College Basketball: The 10 Most Important Freshman for Next Season

Kyle O'ConnorContributor IIIMay 9, 2012

College Basketball: The 10 Most Important Freshman for Next Season

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    We all know that the success of college basketball programs largely depends on the quality of the freshman class that is brought in. Last year was a perfect example as Kentucky cruised to a National Championship behind highly-touted freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Which teams can look forward to a similar situation next season? 

    This top 10 list ranks the freshman that will make the biggest impacts on the tournament runs next season. What does that mean?

    Players that are going to be filling a teams obvious position of need, such as center at Kentucky, will rank higher on this list. In the spirit of spreading the love, I'll try to only include one freshman per program, as well as a couple that nearly made the cut. 

    Let's start off with a pair of players that will make big waves at storied programs. 

Honorable Mention: Glenn Robinson (Michigan)

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    Michigan has a nice class coming in headlined by Mitch McGary (Chesterton, IN) and Glenn Robinson (St John, IN). McGary has the elite size (6'10", 225) that the Wolverines have desperately been needing. However, Robinson may sneak up and have a bigger impact.

    Robinson (6'6", 200) is a top-of-the-line athlete that will be able to match up with anyone in the country. He'll be a lock-down defender on the perimeter and has the length and quickness to get the rim at ease. Look for him to slide into a role similar to the one Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took with Kentucky. 

    A talented Michigan team that returns starters Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., will only be stronger in the 2012-2013 season after McGary and Robinson arrive in Ann Arbor. 

Honorable Mention: Cameron Ridley (Texas)

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    Texas is reloading. It was unfortunate for Longhorn fans that J'Covan Brown opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NBA draft. Don't be too down, there is plenty of help on the way. 

    Texas is bringing in yet another New Orleans point guard in Javan Felix of Saint Augustine High School. Felix (5'11", 190) will provide a spark to the Longhorn backcourt immediately. Joining him will be Garland, TX native Prince Ibeh. Ibeh (6'10", 225) is an elite shot-blocker and will bring a strong defensive presence the moment he steps foot on campus. 

    But I'm most excited for Cameron Ridley, out of Bush High School in Fort Bend, TX. Ridley is a space-eater (6'10", 230) that's a handful in the paint. While teams will fear Ibeh on the defensive end, they will fear Ridley on the offensive end just as much.

    Texas has enough young talent on the way to make them contenders for the next couple of seasons. 

10. Perry Ellis (Kansas)

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    Bill Self is going to have his work cut out for him next season. He did a fantastic job this year but it will only get more difficult after losing Thomas Robinson to the NBA and Tyshawn Taylor to graduation. 

    Ellis made this list because of the role he going to have to play next season. There will be a big void in the scoring department in Lawrence next season and Ellis is going to have to fill it.

    Ellis (6'8", 220), hailing from Wichita, KS, has the tools to come in and make a huge impact from day one. He'll have help with Chester, VA native Andrew White (6'6", 215) joining him in eastern Kansas. 

    Ellis and White will be joining a roster that returns Elijah Johnson, Kevin Young and Jeff Withey. The nucleus Kansas has coming back provides quite a bit, but Ellis will need to provide a healthy amount of points in the 2012-2013 season. 

9. Marcus Paige (North Carolina)

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    It's no secret that the Tar Heels are losing a ton of talent. Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Harrison Barnes will all be taking their games to the next level. Is there help on the way? Yep.

    First up, a trio of lengthy athletes that will fit right in with Roy Williams uptempo style.

    Joel James (6'10", 260) out of Fort Lauderdale, FL will be a big body in the paint that will be no easy task to move around. Joining him will be wing athletes Brice Johnson (6'9", 210) out of Cordova, SC and JP Tokoto (6'6", 195) from Menomonee Falls, WI. Johnson and Tokoto are both highly athletic and will have no problem transitioning into the run and gun style that the Tar Heels love. 

    Most importantly, they have a solid point guard coming in to fill the void left by Kendall Marshall. Marcus Paige (6'1", 160) out of Marion, IA is a big time talent that will step in and play right away.

    We all saw how much UNC struggled when Marshall went out with an injury this past season.

    Roy Williams is betting on Paige coming in and join James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland and PJ Hairston to keep the tradition in Chapel Hill alive and well. 

8. Yogi Ferrell (Indiana)

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    The Hoosiers will probably open the season as the top seed in the country.

    There will be a lot to like in Bloomington next year, starting with returning studs Cody Zeller and Christian Watford. After Zeller and Watford announced they would return to school, most of the attention turned to the big time recruiting class coming in.

    Leading that class is Yogi Farrell.

    Farrell (5'11, 160) out of Greenfield, IN is lightning fast and extremely athletic. He can also shoot the lights out, which will fit in perfect with the pair of bigs coming back for Indiana. If Ferrell can come in and be as impressive as expected at the point guard position, I would expect the Hoosiers to be a lock for the Final 4. 

    Farrell is bringing a bunch of help with him.

    Jeremy Hollowell (6'7, 190) from Indianapolis, IN will provide high-level athleticism at the wing. Seems there will be plenty of athletes in Bloomington next year, doesn't it? Well, add another.

    Hanner Mosquera-Perea is also heading to IU. Mosquera-Perea (6'8, 210) is another Indiana kid (La Porte, IN) that will provide toughness and length on both ends of the floor.

    Rounding out the class is 6'2" off-guard Ron Patterson (Indianapolis, IN). Patterson creates havoc on the defensive end, especially on the ball. 

7. Gary Harris (Michigan State)

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    Gary Harris, Mr. Basketball in the state of Indiana, has some big shoes to fill.

    Michigan State is losing Draymond Green, their leading scorer from last season. The departure of Green will mean they lose over 16 points per game, which is where Harris comes in. Harris (6'4", 195) can really, really fill it up. He has great size for an off guard and is absolutely deadly as soon as he crosses half court. If Michigan State wants to make another deep run in the tournament next season, they will need Harris to live up to the hype and put up big numbers.

    The absence of Green will mean the Spartans lose more than just scoring. A deep recruiting haul should help fill that void. Kenny Kaminski (6'7", 230), Matt Costello (6'9", 225) and Denzel Valentine 6'5", 205) will be joining Gary Harris in East Lansing next season, all looking to contribute right away. 

6. DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse)

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    No, he's not related to former Syracuse star Derrick Coleman. His play, however, will make you think he is. 

    Coleman (6'9", 275) is a load in the paint. He is surprisingly athletic for his size and he puts that to good use around the basket. He will be joining a Syracuse team that will be losing some big talent, so Jim Boeheim will lean on Coleman to contribute right away. If Coleman can dominate the paint even remotely close to the way he did in high school, the Orange are primed for another solid season.

    Joining Coleman will be Jeremi Grant (6'7", 200) out of Hyattsville, MD. Grant is a slick perimeter scorer that can provide solid on ball defense as well. The son of former NBA player Harvey Grant and the brother of Notre Dame star Jerian Grant, Jeremi Grant is no stranger to big time basketball. Expect Grant and Coleman to slide into the rotation from day one and make a big impact. 

5. Steven Adams (Pitt)

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    Adams is a 6'10" center from New Zealand that played his prep ball in Fitchburg, MA. Pittsburgh suffered a suffered through an up and (mostly) down season last year and will look to bounce back in a big way with Adams leading the way. Compared to a young Kevin Garnett, Adams is long, athletic and is pretty nifty in the paint. The Panthers will rely on him to produce big numbers from day one.

    Joining Adams next season will be James Robinson, a 6'3" PG out of Maryland. For a struggling program, which Pitt was most of last year, bringing in a solid in and out combo is the best way to turn things around quickly. That's exactly what Pittsburgh fans will be hoping for this winter when these two highly touted freshman arrive on campus. They will be joining returning core players Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson, both of which were main contributors last season.

    The Panthers suffered through a long season in 2011-2012 and they do lose a few seniors but there is hope on the horizon with strong, top-heavy class coming in.  

4. Isaiah Austin (Baylor)

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    The Baylor Bears will be losing a load of talent to the NBA Draft. Luckily for them, they have a load of talent walking in the same door that Perry Jones and company will be walking out of.

    Baylor has a strong, deep freshman class led by seven-footer Isaiah Austin out of Arlington, TX. Austin is a super athletic, long big man that will be a terror on the defensive end. Many describe his as a poor mans Anthony Davis but don't be so quick to tag the "poor" on there. He won't be as effective as Davis was last year but he will definitely make an impact in the Big 12, on both ends of the floor. 

    Joining him will be 6'7" power forward Ricardo Gathers. Gathers is a strong, thick bruiser that will assist Austin in patrolling the paint. Rounding out the prize possessions in this class is 6'3" guard LJ Rose, a slicking passing point man out of Houston. Rebuilding is not a good word to describe the Bears next season, it would be much more accurate to use the word reloading as they will be a force in March yet again. 

3. Kyle Anderson (UCLA)

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    I don't know about any of you but I enjoy college basketball much more when UCLA is a factor. Unfortunately, they've been an afterthought the last couple of years. Good news for the Bruins? That's all about to change.

    Kyle Anderson is an athletic 6'7" swingman out of Fairview, NJ. As you can see from the video, Anderson moves extremely well for his size and is a capable shooter when given the room. Last season, UCLA really lacked a dynamic playmaker and that could create his own shot when the offense was stalling, Anderson will be a quick remedy to that problem. He will be joined in Pasadena by another big-time recruit in hopes to bring UCLA back to the dominance they are used to enjoying.

    Speaking of the "other" highly-touted freshman heading to Los Angeles...

2. Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA)

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    Yes, I wanted to only include one freshman per team but these two are too good. I'm a little higher on Kyle Anderson than most are but everyone is high on Muhammad, and for good reason. This kid a freak athlete. Look at that video, Muhammad will immediately be the best athlete on the UCLA squad. 

    Muhammad has the size (6'6", 215) to team up with Anderson and immediately cause matchup nightmares for opposing coaches. The Las Vegas native can put it on the floor and blow by you just as easy and he can take a smaller defender on the block and work him over in the paint.

    These two impact freshman are the two big prizes in a deep, deep class that also includes big man Tony Parker and guard Jordan Adams. Look for this recruiting haul to launch the Bruins back into the national spotlight. 

1. Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)

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    Here we are.

    As usual, John Calipari is bringing in a loaded class. After losing his top five players to the NBA Draft, Calipari will once again lean heavily on his recruiting haul to win games next season. First, let's get to the "other" freshman that will be joining the Wildcats for the 2012-2013 season. 

    First up, Alex Poythress (6'7", 215) out of Clarksville, TN. Poythress will look to replicate that freshman season that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist enjoyed, but that will be tough to do. Next up is Archie Goodwin, a 6'5" guard from Little Rock, AR. Goodwin is a sharp shooter that can create his own shot as well. Another addition to Lexington will be 6'10" center Willie Cauley out of Spearville, KS. Cauley is still pretty raw and not as athletic as some of the other big men in this class but that won't stop him from playing a Daniel Orton-like role next season. 

    Finally, the big prize, 6'10" center Nerlens Noel from Everett, MA. Noel is the top recruit in the country heading into next season and for good reason. Check out the highlight video, he's unbelievably athletic and will seamlessly slide into the void left by the departing Anthony Davis.

    Look for the Wildcats to enjoy another successful season and deep tournament run.