In decades past, a list like this wouldn't exist.
Star freshmen would still be in the larval stages of their college careers, just now exiting the cocoons spun by their meddlesome coaches and tottering onto the national stage.
But, alas, times have changed, and with them, so has our timeline for evaluation. With no guarantees that any of these players will return for their sophomore seasons, we're giving you a midseason update on the top 25 talents from the class of 2012 (as ranked by the ESPN 100).
And if you're unhappy with how your guy measures up, take heart: Twenty games do not a college career make. For those who choose to stay, there is plenty of time to improve.
Note: All dashboard stats courtesy of ESPN.com and current as of Saturday night. Tempo-free metrics courtesy of kenpom.com.
There's also been some confusion about the order of the slides. The number next to each player's name indicates his ranking in the ESPN 100. It is not a measure of how well he was played this year (i.e. Cameron Ridley is at number eight because he was deemed the eighth-best recruit coming into 2012).
Stats: 4.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.3 apg (11.9 mpg)
Telling Number: Jefferson's offensive efficiency rating (109.8) is almost identical to teammate Quinn Cook's and a shade higher than POY candidate Mason Plumlee.
Impact: Coach K broke the Philadelphia native in easy, playing him less than 10 minutes in nine of the team's first 15 games. But the time for caution has passed. With senior forward Ryan Kelly nursing a foot injury, Jefferson's minutes have climbed dramatically, and the results so far have been encouraging. That said, his season will be defined in the weeks ahead, depending on how he responds to increased usage.
Stats: 7.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.6 apg (27.6 mpg)
Telling Number: Ferrell's true shooting percentage is the worst among Indiana's regular rotation players.
Impact: On the plus side, Ferrell has been a regular contributor for one of the country's best teams, and his assist rate is Indiana's best. But with the dimes have come turnovers, in part because Ferrell isn't a good enough shooter to command attention on the perimeter. Tom Crean is giving the Indianapolis native plenty of run, but the results have been spotty so far. Hoosiers fans hope that with increased exposure and confidence, Ferrell can become a more dependable offensive threat.
Stats: 6.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.4 apg (24.2 mpg)
Telling Number: Dunn has more turnovers on the year than assists
Impact: After missing the season's first nine games with a shoulder injury, Dunn made his much-anticipated debut for the Friars on December 18 against Colgate. The returns haven't been pretty. Dunn's offensive game is a mess, lowlighted by a 32.6 turnover rate and a 36.2 effective field-goal percentage. Making matters worse, Providence has gone 3-8 since Dunn's debut. But before rushing to judgment, consider that the 6'3" guard is coming off of surgery and got a late start, compared to his peers. There's plenty of reason to withhold judgment.
Stats: 6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.4 apg (26.8 mpg)
Telling Number: Paige has the sixth-best assist rate (23.9) in the ACC.
Impact: Point guard is a tough position to master at the next level, and Paige has already proven himself a capable distributor. But his outside shot is spotty, and he goes to it far too often for a player shooting just 30.5 percent from beyond. His 59 attempts from three rank third on the team.
Telling Number: N/A
Impact: None. Ledo was ruled partially eligible by the NCAA in September, meaning he can practice with the Friars but won't be cleared to play until next season.
Stats: 9.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.7 apg (29.3 mpg)
Telling Number: Purvis and fellow freshman T.J. Warren (No. 29 overall recruit) have the exact same possession usage percentage (18.5 percent).
Impact: Though he's been overshadowed to some extent by the uber-efficient Warren, Purvis has been a positive contributor in one of the nation's best offenses. Performances like his 19-point effort against Boston College on January 5 prove that the Raleigh native is capable of big things.
Stats: 13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.4 apg (27.6 mpg)
Telling Number: House has the second-best true shooting percentage among Conference USA freshmen and the 15th-best overall.
Impact: House figured to play early at Houston, and he's done just that for James Dickey's squad. Though the Cougars have stumbled to a 2-4 start in Conference USA, House has topped 20 points four times on the young season and has acquitted himself well as one of his team's go-to options. The defensive end has been another story. The Cougars rank a miserable 293rd in defensive efficiency and House's rebounding rate has been disappointingly low for a player with his skill set.
Stats: 12.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.3 apg (32.2 mpg)
Telling Number: Robinson III has the 17th-best offensive efficiency rating in the nation.
Impact: It's hard to overstate how good Robinson III has been in his young career. The fantastically efficient scorer has been an ideal complement to guards Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. On the defensive end, Robinson III lends much needed versatility to a defense lacking in size. He's a clear starter and key contributor on one of the nation's best teams, and he should be an attractive commodity to NBA teams if he decides to declare at season's end.
