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The Fresh Princes

The top freshmen you've never heard of, mid-major update

Posted: Wednesday December 12, 2007 12:25PM; Updated: Wednesday December 12, 2007 4:34PM
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By Yoni Cohen

I disagree with Keno Davis, who this year took over for his legendary father, Dr. Tom Davis, at Drake. If Keno had his way, freshmen would again be ineligible to play college basketball. Indiana's Eric Gordon, USC's O.J. Mayo, Kansas State's Michael Beasley, UCLA's Kevin Love, and Memphis' Derrick Rose would be spending this season in street clothes.

Jerryd Bayless has made quite the early impact at Arizona -- averaging 20 points and five assists per game.
Jerryd Bayless has made quite the early impact at Arizona -- averaging 20 points and five assists per game.
Chris Coduto/Icon SMI
• Photo Gallery: The 15 Top Freshmen

Can you imagine the snoozefest that college basketball might become? It'd be as exciting as a fraternity party without freshmen girls. Then again, if I had my way, this year's "Fab Five" would be ineligible for any additional media hype. Instead, less-heralded freshmen would get the respect they deserve. For instance:

• Arizona's Jerryd Bayless would receive National Player of the Year consideration. The Phoenix product is averaging nearly 20 points and five assists a game while connecting on 45.7 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. With Chase Budinger struggling against Illinois on Saturday, it was Bayless whose dogged determination enabled the Wildcats to prevail in overtime. Less than a week earlier, his 26 points keyed Arizona's come-from-behind victory over Texas A&M. If Bayless continues his aggressive play, Arizona will again be hailed as Point-Guard U.

• Point-Guard U -- That's the type of clever moniker for which the folks at Ogilvy Public Relations are famous. Vanderbilt's A.J. Ogilvy, however, does not appear to be an agency client, despite his name. How else to explain the lack of national interest in the undefeated Commodores' hyper-productive and efficient Australian import? The 6-foot-10 center is scoring nearly 20 points and grabbing more than six rebounds -- in just 25 minutes a game. He's making 70 percent of his field goal attempts and 78 percent of his free throws. Amazingly, neither number is a typo.

Josh White is a full foot shorter than Ogilvy. He also plays for a program, North Texas, that isn't particularly well known outside of the Sun Belt Conference. Perhaps that explains why his exploits are under-appreciated. White is averaging nearly 19 points a game on 56 percent shooting from the floor -- and 58 percent shooting from long range. His best games this season have come in an upset win over Oklahoma State and a tough loss to Texas. He torched the Cowboys for 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting, then totaled 28 points against the Longhorns while making 6-of-9 three-pointers.

• Elsewhere, James Harden is kicking North Carolina State fans while they're down. Harden doesn't play for the Wolfpack, but he might have if the faithful hadn't chased Herb Sendek out of Raleigh. As it is, Harden is averaging almost 17 points and six rebounds a game for Sendek's 6-2 Arizona State squad, while Sidney Lowe is 4-3 after directing NC State to losses against New Orleans, East Carolina and Michigan State. The lone high point for Lowe? The inspired play of freshman big J.J. Hickson. He's contributing 18 points and eight rebounds a contest.

Senior who had a good week

Brian Roberts poured in 28 points in Dayton's victory over Lousiville.
Brian Roberts poured in 28 points in Dayton's victory over Lousiville.
Tim G. Zechar/Icon SMI

Dayton's Brian Roberts scored 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting to lead the Flyers past Louisville for the second-consecutive season. Roberts made all six of his free throws and didn't commit a single turnover in the upset. As a result, the state of Ohio is more excited about Dayton's upcoming Atlantic 10 games against red-hot Xavier than it is about the Crosstown Shootout between the Musketeers and the Cincinnati Bearcats. The times, they are a changin'.

Coach who had a bad week

Losing to the Bearcats is one thing. Losing to the Bearkats is another. St. Louis' Rick Majerus got what he deserved when his Billikens fell to the Sam Houston State Bearkats on Saturday. It was SLU's third loss in four games, the other two defeats coming to Kent State and Boston College, by the lopsided scores of 81-40 and 61-39, respectively.

Mid-Major who had a major week

Keno's Drake Bulldogs are 8-1, with their only loss coming at Saint Mary's, the nation's top-ranked team in the RPI. In early December, Josh Young and Leonard Houston combined for 39 points in Drake's 79-44 drubbing of Iowa State. The 35-point margin of victory was the Bulldogs biggest in 167 meetings with the Cyclones. This past week, Des Moines-based Drake crushed Chicago State 83-53 and demolished Texas-Pan American 83-55. On Friday, the Bulldogs travel to hapless Iowa, where I expect the good times to continue. Now, in honor of the presidential campaign, try saying "caucus" 10 times fast. Caucus, caucus, caucus, caucus...

Major who had a mid-major week

In the spring, Michigan fired Tommy Amaker and hired John Beilein to be his replacement. In early December, Amaker returned the favor by leading his Harvard Crimson past Beilein's Wolverines. Adding insult to injury, Duke also embarrassed Michigan. The Wolverines made fewer than 38 percent of their field goal attempts in a nationally televised 95-67 loss to the Blue Devils.

Yoni Cohen writes about college basketball on his blog, Yoco Hoops.

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