Freshmen haven't just been among the best individual players in college basketball in 2013-14—they've been integral parts of many of the best teams. Kentucky, where almost the entire rotation consists of first-year talent, is the most obvious example, but plenty of other Top 25 powers are depending on frosh in vital roles.
One who's grabbing more and more of the spotlight is point guard Tyler Ennis of No. 2 Syracuse. The Orange's floor leader runs hot-and-cold like few others, but when he's on his, game he's been one of the most dangerous perimeter players in the nation.
Herein, a closer look at Ennis and the rest of the 20 most impressive freshmen from around the country this season.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Roddy Peters made his first career start in impressive fashion on Thursday night, tallying three assists and a career-best 14 points in a conference road win at Boston College.
Key Stats: 6.2 points, 3.3 assists and 1.0 steals per game
Why He’s Here: On a Maryland squad loaded with skilled veterans, he's emerged as the most productive playmaker.
Biggest Concern: Needs to cut down on team-high 2.8 turnovers per contest.
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Johnathan Williams III went a long way toward dispelling concerns about his lack of bulk (at 6’9”, 208 lbs) by running circles around the physical UCLA front line with 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
Key Stats: 7.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game
Why He’s Here: Designated rebounder for guard-heavy Tigers has been a key factor in undefeated start.
Biggest Concern: Indifferent scoring performance includes awful .548 free-throw shooting.
Previous Ranking: 18
Although Bobby Portis' scoring cooled off a bit against Clemson, the agile power forward did hand out a career-high three assists in a Razorbacks win.
Key Stats: 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game
Why He’s Here: Physical 6'10", 242-pound forward also provides an impressive scoring presence up front.
Biggest Concern: After nine misses in 10 tries, it's time to take his three-point shot back to the practice floor.
Previous Ranking: 17
In a story that’s becoming all too familiar for Devin Williams, his gritty performance down low wasn't quite enough as the Mountaineers’ upset bid fell short against No. 20 Gonzaga.
Key Stats: 9.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game
Why He’s Here: Low-post bruiser anchors middle for perimeter-first WVU.
Biggest Concern: Although his point totals aren't that bad, he’s been a remarkably poor shooter for a big man at .425 from the field.
Previous Ranking: 15
Like the rest of the Memphis starters, Austin Nichols didn't stay on the floor too long in a rout of Northwestern State, leaving him with his second straight subpar point total.
Key Stats: 11.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game
Why He’s Here: Versatile scorer provides finesse complement to punishing Shaq Goodwin in the paint.
Biggest Concern: Needs to be a little more willing to play through contact after going to the foul line just 18 times in seven games.
Previous Ranking: 16
Long Beach State gave NC State all it wanted on its home floor, but the Wolfpack got another terrific effort from combo guard Cat Barber—19 points and four assists—in the victory.
Key Stats: 13 points and 3.9 assists per game, .429 three-point shooting
Why He’s Here: Wolfpack's second-leading scorer is doing even more damage as a distributor than incumbent—and backcourt partner—Tyler Lewis.
Biggest Concern: Undersized (6'2", 170-lbs) for the 2-guard spot, and it’s not helping his lackluster defense.
Previous Ranking: 14
Nigel Williams-Goss put up a great fight on the road against No. 24 San Diego State, but even his customary 14-point, five-board, five-assist versatility couldn't stave off another Huskies loss.
Key Stats: 13 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game
Why He’s Here: Do-it-all PG is thriving despite talent-poor Washington roster.
Biggest Concern: Even coming off his best shooting performance of the season, has hit just five treys in eight games.
Previous Ranking: 12
His team got very different results from its two games this week, but Aaron Harrison’s performances against Baylor and Boise State came out almost perfectly in line with his impressive season averages.
Key Stats: 13.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game
Why He’s Here: Talented, versatile offensive weapon would be the leading scorer on plenty of major-conference teams.
Biggest Concern: Still hasn't found his groove as a three-point shooter (.304 on the year).
Previous Ranking: 10
Zach LaVine's worst shooting slump of the year (1-for-6 from three-point range) did UCLA no favors in its loss to Missouri, but he did shoot 5-for-6 inside the arc in putting up 13 points.
Key Stats: 14.2 points, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steals per game, .500 three-point shooting
Why He’s Here: As dangerous a bench scorer as there is in the country, regardless of age.
Biggest Concern: Non-scoring contributions have been awfully limited.
Previous Ranking: 9
Through a quirk of LSU’s schedule, Jordan Mickey didn't have any opportunity to bounce back from a couple of disappointing performances because his Tigers are in the midst of a 13-day layoff.
