|Marcus Smart averaged 23.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 4.5 steals in two wins last week. (US Presswire)|
As we enter the final full month of the regular season, the race for Freshman of the Year is beginning to heat up. Anthony Bennett has been atop the rankings for most of the past two months, with Ben McLemore's increased role as a go-to-guy pushing Bennett for top billing at different times.
Lately, though, we're seeing a secondary group making moves toward the top couple of spots of the rankings. Marcus Smart has been on a role in the past week, and his ability to make plays at both ends of the floor might make him more valuable than any other frosh. Speaking of value, where would Arizona State be without Jahii Carson? And we can't forget about Nerlens Noel, who is looking more and more dominant on the defensive end as the season progresses. Can anyone overtake Bennett down the stretch?
As always, the Freshman of the Year rankings will be released on Tuesdays, along with the Player of the Year rankings.
|1. Anthony Bennett -- UNLV|
|2. Ben McLemore -- Kansas|
|3. Marcus Smart -- Oklahoma State|
|4. Jahii Carson -- Arizona State|
|5. Nerlens Noel -- Kentucky|
Others to Note:
- Shabazz Muhammad is still scoring the ball, averaging 21 points in his last three games. Normally that would be enough to get him a spot in the rankings, but UCLA has lost three of its last four.
- As we mentioned late last week, the biggest omission from the USBWA Freshman of the Year was St. John's forward Jakarr Sampson, who is clearly the best newcomer in the Big East. He's averaging 17.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in his last four games -- and he's put up double-digits in 19 of his last 20 games.
- Mississippi State's Gavin Ware is really coming on strong lately. In his last four games, Ware is averaging 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds.
- Georgia Tech likely won't make the NCAA tournament this season, but the Yellow Jackets have some optimism in the future with guard Marcus Georges-Hunt and big man Robert Carter. Shooter Chris Bolden is also just a freshman.
- Oregon guard Damyean Dotson clearly misses his backcourt mate, fellow frosh Dominic Artis, who has missed three games with a foot injury. Prior to Artis' injury, Dotson had double-figures in 13 of 19 games – but he hasn't reached it once with Artis out.
- George Washington has pulled off a couple of surprises this season, and it's thanks in large part to the freshman duo of Joe McDonald and Patricio Garino. They're combining to average 17.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists.
- Heading into this past weekend, UNCW guard Chris Dixon was averaging 20.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting nearly 52 percent from 3-point range. However, he has totaled just 16 points in two games.
- Time for our monthly mention of High Point forward John Brown. He's one of the more productive newcomers in the country, and he's still not slowing down. Brown has only scored in single-digits once this season.
- Freshman leaders: Points: Anthony Bennett, UNLV (18.5); Rebounds: Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette (10.5); Assists: Siyani Chambers, Harvard (6.1)