Stats: 9.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.6 apg (22.3 mpg)
Telling Number: Dekker has Wisconsin's second-highest offensive efficiency rating.
Impact: Bo Ryan's first top-50 recruit since the launch of the ESPN 100 has come on strong recently. Dekker earned Big 10 Freshman of the Week honors on January 14 and has now reached double figures in four of his first seven league games. In Wisconsin's molasses offense, that kind of production turns heads.
Stats: 8.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.6 apg (21.7 mpg)
Telling Number: Ashley has yet to record a block in Pac-12 play.
Impact: Ashley has been excellent on the defensive glass and efficient on offense, doing well with the touches given. That's no small feat on a team loaded with front court talent and gunning for a deep tournament run. Reports on Ashley's defense say he's been inconsistent on that end, but the ability is there. He should continue to be a valuable role player for Sean Miller's team as they chase a Pac-12 title.
Stats: 14.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.3 apg (32.6 mpg)
Inside Number: Only three players in the SEC draw fouls at a better rate than Goodwin.
Impact: For better or worse, Goodwin is Big Blue's leading scorer. He's also the team leader in percentage of minutes played and percentage of possessions used. Simply put, Goodwin is touching the ball...a lot. And while he clearly has the quickness to beat most college players off the dribble, his poor shooting and overall inefficiency can be a drag on the Kentucky offense. The message from Coach John Calipari is clear: Goodwin needs to shoot less and facilitate more.
Stats: 5.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.2 apg (14.0 mpg)
Telling Number: Coleman is averaging just 6.9 minutes per game in Big East play.
Impact: Year One has been a struggle for Coleman. After getting a solid look in the early going, Coleman has disappeared from the rotation during conference play. It's no secret why. Coleman is shooting a miserable 43.5 percent from the field and has been nearly as bad from the charity stripe. And that's not to mention his defense, which is widely acknowledged as a work in progress. With Syracuse eyeing a Big East championship, Coach Jim Boeheim can't afford to give the youngster much run.
Stats: 13.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.5 apg (25.7 mpg)
Telling Number: Poythress leads the SEC in effective field-goal percentage at 65.5 percent.
Impact: Poythress has been one of Big Blue's most reliable offensive contributors, doing far more damage with his touches than the erratic Archie Goodwin. At 6'7", the Tennessee native is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and could be an even bigger presence in UK's offense if he can cut down on turnovers. As is, Poythress ranks second on the team in percentage of possessions used. If UK makes a second-half surge, expect Poythress to lead the way.
Stats: 12.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.1 apg (29.3 mpg)
Telling Number: Sulaimon is 12th in the ACC in turnover rate.
Impact: The good news with Sulaimon starts on the defensive end, where he's frequently tasked with guarding the opposition's best perimeter-scoring threat. He won't match the departed Austin Rivers in terms of pure scoring ability, but Duke doesn't need that from him this year. The Blue Devils are plenty happy with his low-mistake offense and long-limbed defensive presence.
Stats: 12.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.0 apg (28.4 mpg)
Telling Number: Harris is the only Spartan to rank among the Big Ten's top 15 in effective field-goal percentage and true shooting percentage.
Impact: Despite the strain of two nagging shoulder injuries, Harris has emerged as Tom Izzo's best perimeter scorer on a per-minute basis. He should continue to be a major player for the Spartans as they chase the Big Ten crown.
Stats: 13.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.5 apg (32.1 mpg)
Telling Number: Smart leads the Big 12 in steal percentage.
Impact: Oklahoma State has one of the country's best defenses, and Smart's work on the perimeter is a major reason why. There are lingering concerns about his shooting stroke, but he's without question the standout player on a much-improved Oklahoma State team.
Stats: 4.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.7 apg (18.2 mpg)
Telling Number: Jerrett leads the Wildcats in block percentage.
Impact: Arizona has a logjam in the front court, and Jerrett right now is the odd-ish man out. Fellow freshmen Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski are getting more touches and minutes than the SoCal native, but Jerrett has done nicely with the opportunities given. He's rebounded well on both ends and provided good interior defense without falling into the familiar freshman trap of over-fouling. Perhaps Jerrett's impact has been limited by opportunity, but his future still looks bright.
Stats: 5.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 0.1 apg (19.4 mpg)
Telling Number: Ridley takes a lower percentage of his team's shots while on the floor than all but one member of Texas' regular rotation.
