CBB Preseason Awards Watch: Predicting Freshman of the Year from BCS Conferences
Every year freshmen take the college basketball world by storm, and play a huge role in determining a season's national champion. The 2010-2011 season will be no different.
It began with Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in 2007. Then Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Tyreke Evans, Greg Monroe, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry followed.
Not every player featured here will have the national impact of the players listed above, but all of them will play a huge role in determining their team's fortunes this season.
Following are predictions for freshman of the year from each BCS conference.
ACC: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina G/F
A near-consensus choice as the country's number one player in the class of 2010, Harrison Barnes was selected to the AP preseason All-America team. It's no wonder, then, that he is the choice for the ACC's freshman of the year.
Barnes is the ideal wing prospect, standing 6'7'' and weighing 215 pounds. He has NBA-level athleticism and is a deadeye shooter from well past the three point line. He is adept finishing around the rim and has a tight handle. Quite simply, there's not much he can't do on the basketball court. Additionally, reports indicate he is a tremendous worker and dedicated student in the classroom.
If someone other than Barnes was to claim the distinction as the ACC's best freshman, many would consider it a huge upset. There's no reason Barnes can't deliver on his incredibly lofty preseason accolades, and lead UNC back national prominence in the process.
Others considered: Kyrie Irving, Duke; C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State; Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Note: Irving has enough ability to outplay Barnes this season. However, due to Duke's Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and incredible depth, Barnes was the obvious choice here.
Big 12: Josh Selby, Kansas G
Josh Selby, Rivals number one recruit in the country, has yet to be cleared for play by the NCAA. However, all reports—and KU coach Bill Self—indicate that he will be deemed eligible very soon.
Selby is one of the most dynamic guards in the country. He has elite athleticism (he won the Powerade Jam dunk contest at the McDonald's AA Game) to go with devastating handles and range on his jumper.
Self has frequently compared him to a bigger version of former KU great Sherron Collins, and said that Selby is the most talented player he's ever recruited to play for him. Clearly, there are high expectations for the Baltimore product in Lawrence.
After losing Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry to the NBA, the Jayhawks will be counting on Selby to provide points and playmaking from the perimeter. Given Self's praise and that he was chosen as the league's preseason newcomer of the year, the consensus is that he'll deliver.
Others considered: Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, Texas; Perry Jones, Baylor; Phil Pressey, Missouri
Note: If the unexpected occurs and Selby is deemed ineligible, this spot belongs to Joseph.
Big East: Vander Blue, Marquette G
A consensus top 50 recruit, the selection of Marquette's Vander Blue as the Big East's freshman of the year may surprise some.
Blue, as well as possessing one of the best name's in college basketball, is a classic combo guard with great athleticism. He can get in the lane at will thanks to his terrific ballhandling ability, has a solid jumper and can make plays for others. Additionally, Blue is a disruptor on defense and tenacious rebounder. Marquette coach Buzz Williams got a great in-state talent in Blue.
Marquette will be counting on Blue for big minutes from the season's beginning, and he is more than capable of making the most out of them. He'll put up numbers across the board in every game he plays, and for that reason ranks ahead of more ballyhooed prospects in the conference.
Others considered: Fab Melo and Dion Waiters, Syracuse; Roscoe Smith, Connecticut
Big Ten: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State C
If there's a freshman more highly thought of than Barnes in the country, its Ohio State's Jared Sullinger.
At 6'9'', 280 pounds, there isn't a player more physically dominating than Sullinger in all of college basketball. He combines that rare size with a solid post game, soft touch on his jumper and surprising agility and leaping ability. Sullinger may be the country's best rebounder already, as evidenced by his 14 rebounds in just 21 minutes in OSU's season opener.
In many ways, Sullinger duplicates what Demarcus Cousins brought to the table for Kentucky last year, but without all of the personality problems and off the court baggage. For that reason, he should outdo Cousins and be considered the best freshman big man since Greg Oden. Don't be surprised if Sullinger leads the Buckeyes to the final four this season, and garners All-American honors in the process.
Others considered: Adreian Payne and Keith Appling, Michgan State; Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State; Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Pac--10: Joshua Smith, UCLA C
UCLA's Josh Smith has as much upside as any big man in the country. Whether or not his conditioning level allows him to play that way remains to be seen.
At 6'10'', 305, Smith may be the biggest player in all of college basketball. Due to that amazing size, he's nearly unstoppable when he gets deep position in the paint. He's got a soft touch around the basket and is remarkably light on his feet for a player of such proportions. Smith uses his athleticism to his advantage defensively, blocking shots and getting rebounds out of his area.
If Smith can keep his weight down, there's no reason why he can't be an all--league selected in the Pac--10 this season. He and sophomore PF Reeves Nelson will form one of the country's best interior duos, and should lead UCLA back to national respectability.
Others considered: Dwight Powell, Stanford; Daniel Bejarano, Arizona; Keala King, Arizona State
SEC: Trevor Releford, Alabama PG
The choice of Alabama's Trevor Releford over first-year players from Kentucky and Florida as the SEC freshman of the year is sure to shock some. Watch Releford play, and you may feel differently.
A product of Kansas City, Missouri, Releford steadily climbed recruiting rankings through his high school career. By the time it was over, he established himself as a top 10 PG in the class of 2010.
At 6'0'', 180, Releford doesn't have ideal size for a BCS-level guard. He makes up for it with amazing quickness and unrivaled ballhandling ability. Releford gets into the paint at will where he just as easily makes plays for others as he does for himself. Though his jumper is improved, he still needs to get more consistent with his outside shot to reach his full potential as a player.
Releford has been handed the keys to the Crimson Tide car by coach Anthony Grant, and he's not looking back. Alabama is in good hands with him at the wheel, and could surprise this season in the SEC. If they do, it will undoubtedly be due to the play of their freshman PG.
Others considered: Patric Young, Florida; Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, Kentucky; Damontre Harris, South Carolina
Note: This spot belongs to Kentucky's Enes Kanter if the decision on his eligibility is overturned.