It’s getting to be reality check time in college basketball, as many freshmen have started to show their inexperience after scintillating starts. At the top of the first-year class, that’s helping to sort out which players belong among the elite and which are starting to fade into the background.
One who’s clearly ready for his close-up is LSU forward Jordan Mickey. While hyped classmate Jarell Martin has been hobbled by an injured ankle, Mickey has filled up stat sheets with his scoring and shot-blocking skills.
Read on for more on the Tigers' big man and where he fits among the 20 most impressive freshmen in the country at this early juncture of the season.
Previous Ranking: 19
Sindarius Thornwell continues to be the heart of the South Carolina offense, but he had his worst scoring day of the season (eight points on 4-for-10 shooting) in Sunday’s win over Florida International.
Key Stats: 13 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.
Why He’s Here: Gamecocks’ only SEC-caliber offensive weapon, also plays enough defense for Frank Martin’s taste.
Biggest Concern: Still getting the hang of playing in the offense (zero assists in two out of four games).
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Although he’s only the second-best freshman on his own team, Troy Williams powered his way into the national conversation with 22 points and eight rebounds against Washington.
Key Stats: 9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Why He’s Here: Steady rebounding presence, has also shown some explosiveness as a scorer.
Biggest Concern: At just 206 lbs, will have a tough time getting points inside against Big Ten defenders.
Previous Ranking: 17
Nick King and Memphis are still relatively short on games played (four in all), but he’s continued his outstanding showing on the glass in blowouts of Nicholls State and Siena.
Key Stats: 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, .571 field-goal shooting
Why He’s Here: Board-crashing swingman, has been go-to offensive option for scorer-heavy Memphis.
Biggest Concern: May be coming back down to earth after hot start.
Previous Ranking: 8
Like many of KU’s top players, Wayne Selden Jr. looked awful for long stretches during a win over Wake Forest, and the passing touch that characterized his first few games seems to have deserted him lately.
Key Stats: 10 points and 2.8 assists per game.
Why He’s Here: Physical slasher, is a dangerous scoring weapon on loaded Jayhawks.
Biggest Concern: Invisible on defense (zero blocks and one steal for the season) despite sensational athleticism.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Mamadou Ndiaye is the undisputed physical marvel of the freshman class at 7’6” and 290 lbs.
Key Stats: 9.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game.
Why He’s Here: Coming off his second monster shot-blocking performance of the season with 10 rejections in win over Eastern Washington.
Biggest Concern: Can’t shoot at all (.410 from free-throw line), so must stay close to rim to contribute offensively.
Previous Ranking: 15
With Kentucky cruising along against lackluster competition, Andrew Harrison turned in a pair of solid but unspectacular performances against Cleveland State and Eastern Michigan.
Key Stats: 10.7 points and 3.7 assists per game, 7-for-16 three-point shooting.
Why He’s Here: Wildcats’ floor leader knows when to create his own shot and when to set up his arsenal of high-scoring teammates.
Biggest Concern: Defense is becoming an issue for him with nine fouls in his last two games.
Previous Ranking: 12
Although he kept up his non-scoring contributions, James Young suffered through a pair of awful shooting nights in the last week, adding up to just 15 points on 4-for-19 from the field.
Key Stats: 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.
Why He’s Here: Athletic swingman, gives Wildcats another perimeter weapon who can also finish fast breaks with the best.
Biggest Concern: Eager as he is to hoist three-pointers (48 of them in seven games), he’s shooting just .271 from beyond the arc right now.
Previous Ranking: 13
Any gains Eric Mika might have made in leading the Cougars' narrow win over Texas were erased by the center’s one-rebound vanishing act in a loss to Wichita State.
Key Stats: 13.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
Why He’s Here: Low-post counterpart to BYU’s perimeter weapons, provides reliable scoring while his rebounding skills mature.
Biggest Concern: At 6’10”, needs to make more of a statement on defense than six blocks in seven games.
Previous Ranking: 6
Facing his toughest opposition of the young season, Nigel Williams-Goss went from overwhelming to ordinary against Indiana and Boston College.
Key Stats: 13.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Why He’s Here: Still the best all-around player on thin Huskies roster, he led a gutty home win over veteran Montana.
Biggest Concern: So negligible a long-range threat (at 1-for-6 through six games) that defenses can sag off him to cut down his penetration chances.
Previous Ranking: 14
A string of easy Bruins wins have done wonders for Zach LaVine’s stats, as he’s been shredding the nets against the likes of Nevada and Chattanooga.
Key Stats: 13.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, 12-for-23 three-point shooting.