Impact: Ridley and his Texas teammates would just as soon forget the 2012-13 season. With sophomore playmaker Myck Kabongo serving an NCAA suspension, Ridley has struggled to find his place in Rick Barnes' offense and the Longhorns have slipped to the bottom of the Big 12. Ridley shows some promise as a shot-blocker, but he'll struggle to find court time if he can't clean up an awkward and often hesitant offensive game. Ridley needs to use his 270-pound frame more effectively around the basket.
Stats: 18.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.1 apg (28.1 mpg)
Telling Number: Bennett ranks among the nation's top 100 in true shooting percentage, effective field-goal percentage, offensive efficiency rating and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.
Impact: Bennett, the odds-on favorite for Freshman of the Year, has been a revelation for Dave Rice's Running Rebels. The 6'8" Canadian sensation can bully opponents on the interior (20.9 percent defensive rebounding rate), light them up from beyond (39 percent three-point success rate) and blow by them in the lane (6.3 fouls drawn per 40 minutes). And he's done it all as the Day One offensive focal point on a top-25-caliber team. UNLV is 16-4 on the year, with all four losses coming by six points or less, and should be a tough out come March thanks to Bennett's two-way play.
Stats: 6.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 0.6 apg (22.5 mpg)
Telling Number: Adams is the only freshman to rank among the nation's top 25 in block percentage and offensive rebounding percentage.
Impact: As expected, Adams has been a defensive linchpin from the moment he stepped on campus. He probably hasn't gotten as many touches as he deserves on offense, which has, in turn, suppressed some of his basic counting statistics. But the New Zealander has been reasonably efficient with the ball in his hands and, at the very least, hasn't gotten in the way of Pitt's high-functioning attack. Bottom line, Jamie Dixon's bunch has the statistical profile of an Elite Eight contender, and Adams' defense and rebounding is a major reason why.
Stats: 9.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.8 apg (29.0 mpg)
Telling Number: Anderson is one of four Bruins averaging between 29 and 30 minutes per game.
Impact: After a brief eligibility scare, Anderson began the season as one of UCLA's go-to offensive options. He's largely retained that role, even after the return of fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad, and has made a favorable early impression. Anderson's game is hard to evaluate because it combines such seemingly disparate skills. He's a superlative rebounder, wonderful passer, spotty shooter and surprisingly effective perimeter defender. With improvement on offense, he could become a special player for the Bruins. As of now, Anderson is already a major contributor.
Stats: 5.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.4 apg (21.6 mpg)
Telling Number: Tarczewski's season high in points is 10.
Impact: As is typical of young bigs, Tarczewski's immediate impact on the boards has been mitigated by offensive struggles. The seven-footer needs to become a better finisher around the bucket, an area where he lags behind fellow blue-chippers Isaiah Austin, Nerlens Noel and Steven Adams. That said, Tarczewski has been a reasonably productive member of Arizona's deep front court and should be a contributor down the stretch for Sean Miller's bunch.
Stats: 14.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.2 apg (30.9 mpg)
Telling Number: Austin's 45 three-point attempts are third in the country among centers.
Impact: Austin has keyed Baylor's recent climb up the Big 12 standings, registering double figures in each of the Bears' first six league games. On the offensive end, Austin's lanky frame and deft shooting touch recall that of Big 12 alum Kevin Durant. More impressive still, Austin manages to play inside/out while maintaining a high offensive rebounding rate. Abandoned by the national spotlight after an uneven start, Baylor (and Austin) could make some serious noise in the season's second half.
Stats: 18.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.1 bpg (29.4)
Telling Number: Muhammad is third in the Pac-12 in percentage of available shots taken
Impact: Few players, freshman or otherwise, shoulder a bigger offensive load than Muhammad, and the Nevada native has handled his spotlight role with incredible aplomb. After shaking off the rust of an early season eligibility imbroglio, Muhammad has quickly become one of the nation's most complete offensive players. Whether from the outside, in the lane or on the offensive glass, Muhammad has been a nightmare guard for opposing teams and has the led the resurgent Bruins back into Pac-12 title contention. If UCLA and Muhammad continue to ascend, expect to hear the freshman's name in late-season POY conversations.
Stats: 10.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.7 apg (31.7 mpg)
Telling Number: Noel is among the nation's top 50 in block and steal percentage.
Impact: For all the hand-wringing over Kentucky's collective struggles, there's been precious little attention paid to Noel's individual excellence. The nation's top recruit has the most complete statistical profile of any player in the country, excelling in categories as disparate as blocks, steals, rebounds and free-throw rate. The Massachusetts native has been a box-score-stuffing menace from Day One and should be an impact player at the next level.