Freshman of the Year: Marcus Smart charges to the top

Marcus Smart has led Oklahoma State to a 4-0 start and a spot in the top 25. (US Presswire)

With two full weekends of the college basketball season under our belt, it’s time to start looking at the top freshmen in the country. Anthony Davis held the top spot last year from start-to-finish, save for one week in December when teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist temporarily took over No. 1.

This season, I don’t expect that we will have the same type of dominant consistency throughout the entire season. With that said, one player has separated himself a bit from the field after a couple of weeks. Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart is the No. 1 player in Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish’s Player of the Year watch -- and it’s the same case with Freshman of the Year. Smart has put up great numbers early, while also leading the Cowboys into the Top 25.

After Smart, a number of players could have made convincing cases for being included in the top five -- but we had to make some tough calls. Most teams have only played two or three games, so it’s difficult to truly assess which freshmen are the best so far. Last season, the top five guys separated themselves as the season progressed -- will we see the same thing this year? We’ll wait and see. 

1. Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State
  Position: Point Guard

Ht: 6-4 Wt: 225

Season Stats: 14.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 3.0 SPG

Smart has been arguably the most valuable player in college basketball so far this season. He has completely turned around the attitude in Stillwater. This goes beyond his numbers -- he has led the Cowboys to wins over Akron, Tennessee and NC State, completely dominating Lorenzo Brown in the final one against the Wolfpack. He’s just a winner and a leader.
2. Nerlens NoelKentucky
  Position: Center

Ht: 6-10 Wt: 228

Season Stats: 11.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 3.3 SPG

Noel came into the season with expectations as a supreme shot-blocker -- and that’s been perhaps the least impressive part of his season so far. He’s been contributing across the board, including racking up steals at a high clip. Noel has been very solid on the glass and is scoring well in transition and around the rim. He needs to be more disciplined defensively -- he’s allowing too many offensive boards.
3. Anthony BennettUNLV
  Position: Power Forward

Ht: 6-8 Wt: 240

Season Stats: 17.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG

UNLV has only played two games, and it hasn’t been against the best competition, but Bennett has been one of the most productive newcomers in the country. He’s a versatile offensive player, with the ability to create matchup problems with his inside-outside scoring prowess. There are plenty of scorers on the Runnin’ Rebels, but Bennett could be the best.
4. Isaiah AustinBaylor
  Position: Center

Ht: 7-1 Wt: 220

Season Stats: 16.0 PPG

Despite only playing 17 minutes in the opener and missing the second game with an ankle injury, Austin has shown why he can be a huge asset for Baylor. He’s stepping out and knocking down 3-pointers, and he’s been a double-double threat every night. He’s been efficient from the field, and has been tough. He will continue to be a matchup problem.
5. Gary Harris – Michigan State
  Position: Shooting Guard

Ht: 6-4 Wt: 205

Season Stats: 16.0 PPG

Everyone knew Harris would be a solid two-way contributor, given his athleticism, ability to get his own shot and his knack for guarding multiple positions. Harris, though, has been Michigan State’s most consistent scorer. He went for 18 points in a win over Kansas, and has shot 14-for-22 in his last two games. Struggling in the season-opening loss to Connecticut is the only thing keeping him this low.

Others to Note:

  • There were several guys who just missed: Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), Alex Poythress (Kentucky), Ben McLemore (Kansas), T.J. Warren (NC State), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan), Rodney Purvis (NC State), Brandon Ashley (Arizona),Ryan Arcidiacono  (Villanova ) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke).
  • Jordan Adams could have made the top five based solely on his scoring exploits. He’s reached 20 points in all four games, averaged 23.5 points so far. Ben Howland needs to find minutes for him.
  • We expect UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad on this list in due time -- but not yet. He did score 15 points in his debut against Georgetown on Monday, though.
  • Prezemek Karnowski has had two games of 20-plus points, shooting 19-for-26 in those contests. Against West Virginia, though, the Gonzaga big had six points and four fouls.
  • Kyle Anderson has shown off his tremendous vision and mismatch ability, but the UCLA wing is just 1-for-16 in his last two games.
  • Nik Stauskas won’t get the most attention on Michigan, but he could be a major weapon as a shooter. He's already averaging double figures.
  • After a long wait, Arizona State’s Jahii Carson is averaging 17.5 points and 6.0 assists through two games.
  • Javan Felix hasn’t been great in place of Myck Kabongo at Texas, but he’s getting acclimated. The loss on Monday to Chaminade was embarrassing, though.
  • Excited to see what Iowa State’s Georges Niang does when the Cyclones start playing legitimate competition. He’s been productive so far -- 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds -- and he’ll find ways to make an impact.
  • Some other guys to keep an eye on: Seth Allen (Maryland), Chris Washburn (UTEP), Marcus Hunt (<span data-shortcode= Tech" data-canon="Georgia Bulldogs" data-type="SPORTS_OBJECT_TEAM" id="shortcode0">). 
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