 Duke gets an afternoon tilt with Utah State at home before they face Indiana during the week. It’ll be interesting to see if Blue Devil freshman wing Brandon Ingram keeps his strong play going from earlier in the week.
  • UCLA returns home and could badly use a win against Cal State Northridge. The Bruins went a disappointing 1-2 in the Maui Invitational and need to get back on the right track before the face No. 1 Kentucky next week.


  • Brown vs. No. 25 SMU, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)


  • Jackson State at Marquette, 12:30 p.m.
  • Rider at Rhode Island, 1:00 p.m.
  • Savannah State at South Florida, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • South Carolina State at Kansas State, 2:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Northern Colorado at Colorado, 2:00 p.m. (PAC12)
  • UC Santa Barbara at Arizona State, 4:00 p.m. (PAC12)

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics