UNLV Basketball: Anthony Bennett Has Quietly Become the Nation's Top Frosh

Mick AkersAnalyst IDecember 20, 2012

Dec 17, 2012; El Paso, TX, USA; UNLV Runnin Rebels forward Anthony Bennett (15) stretches before facing the UTEP Miners at the Don Haskins Center. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Although UNLV Runnin' Rebels freshman forward Anthony Bennett was the No. 7 recruit of 2012 (according to ESPN.com), the buzz around his name has been slow to grow despite a stellar start to his inaugural college season.

With highly touted recruits like Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson ranked higher than Bennett coming into the season, they have yet to play to the level Bennett has so far.

Bennett has averaged 19.4 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, and he is shooting 54 percent form the field and 31 percent from three.

No other frosh has numbers as well-rounded as Bennett besides Kentucky's Poythress. He has put up 15 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, shooting a blistering 65 percent from the field and 45 percent from three.

Noel has been a rebounding and defensive force, averaging nine boards, 3.9 blocks and 2.8 steals per game. But he has yet to excel elsewhere on the court, averaging 10.4 points on 54 percent shooting from the field.

Muhammad has yet to show that he is anything more than a scorer, averaging 17.8 points and collecting 4.8 rebounds and just one assist per game. Muhammad has been very quiet on the defensive side of the ball, averaging just 0.6 steals per game, and he has yet to record a single block.

When you look at the numbers, it is clear that Bennett has outplayed those recruits ranked ahead of him and has been the most consistent freshman so far this season.

Largely due to Bennett's play, UNLV has found itself in the Top 25 all season long. The Runnin' Rebels currently sit at No. 21 in the AP and No. 18 in the coaches' poll, and they are coming in with the No. 18 RPI in the nation

Kentucky is ranked No. 23 in the coaches', but it is unranked in the AP. UCLA, meanwhile, is unranked in both polls. In the RPI rankings, Kentucky comes in at No. 59, while UCLA is lower at the No. 100 spot.

So not only has Bennett's play lifted his name individually, but he has also lifted his team to a better place as well. This is despite UNLV losing its top returning player from last season when forward Mike Moser went down with a dislocated elbow in early December.

Look for all parties involved in this article to improve, but Bennett has shown that he is a consistent force, and he has shown no signs of slowing down.

If Bennett keeps playing at the level he has shown 11 games into his collegiate career, he will not only be a Freshman of the Year candidate, but he will be a Player of the Year candidate as well.