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The Biggest Overachievers in College Basketball's 2013-14 Freshman Class

Brendan O'MearaFeatured ColumnistMarch 9, 2014

The Biggest Overachievers in College Basketball's 2013-14 Freshman Class

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    Ted Richardson/Associated Press

    The beginning of any college basketball season focuses squarely on the freshmen who, more than likely, would rather have entered the NBA draft. They were forced by extenuating rules to enter the college game. Naturally, all the attention is on them from the beginning through the end. They cast a long shadow.

    That shadow cloaks the hundreds of other players, let alone freshmen in the 2013-2014 season. After trolling the sea of college basketball, a few freshmen surfaced that aren't named Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker but who, nonetheless, made heavy contributions to their teams.

    Only two of the following freshmen even cracked the ESPN 100 list (Jordan Mickey, 38th; Mamadou Ndiaye, 74th) as the top recruits heading into this season. The others weren't so dignified as to be represented. Their expectations weren't that of the others on the list, which makes where they stand in the world of college basketball all the more impressive.

    Read on to meet some of the country's most overachieving freshmen. 

James Daniel, Howard

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    James Daniel is a 5'11" guard/forward for the Howard Bison and represents the only freshman near the top 10 in scoring. Daniel's 22.0 points per game are good for a tie for 11th in the land. Like many of the players on this list, he wasn't on the radar as one of the country's bigger recruits. Daniel failed to crack the Top 150 at Rivals.com.

    What makes it all the more impressive is that Howard's record of 7-23—even in the meager MEAC—puts a defensive emphasis on Daniel. For as long as Daniel remains a Bison, they have a scorer to build around going forward.

Andrew Rowsey, UNC Asheville

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    Ted Richardson/Associated Press

    Hundreds of miles west of Tobacco Road, far west of Durham, Chapel Hill and even Winston-Salem, sits Asheville, N.C. And in that city stands Andrew Rowsey, a freshman guard who scored 19.9 points per game over the course of this season.

    Rowsey didn't make the ESPN 100 list and failed to make the Rivals 150. His prolific scoring in a challenging mid-major conference in the Big South qualifies him as an overachiever in the 2013-2014 season.

    He led the Bulldogs to a 16-14 regular-season record after starting the year 1-7, with that lone win coming in overtime. The state of North Carolina has an unsung star in Rowsey.

QJ Peterson, Virginia Military

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    Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

    The Virginia Military Keydets, led by dynamic freshman Q.J. Peterson, tallied an 18-11 record this season. Peterson is 34th in the nation in scoring with 19.6 points per game. He is yet another player who failed to make any of the prestigious lists doled out by talent evaluators.

    In 33 minutes per game, he also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists. 

Sean Obi, Rice

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    Down the rebound list is Rice's Sean Obi. At 6'9", Obi ripped down 9.5 rebounds a game for the cellar-dwelling Owls. They sit at the bottom of Conference USA, yet Obi nearly averaged a double-double with 11.4 points per game as well.

    The Owls finished the regular season with a record of 7-21, a low mark for sure. With Obi as the centerpiece—outplaying his projections—the Owls have a big man to build around.

Jordan Mickey, Louisiana State

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    Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    Jordan Mickey, the big man in the center of it all for the LSU Tigers, finished sixth in the country with 3.36 blocks per game. He was the 38th-ranked overall recruit coming into this season, so his stature as one of the premier big men shouldn't come as too big a surprise.

    Assuming the shots he blocked would score, he kept roughly seven points off the scoreboard for his team. To be the 38th-best recruit and be top-10 in any category bumps him up the list.

    He had two blocks in a recent loss to No. 1 Florida as his team fell to 17-11 on the season. 

Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine

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    Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    The Anteaters have their middle blocked up by Mamadou Ndiaye, a 7'6", 290-pound forward. That's seven feet...six inches. That's a whole lot of Mamadou. He averaged 3.10 blocks per game, good for 12th in the country. According to ESPN, he was the 74th-ranked recruit entering this season. He likely made the list by virtue of his size alone. 

    If he were 6'10", would he even have made the list? Tough to say, but he proved to be an integral cog for the Anteaters, nearly cracking the top 10 in blocks.

    He led his team to a 20-10 record while also averaging 8.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Reggie Lynch, Illinois State

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Thirty-first on the blocks list is Illinois State's Reggie Lynch with 2.63 a game. At 6'10" and 230 pounds, he's a pivotal person of interest for the Redbirds. Again, Lynch, like so many on this list, didn't get any attention from the country's rankers of talent after his senior year of high school.

    The Redbirds finished the regular season at 16-14, a slight fall from last year's record of 18-15, but with Lynch anchoring the middle, they stand to improve.

    Lynch also added 8.1 points per game and 4.5 rebounds on top of the blocks. Lynch is already close to a double-double threat, and that qualifies him as an overachiever.

Kurt Steidl, University of Vermont

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Kurt Steidl wasn't on anybody's list coming into the 2013-204 season. He only scored 6.1 points per game in 14.9 minutes of play, so naturally, it's easy to dismiss him. But it's his touch from beyond the arc that makes him one of this year's overachievers. 

    Steidl is 10th best in the country with a .486 three-point field-goal percentage on 36-of-74 shooting for the 21-9 Vermont Catamounts. Being top-10 in any nationwide category earns a slide, especially when nobody saw you coming.

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