Anthony Davis and the Top 25 Freshman Performances in Final Four History

Alan RubensteinAnalyst IIIApril 3, 2012

Anthony Davis and the Top 25 Freshman Performances in Final Four History

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    Anthony Davis' performance in the 2012 NCAA tournament will become legendary.

    As a freshman he dominated as Kentucky won its first NCAA championship in 14 years, a 67-59 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks.

    Davis became only the fourth freshman to be named the NCAA tournament's most outstanding player. 

    The rise of freshmen in the modern era of college basketball has seen them dominate like never before. Here are the top 25 performances by freshmen in Final Four history.

25. Juwan Howard, Michigan 1992

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    Howard was part of the Beatlesesque Fab Five.

    Halfway through the season, Steve Fisher started his highly rated recruiting class together. A group of legends was born. Howard averaged 10.5 PPG and 6.0 RPG in the Wolverines' two games in the Final Four. 

24. Jalen Rose, Michigan 1992

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    Rose averaged 12 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 assists to help Michigan earn its first two consecutive trips to the national championship game. 

23. Jimmy King, Michigan 1992

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    King led Michigan with 17 points and also had five rebounds as the Wolverines rallied for a 76-72 victory over Cincinnati in the national semifinals and advance to the championship game for the second time in four years. 

22. Michael Graham, Georgetown 1984

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    Graham teamed up with classmate Reggie Williams to overshadow Patrick Ewing.

    Graham had 22 points and 13 rebounds in the Hoyas' two games in Seattle. Against Houston in the final he had 14 points and five boards as the Hoyas captured their first national championship. 

21. Sean Higgins, Michigan 1989

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    Higgins had 24 points in the Wolverines' two victories in Seattle as Michigan claimed its first national championship. In their semifinal victory over Big Ten rival Illinois, Higgins' put-back with two seconds left in the game gave Michigan the victory. 

20. Rod Foster, UCLA 1980

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    Foster was a part of a very young UCLA team that made a run to the national championship game in 1980 before losing to Louisville. Foster scored 16 points and had five assists and six steals in the Bruins' 55-50 championship game loss to the Cardinals.

    Classmates Darren Daye, Michael Holton and sophomore Mike Sanders were all contributors during the Bruins' run in 1980.

19. Luol Deng, Duke 2004

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    The matchup between Duke and UConn in the 2004 Final Four was highly anticipated.

    Duke was unable to hold onto an eight-point lead with three-and-half minutes left. Deng was the Blue Devils' leading scorer throughout the 2004 tournament. In their 79-78 loss to the Huskies, Deng scored 16 points and had 12 rebounds. 

18. Reggie Williams, Georgetown 1984

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    The hype for the 1984 national championship game was all about Houston’s Hakeem Olajuwon versus Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing.

    A pair of Hoya freshmen gave Georgetown a big lift to make John Thompson the first African-American coach to win a national championship. Williams scored 19 points and had seven rebounds and three assists in the Hoyas' 84-75 victory.  

17. Gerry McNamara, Syracuse 2003

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    McNamara’s steady hand and three-point shooting were a perfect complement to Carmelo Anthony. McNamara averaged 18.5 PPG and shot 50 percent from three-point range. 

16. Ron Mercer, Kentucky 1996

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    Mercer scored 20 points as Kentucky won its first national championship in 18 years. The Wildcats defeated Syracuse 76-67 for Rick Pitino’s first title. 

15. Chris Webber, Michigan 1992

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    Webber was the cornerstone of the Fab Five. He averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds as Michigan made an improbable run to the national championship game. 

14. Derrick Coleman, Syracuse 1987

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    Coleman only scored 20 points in the Orange's two games in New Orleans, but he pulled down 31 rebounds, including 19 in Syracuse’s 74-73 national championship game loss to Indiana.

    Coleman was named to the all-tournament team. 

13. Mike Conley Jr., Ohio State 2007

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    Conley Jr averaged 17.5 PPG and 6.0 APG in the Buckeyes' two Final Four games as Ohio State lost to Florida in their bid for their second national championship.  

12. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown 1982

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    Ewing scored 31 points, had 20 rebounds, five steals and three blocks in the Hoyas' two tournament games in New Orleans.

