Our first Freshman of the Year rankings this season came out on Nov. 20, and
Oklahoma State Cowboys
found himself atop the list -- leading
It's only fitting that our final rankings also features Smart at No. 1. It wasn't a wire-to-wire run like Anthony Davis was last year (aside from one week, when teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took the top spot), as Bennett and
were Nos. 1-2 for much of conference play. In fact, Smart dropped out of the rankings at one point after a couple of weeks when he struggled offensively. A late run over the final month, though, propelled Smart into the upper echelon of the rankings -- and he took back No. 1 in late February and hasn't relinquished the spot.
Smart was always arguably the most important freshman in the country. Oklahoma State needed him badly at both ends of the floor. He came into college as a winner, and that's exactly what he has done in Stillwater. Smart immediately became a leader for the Cowboys, which is what they needed. As a result, Oklahoma State received a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament -- something that was unattainabale without Smart.
Congrats to Marcus Smart, the No. 1 freshman in the country.
1. Marcus Smart -- Oklahoma State
Position: Point Guard
Ht: 6-4 Wt: 225
Season Stats: 15.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.9 SPG Comment: Smart hasn't been the most efficient offensive player all season, but he really stepped up his game toward the end of the campaign -- and now he has a ton of momentum heading into the NCAA tournament. Over his last four games, Smart averaged 21.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals. He's the type of talent who can carry Oklahoma State to several wins in the big dance. He impacts a game at both ends of the floor, and he isn't afraid to take big shots.
2. Ben McLemore -- Kansas
Position: Shooting Guard
Ht: 6-5 Wt: 195
Season Stats: 16.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG Comment: McLemore could be the key to
' potential run to Atlanta (aside from the Jayhawks' point-guard play, obviously). He needs to take on the attitude of a go-to-guy in the NCAA tournament, something that he hasn't done consistently this season. He is capable of breaking out for 25 or even 35 points in a given game, but some defenses have adjusted and forced him to put it on the floor. McLemore had five points in the Big 12 title game against Kansas State, but he could be the No. 1 overall pick.
3. Anthony Bennett -- UNLV
Position: Power Forward
Ht: 6-8 Wt: 240
Season Stats: 16.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG Comment: Bennett had the No. 1 ranking for most of the season, dominating the Mountain West on the offensive end and then also crashing the glass with aggression. However, an injury and a late-season slump sent him down in the rankings -- although he's also the type of talent who can put the
on his back and lead them to the Final Four. After averaging 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in his last three games, it looks like Bennett is healthy and back to his old tricks on the inside.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Position: Point Guard
Ht: 5-10 Wt: 175
Season Stats: 18.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.0 APG Comment: The Sun Devils' losing streak down the stretch of the regular season kept them out of the NCAA tournament, but Carson proved himself as one of the most explosive and exciting point guards in the country. In two Pac-12 tournament games, Carson totaled 55 points, nine rebounds and 11 assists -- while shooting 22-for-36 from the field. If Carson returns to Tempe -- which he should, barring a first-round guarantee -- he could have Arizona State back in NCAA tournament contention.
Position: Small Forward
Ht: 6-6 Wt: 225
Season Stats: 17.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG Comment: If UCLA is to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, much of it is going to fall on the shoulders of Muhammad. Without Jordan Adams due to injury, Muhammad will be the primary scorer on the Bruins, but he has to be careful not to force things on the offensive end. In his last three games, Muhammad averaged fewer than 12 points per game, and he failed to knock down a single 3-pointer. He needs to be efficient with the ball and also find open teammates if he attracts too much attention.
Others to Note:
would have undoubtedly made the list had he not torn his ACL in February.
Michigan State Spartans
flirted with the rankings for several weeks, but never got over the hump.
St. John's Red Storm
were also stellar, while
Glenn Robinson III
NC State Wolfpack
Duke Blue Devils
all deserved some recognition.
The best mid-major freshman was arguably
High Point Panthers
, who was injured before the Big South tournament but is expected to return next season.