Marcus Smart's Explosive Game vs. Memphis Reminds Nation He's Still Elite Force

Tim KeeneyContributor IDecember 23, 2016

USA Today

All I hear all day long is how great the freshmen are with this, or how wonderful the freshmen are with that. Freshmen, freshmen, freshmen!

In case anyone was wondering, yes, that was a quote from The Brady Brunch, only with "freshmen" instead of "Marcia."

I suppose that would make Oklahoma State's dynamic point guard Marcus Smart the Jan Brady of this analogy, but that's pretty much where the comparison falls apart—because while Jan is annoying and whiny, Smart is awesome and really good at basketball. 

He reminded the country of that on Tuesday night, scoring a career-high 39 points to help lead No. 7 Oklahoma State to a dominant 101-80 win over No. 11 Memphis. 

Smart hit 11-of-21 shots (five-of-10 from deep, 12-of-16 from the line) to go with five rebounds, three assists, five steals and two blocks against what many believed pregame to be one of the best backcourts in America.

Take that, diaper-dandies!

Listen, this year's freshmen class is unbelievable. In terms of both top-level talent and depth, it is one of the most impressive we've seen—and will see—in a long time. The hype it has gotten is well-deserved.

Jabari Parker, who has dropped at least 20 in each of Duke's first five games, looks like he could be scoring about 17 per game for the Lakers right now. Andrew Wiggins is a scary talent with a limitless ceiling. Julius Randle, AKA Mr. Double-Double, leads Kentucky's class, which is among the best ever. Aaron Gordon draws comparisons to Blake Griffin, and considering his handle and shooting ability, those comparisons may not be nice enough.

It's an unprecedented collection of young talent, and that group is only the (very big) tip of the iceberg. 

But Smart proved on Tuesday night that the National Player of the Year race is going to be an absolutely scintillating one.

Following a dynamic freshman season and somewhat surprising return to Stillwater, we knew what we were getting with Smart: A leader who will not only do the little things (inspire teammates, dive for loose balls, etc.), but is also an elite defender who can get to the rim and distribute on offense. 

After knocking down just 40.4 percent of his shots from the field and 29.0 percent from long range in his freshman campaign, though, it was clear that shooting was his glaring weakness. 

Now, one game probably shouldn't convince you that he has completely reversed that weakness. But Smart never hit more than three treys in a game last season, and after hitting five on Tuesday and four against Utah Valley last week, he has already accomplished that feat twice in four games. 

Smart is shooting with far more confidence, pulling up at the top of the break and looking for his shot far more often than he did last year. 

And if that continues, watch out. Smart is already an intelligent player and one of the best defenders in America. A consistent jumper would make him practically unstoppable on offense, as well. 

With guys like Jahii Carson, Gary Harris, Mitch McGary, Rasheed Sulaimon, Kyle Anderson and Isaiah Austin putting on encores themselves, it's not too late to change the moniker of this freshman-hyped season to the Year of the Sophomore.