    They defeated Louisville in a semifinal before falling to North Carolina in the national championship game. Their run in 1982 was the beginning of Hoya Paranoia as Ewing led Georgetown to three national championship game appearances in his four seasons, including the 1984 NCAA championship. 

11. Toby Bailey, UCLA 1995

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    After Bruins' senior point guard Tyus Edney was limited to three minutes with a sprained wrist, Jim Harrick needed someone to step up in Edney’s absence.

    Toby Bailey took Edney’s place at the point. Bailey scored 26 points and pulled down nine rebounds as UCLA won its first national championship in 20 years, 89-78 over Arkansas. 

10. Gene Banks, Duke 1978

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    Banks was Duke's third-leading scorer during the season and averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds in the Blue Devils' two games in St. Louis. Somehow he did not make the all-tournament team as Duke lost 94-88 to Kentucky in the championship game.

9. Michael Jordan, North Carolina 1982

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    Jordan averaged 17 points and seven rebounds in the Tar Heels' two games in New Orleans and hit the game-winning shot in the Tar Heels' 63-62 national championship victory over Georgetown. 

8. Greg Oden, Ohio State 2007

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    Oden entered college as one of the most hyped freshmen ever. He averaged 19 points and 10.5 rebounds in Atlanta.

    Against Florida’s talented big men Joakim Noah and Al Horford, Oden scored 25 and had 13 rebounds in the championship game, but Florida came away with the 84-75 victory. 

7. Mark Aguirre, De Paul 1979

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    Aguirre made the all-tournament team after scoring 53 points and pulling down 19 rebounds in the Blue Demons' two games in Salt Lake City.

    They almost altered history before they lost to Indiana State and Larry Bird 76-74 in the semifinal. Aguirre erupted for 34 points and 14 rebounds as DePaul beat Penn for third place. 

6. Derrick Rose, Memphis 2008

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    Rose had 43 points, 15 rebounds and 12 assists as Memphis made its first appearance in the national championship game in 35 years.

    Although Rose was Memphis’ star, It will be a missed free throw in the last minute allowing Kansas to come back that Rose will be most remembered for. 

5. Mike Bibby, Arizona 1997

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    Bibby was part of Arizona’s big three as the Wildcats had arguably the greatest run in their tournament history.

    They became the first and only team to defeat three No. 1 seeds in the same tournament. It also happened to be the three winningest programs in college basketball—Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. 

    Bibby averaged 18.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 4.0 APG and made 11 of his 23 three-point attempts. If it weren't for his teammate Miles Simon, Bibby would have been the tournament’s most outstanding player. 

4. Anthony Davis, Kentucky 2012

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    Like Patrick Ewing and Bill Russell decades before him, Davis is able to influence a game without scoring.

    Davis had double figures in rebounds in his last five tournament games. Although he only averaged 12 points in the Wildcats' two games in New Orleans, he also averaged 15 rebounds and 5.5 blocks.

    Despite scoring just six points in the championship game on 1-of-10 shooting from the floor, his 16 rebounds, five assists and six blocks led him to becoming just the fourth freshman ever to win the tournament’s most outstanding player award.

3. Arnie Ferrin, Utah 1944

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    Ferrin scored 22 in the Utes' 42-40 overtime victory over Dartmouth in the national championship game. Forty-Eight years before the Fab Five, Utah started five freshmen known as the Blitz Kids.

    Ferrin’s classmate Herb Wilkinson’s shot at the buzzer gave the Utes the national championship. Ferrin became the first freshman to win the tournament’s most outstanding player award. 

2. Pervis Ellison, Louisville 1986

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    Ellison scored 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds (five offensive) as he became the second freshman in history to win the tournament’s most outstanding player.

    He also hit several key free throws in the final minute to help ice the game. “Never Nervous” Pervis had 36 points and 24 rebounds in the Cardinals' two games in Dallas.

1. Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse 2003

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    Anthony’s 33 points and 14 rebounds in Syracuse’s 95-84 victory over Texas in the national semifinal is the greatest performance ever by a freshman in the Final Four.

    He followed that up with 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in their 81-78 victory over Kansas to give Jim Boeheim and Syracuse their first national championship.