Why He’s Here: Coming off the bench for UCLA’s deep backcourt, high-scoring ball-handler is putting up more points than some teams’ leading scorers.
Biggest Concern: Hasn't been doing much as a playmaker (five assists in last three games).
Previous Ranking: 18
Tyler Ennis came on like a tidal wave in Hawaii, dominating both Cal and Baylor in the Orange’s Maui Invitational title run.
Key Stats: 11.7 points, 4.7 assists and 2.9 steals per game, 7-for-18 three-point shooting.
Why He’s Here: Syracuse’s defensive leader stepped up his offense as a scorer (28 points against Golden Bears) and passer (nine assists against Baylor in title game).
Biggest Concern: Still shooting a dismal .365 from the floor for the season.
Previous Ranking: 9
Joel Embiid continues to be a solid option at center for Kansas, though he was fairly quiet in limited minutes against both Towson and Wake Forest.
Key Stats: 9.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, .708 field-goal shooting.
Why He’s Here: Mobile seven-footer brings explosiveness to balance Tarik Black’s power down low.
Biggest Concern: Lack of aggression on offense will make it easy to disappear in Kansas’ deep lineup.
Previous Ranking: 11
Aaron Harrison showed once again what a devastating scorer he can be at his best, torching Eastern Michigan for 22 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the bargain.
Key Stats: 13.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Why He’s Here: Physical 6’6” scorer spreads the floor for Julius Randle and gets plenty of his own points along the way.
Biggest Concern: High-volume shooter is hitting just .397 from the floor.
Previous Ranking: 5
Although Noah Vonleh did add another double-double to his resume, the lasting memory of this week will be his disastrous showing against UConn—zero points in 10 foul-plagued minutes—as the Hoosiers lost their biggest game so far.
Key Stats: 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Why He’s Here: Big Ten rebounding machine is also top target for scoring PG Yogi Ferrell.
Biggest Concern: Iffy shot-blocker at 6’10”, though he has been forcing some turnovers (1.1 steals per game).
Previous Ranking: 7
Two terrific games in Maui—including 17 points against the mighty Syracuse zone—help offset Jabari Bird’s rotten finish against Dayton (six points on 1-for-6 shooting).
Key Stats: 13.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, 14-for-30 three-point shooting.
Why He’s Here: Cal is an endangered species—the senior-laden power-conference team—but Bird has still made himself a vital part of the offense.
Biggest Concern: Struggles against Dayton in third game in three days may hint at endurance issues for wispy 190-lb. guard.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Jordan Mickey should have been here last week, too, and even the end of his double-double streak came with a season-high 17 points and another five blocks.
Key Stats: 14.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.
Why He’s Here: Pairing with junior Johnny O’Bryant III to give Tigers SEC’s top frontcourt outside of Lexington.
Biggest Concern: Stands just 6’8”, so unlikely to keep up dazzling shot-blocking numbers against power-conference foes.
Previous Ranking: 4
With Arizona struggling to score against a tough Drexel defense, Aaron Gordon keyed a dominant rebounding effort that put the Wildcats in the NIT title game.
Key Stats: 12.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Why He’s Here: Double-double factory is showing some jump-shooting potential to go with his celebrated dunking prowess.
Biggest Concern: Despite signs of ending his early slump, still shooting just .536 from charity stripe.
Previous Ranking: 3
After a dreadful first half, Andrew Wiggins bounced back to lead Kansas’ rout of Wake Forest on Thursday.
Key Stats: 16.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game, .585 field-goal shooting.
Why He’s Here: Scoring leader for No. 2 Jayhawks is also pulling his weight on the defensive end.
Biggest Concern: Still hasn’t seen the kind of great defensive team—a Virginia or a Wisconsin or an Ohio State—that he’ll have to beat in the postseason.
Previous Ranking: 1
It was a quiet week for Julius Randle by his absurd standards, as he totaled “only” 29 points in two Kentucky wins.
Key Stats: 19 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
Why He’s Here: On a roster featuring many of the country’s top freshmen, Randle has been head-and-shoulders above the rest.
Biggest Concern: Continues to disappoint defensively with zero blocks in last two games and zero steals on the season.
Previous Ranking: 2
Tested by both upset-minded Vermont and defense-minded Alabama, Jabari Parker came through with flying colors (and two more Duke wins).
Key Stats: 23.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks per game, 14-for-23 three-point shooting.
Why He’s Here: Has yet to score fewer than 21 points in a game for high-powered Blue Devils, and he's also the team's best defender.
Biggest Concern: Still hasn’t gotten to prove himself against a bruiser-type power forward, an omission that will be corrected Friday when Duke takes on Aaron Gordon and Arizona.