Key Stats: 13.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game
Why He’s Here: Game-changing shot-blocker has done outstanding all-around work inside.
Biggest Concern: Hasn't seen much of the kind of size and muscle he’ll be facing in SEC play.
Previous Ranking: 11
BYU has scored 196 points over its last two games, and Eric Mika has provided a healthy share of them, totaling 33 points and 14 boards against UMass and Prairie View.
Key Stats: 14.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game
Why He’s Here: Smooth-shooting center is among the top mid-major big men.
Biggest Concern: Like many Cougars, hasn't shown much on the defensive end.
Previous Ranking: 13
James Young has finally found his three-point stroke, putting together three straight big games from beyond the arc (including his 21-point, nine-rebound showcase against Boise State).
Key Stats: 13.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, .343 three-point shooting
Why He’s Here: Kentucky’s most productive deep threat is also one of its top finishers at the rim.
Biggest Concern: Needs more big rebounding performances like Tuesday night's, especially on the defensive glass.
Previous Ranking: 8
Facing some daunting competition from Colorado's Josh Scott and Florida's Patric Young, Joel Embiid put in a pair of unspectacular but respectable performances in two losing causes.
Key Stats: 8.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game
Why He’s Here: First-rate shot-blocker has earned his promotion to the Jayhawks’ starting center job.
Biggest Concern: Though he’s been an impressive rim protector on D, he’s also committing 3.7 fouls a game (including two foul-outs in his last four contests).
Previous Ranking: 5
Coming off his best game of the year against Indiana, Tyler Ennis turned in his worst performance against lowly Binghamton: three points, three assists and zero steals in 19 foul-plagued minutes.
Key Stats: 11.3 points, 4.9 assists and 2.7 steals per game, .429 three-point shooting
Why He’s Here: Nation’s top freshman floor leader has Orange undefeated and ranked No. 2.
Biggest Concern: Even by freshman standards, he’s already gone through several wild swings from success to failure and back.
Previous Ranking: 7
Jabari Bird bounced back from an awful game in a loss to UC Santa Barbara by pouring in 16 points to help his team outscore prolific Nevada, 92-84.
Key Stats: 12.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, .405 three-point shooting
Why He’s Here: Despite Golden Bears’ recent slump, he’s been a valuable scoring weapon for senior-laden team.
Biggest Concern: At 6’6” and boasting elite quickness, ought to be making more plays as a defender.
Previous Ranking: 3
Aaron Gordon finally met his match against the loaded UNLV front line, and even an easy win over New Mexico State didn’t see him climb back to his previous overwhelming level of performance.
Key Stats: 11.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game
Why He’s Here: Athletic rebounder adds dynamic scoring option to Wildcats frontcourt.
Biggest Concern: Shooting better when he’s being guarded (.469 from field) than when he isn’t (.447 from foul line).
Previous Ranking: 6
Despite a rare two-game slide from Kansas, Andrew Wiggins has gone back to putting up monster numbers, notching his first double-double and combining for 48 points and 16 boards against Colorado and Florida.
Key Stats: 16.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game
Why He’s Here: Jayhawks’ top offensive weapon has returned to No. 1-recruit form, at least in the box score.
Biggest Concern: Needs to cut down on long droughts (such as five-point first half against Buffaloes).
Previous Ranking: 4
A pair of easy wins meant another 21 boards for rebounding machine Noah Vonleh in the last week, while also giving him more opportunities to show off his improved free-throw touch (a combined 9-for-11 from the stripe).
Key Stats: 12.8 points, 10 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.3 steals per game
Why He’s Here: Big Ten's leading rebounder is providing plenty of scoring in support of Yogi Ferrell.
Biggest Concern: Has been shaky against Top 25-caliber opposition thus far.
Previous Ranking: 2
Julius Randle’s performances against Baylor and Boise State were nothing special by his standards, but by anyone else’s, it’s hard to complain about 33 points and 19 boards over two games.
Key Stats: 17.8 points and 12 rebounds per game
Why He’s Here: Dominant interior scorer ranks fourth nationally in rebounding.
Biggest Concern: Still turning the ball over at an awfully high frequency (3.5 giveaways a night).
Previous Ranking: 1
Even Jabari Parker can’t impress anyone when he doesn’t play, and Duke is in the throes of a 13-day stretch without a game.
Key Stats: 22.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 steals per game, .467 three-point shooting
Why He’s Here: ACC’s most impressive offensive weapon is an elite defender and the best rebounder on the undersized Blue Devils.
Biggest Concern: With borderline size for a PF (6’8”, 235 lbs), he can be vulnerable to especially big or strong opponents.