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Top freshmen: Davis, Rivers, Drummond head powerful class

by | College Basketball Blogger

Austin Rivers figures to make this much impact on Duke's storied program. (US Presswire)  
Austin Rivers figures to make this much impact on Duke's storied program. (US Presswire)  

Each year, the arrival of a new crop of freshmen stirs many fan bases into a tizzy, leading to high hopes and overflowing optimism.

After all, the sky is the limit for a player who has yet to suit up in a game; people can place unlimited expectations on a freshman because he has done nothing to prove otherwise.

Even the best newcomers have growing pains, though. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes had a very rough start to his college career before picking up his play toward the end of last season. He enters his sophomore campaign as a preseason All-America. Kentucky's Terrence Jones had his ups-and-downs, while Ohio State's Jared Sullinger had bouts of inconsistency as well. Brandon Knight took time to get comfortable playing the point guard position for Kentucky.

More accolades

The productivity of most freshmen is very difficult to project. Some adapt to the physicality of the college game quicker than others, while maturity also plays a major role -- especially on a successful team with veterans already entrenched in the rotation.

We should note that this ranking is not based solely on talent displayed in high school. It accounts more for the ability each freshman has to truly impact his team. For example, James Michael McAdoo and Khem Birch were both top-10 high school seniors, but neither will get an immediate starting spot and therefore drop behind a few players ranked below them in high school. For freshmen, it's sometimes more about opportunity than ability and potential.

Also, should Arizona State's Jahii Carson be cleared to play before the season -- Carson is still awaiting the NCAA's ruling on his eligibility -- he would place in the 20s on this list. Marshall guard Justin Coleman is a freshman this season, which is why he is allowed a spot in the ranking, but we should mention he sat out last season as a partial qualifier.

Ranking top freshmen
1. Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky
Quite possibly the top pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Davis possesses limitless potential because of his size, athleticism and versatility. A late bloomer in high school, Davis enters college with a huge target on his back. He certainly won't be overlooked in Lexington -- and a Final Four is expected right away.
2. Austin Rivers, G, Duke
Rivers immediately becomes one of the most explosive scorers in the college game. He has great range on his jumper, and has the ability to heat up in a hurry. He also has great body control in traffic. Rivers plays with a swagger and is not afraid to take -- and make -- the big shot with the clock winding down.
3. Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
Provided his broken nose doesn't hamper him, Drummond will be one of the better low-post players in college basketball. He is still somewhat raw with his back-to-the-basket game, but he is extremely athletic and runs better than most big men. Drummond also has the ability to step outside and make the occasional jumper.
4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F, Kentucky
While he doesn't have the ceiling some of the other freshmen have, Kidd-Gilchrist is a do-it-all type of player who just knows how to win. He works hard at both ends of the floor, and will do whatever it takes to get his team a victory. On a team with so much talent, expect Kidd-Gilchrist to be a steadying influence.
5. Brad Beal, G, Florida
We understanding that Florida already is loaded with guards in its rotation, but Beal will certainly fight for his share of chances. He is deadly in the mid-range and can really shoot the ball from deep. Beal has a smoothness about his game that will make him a factor immediately in Gainesville.
6. LeBryan Nash, F, Oklahoma State
Will become the go-to guy for Travis Ford from the first game. Nash has a wide array of skills and has the ability to dominate a game when he's focused. He will be a matchup nightmare for most opponents because of his size, strength, athleticism and ball-handling ability. The Cowboys are counting on him.
7. Adonis Thomas, F, Memphis
Last year's hometown star, Joe Jackson, struggled during his freshman season at Memphis. While Thomas also will experience growing pains, expect him to win a starting spot and become one of the best players in Conference USA. He is extremely active around the basket and possesses high-level athleticism.
8. Quincy Miller, F, Baylor
Miller was forced to sit out most of his senior season because of an ACL injury, but his scoring ability is second to none in the class of 2011. While he will have to fight for a spot in the Baylor lineup, Miller is a future lottery pick who is nearly impossible to guard when his outside shot is falling.
9. Marquis Teague, G, Kentucky
The latest in a long line of John Calipari-coached point guards, a list that includes Derrick Rose, John Wall and Brandon Knight. Is Teague ready to carry the torch? Given his quickness and tremendous playmaking abilities, Teague will be just fine running Kentucky's offense -- and running is definitely the right word for the speedy Teague.
10. Myck Kabongo, G, Texas
Without even playing a college game, Kabongo is already among the fastest players in the country. He is a blur with the ball and loves to push the tempo, which Rick Barnes should allow him to do. Kabongo is a pass-first player who also uses his size and length to be a defensive menace.
11. Jabari Brown, G, Oregon
It certainly wouldn't be shocking to see Brown lead the Pac-12 in scoring during his freshman season. He is a tremendous shooter who is known to fill it up in a hurry, both from behind the arc and with pull-up jumpers. The California native has a college-ready body and could immediately become the Ducks' go-to guy.
12. Josiah Turner, G, Arizona
Yet another impact point man, Turner is impossible to keep out of the lane because of his strength and ability to make plays off the dribble. He knows how to finish at the rim or create plays for teammates. With Sean Miller in need of a starting point guard, Turner also could be the player with the ball in his hands late in games.
13. Cody Zeller, F, Indiana
If Tom Crean turns things around at Indiana, getting Zeller to stay home and play for the Hoosiers will play a major part. The 6-foot-11 forward continued to expand his game late in his high school career, and his all-around skill set will be a tremendous asset in the Big Ten. If Zeller adds bulk, he is going to be tough to defend.
14. Branden Dawson, F, Michigan State
Tom Izzo's best teams are predicated on physical defense and dominance on the backboards. Enter Dawson, who might have been the best rebounder in the entire class despite standing only 6-foot-6. He has outstanding athleticism and his length makes him a highly-effective offensive rebounder. Strong enough to score around the basket.
15. James Michael McAdoo, F, North Carolina
With five returning starters locked into the lineup, McAdoo won't get the playing time and opportunities as some of the other top freshmen. However, McAdoo immediately will be one of the best sixth men in the country, providing tremendous offensive ability at the forward position. Will be a star in Chapel Hill if he sticks around two years.

The next 15
16. Tony Mitchell, Forward, North Texas 21. Nick Faust, Guard, Maryland 26. Maurice Harkless, St. John's
17. Rodney Hood, Forward, Mississippi State 22. Dorian Finney-Smith, Forward, Virginia Tech 27. Levi Randolph, Guard, Alabama
18. Tony Wroten Jr., Guard, Washington 23. Justin Coleman, Guard, Marshall 28. Johnny O'Bryant, Forward, LSU
19. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Guard, Georgia 24. B.J. Young, Guard, Arkansas 29. Chane Behanan, Forward, Louisville
20. DeAndre Daniels, Forward, Connecticut 25. Trevor Lacey, Guard, Alabama 30. Adjehi Baru, Forward, Charleston
2011-12 Season Preview
Oct. 13Preseason Top 25 (and one) Nov. 1Top freshmen
 Projected NCAA tournament field Nov. 2Top transfers
 Goodman and Parrish bracket picks Nov. 3Under the radar players
Oct. 14Team profiles: 'Cuse | UConn | UK | UNC Nov. 4Breakout players
Oct. 17Preseason All-Americans Nov. 5Best shooters
Oct. 18Top 100 players Nov. 6Best defensive players
Oct. 19Positional rankings: Point guards Nov. 768 things ...
Oct. 20Positional rankings: Wing men Nov. 8Ranking the preseason tourneys
Oct. 21Positional rankings: Big men Nov. 950 can't miss games
   Nov. 10Coaches on the Hot Seat

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