April 13, 2024

Monday Madness: The Freshmen are coming

After seniors dominated college basketball last season, the new class of freshmen is ready to be the face of college hoops.

Paul Revere once warned, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” But for the sake of college basketball this season, the warning reads, “The Freshmen are coming, the Freshmen are coming.”

A look at preseason polls, All-America teams and feature stories all hint to one thing — college basketball will once again be dominated by one-and-done, NBA-bound teenagers.

Whether it’s Calipari’s at Kentucky, Coach K’s at Duke or the lone freshman star on the West Coast — all the way in Seattle — the country is littered with freshman stars this season.

Seniors like Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine and Georges Niang dominated in their seemingly rare, four-year stay in college, but the one-and-done dominated sport is back.

The Freshmen are coming. And what might be one of the best classes ever, here is my All-Freshman team.

Markelle Fultz, Washington

Fultz is the one you might not have heard of as much, due to the dominating preseason focus on Duke, Kansas and Kentucky.

The No. 4 recruit out of DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Maryland, has quickly become a young star in basketball circles.

A McDonald’s All-American, turned MVP of USA Basketball’s Under-18 FIBA Americas championship team, turned top prospect in 2017 NBA mock drafts, is climbing up the ranks.

But, unlike his fellow freshmen stars, he isn’t hitting the hardwood for a blue-blood program. He’s on the West Coast, playing for coach Lorenzo Romar at Washington. Off the radar of typical college basketball powerhouses, Romar has seen nine of his Huskies get their name called in the first round of the NBA Draft.

Fultz is poised to become his first top overall pick.

While Washington is still not expected to be a tournament team, Fultz still has the opportunity to be one of the best players in the nation. If he can be a do-it-all, stat sheet stuffer and manage to lead the Huskies to their first tournament appearance since 2011, he can be in the running for national player of the year.

Fultz was the only freshman on Sports Illustrated’s first-team All-America team.

Malik Monk, Kentucky

With the loaded class that Coach Cal brought in, it may be tough for one specific player to outshine the rest. But, Malik Monk might be the best of the best in Lexington.

One of our writers — Chase Carder — picked him to take SEC Player of the Year, and I’m convinced. While the SEC is improving, Kentucky is perennially a step above the rest of the competition in both coaching and talent. And with elite players all around the court, Monk’s explosiveness will take Kentucky to another level.

One of the most explosive athletes in college basketball, the guard will be one of college basketball’s biggest stars.

Monk was one of two freshmen on SI’s All-America second-team.

Josh Jackson, Kansas

Along with Fultz, Jackson has been a common choice for the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s shaping up to be Andrew Wiggins 2.0.

Coach Bill Self values experience on his teams, but when a player as talented on both sides of the ball as Jackson comes along, he’ll rely on a true freshman. This could be Kansas’ most talented team under Self, and Jackson is set to lead the charge.

Jackson, along with Monk, made SI’s All-America second-team.

Miles Bridges, Michigan State

The centerpiece of Tom Izzo’s most heralded class is Miles Bridges. I don’t even want to use words, because Miles Bridges can do this.

I’m speechless. Not only is he a freak athlete, but the Flint, Michigan native does the dirty work as well.

He’s a strong, blue-collar player who crashes the boards on both ends of the court and thrives in a half-court system. But, as a pro scout commented, he’ll also, “make momentum-changing plays, alley-oops, stick-back dunks, run someone down and block a shot.”

He’s grounded, dynamic and will be looked to be the leader of the young Spartans. A slow start by Bridges and Michigan State might happen as they experience the learning curve, but like any signature Izzo team, we’ll see them put it all together and compete in the Elite Eight or Final Four.

Oh, and he wears a headband, so he’s cool.

Edrice “Bam” Adebayo, Kentucky

I can always get behind a 6-foot-10 center who goes by “Bam”.

DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns — can Adebayo be the next great Kentucky big? All of these post players have dominated for Coach Cal and now in the NBA, and Bam looks to be the next in line.

Ranked No. 5 in the ESPN 100, Adebayo will be a driving force behind Kentucky’s dominance this season. Just as pure centers are starting to fade, Bam has a strong NBA body and is capable of controlling the paint as a powerful rebounder and shot blocker.

The college game will come easy as he develops his pro prospect.

Edited by Adam Milliken

Featured image by Dalton King

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Dalton, a firm believer that sporting events are best spent on Twitter, is an Assistant Sports Editor for TNJN and a sophomore studying Journalism at the University of Tennessee. Two of his favorite pastimes include beating his roommates at 2k and remaining in awe of the amount of stories fellow editor David Bradford writes. Twitter: @dk_writes