Gary Parrish loves freshmen.
Don’t we all.
The newness. The enthusiasm. The athleticism, and talent.
Many have been named All-Americans before ever setting foot on a college campus: Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose were all first-team all-Americans before they ever enrolled. Truth be told Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and and the rest of the first-year players have been sensational since the NBA’s age-limit started forcing them to college in 2006, though none have won a national title.
In fact, none of the national champions in the era of the NBA age-limit — have relied heavily on a freshman. The top freshman on Florida’s 2007 title team was Marreese Speights, who averaged 4.1 points per game; the top freshman on Kansas’ 2008 title team was Cole Aldrich, who averaged 2.8 points per game; and the top freshman on North Carolina’s 2009 title team was Ed Davis, who averaged 6.7 points per game. I believe all are still at their school. So while there is no denying that freshmen have dominated headlines each of the past three seasons — particularly Durant and Beasley, both of whom were named CBSSports.com’s National Player of the Year — it is fair to point out that they have not dominated on the first Monday in April.
This is the season – that changes.
A freshman will play a key role for the 2010 national champion, guaranteed, if only because this is a season where five of the top six teams in the preseason Top 25 (and one) figure to rely heavily on a freshman (or two).
No. 1 Kansas has Xavier Henry.
No. 2 Kentucky has John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton.
No. 4 North Carolina has John Henson.
No. 5 Texas has Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton.
No. 6 Villanova has Mouphtauo Yarou and Dominic Cheek.
The key stat to remember is that six of the top nine prospects in Scout.com’s final Class of 2009 rankings — No. 2 Wall, No. 3 Cousins, No. 4 Henson, No. 5 Bradley, No. 6 Henry and No. 9 Yarou — are enrolled at schools ranked among the top six in the preseason Top 25 (and one), meaning this season should offer the perfect combination of elite freshmen playing for elite teams. The only school that seems capable of spoiling this is Michigan State, which is ranked third in the preseason Top 25 (and one) and devoid of an elite freshman. Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Villanova — and perhaps even with Duke (Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee) or Connecticut (Alex Oriaki) — should be there to hold up the coveted trophy in April.
We’ll revisit the subject in April with Gary Parris.
Adapted from By Gary Parrish
CBSSports.com Staff Writer
For more from Gary Parrish, check him out on Twitter: @GaryParrishCBS