The most interesting aspect of the season so far has been the introduction of high-level freshman phenoms. Given the hype, big things were to be expected at Kentucky, Kansas and Duke. So far, the freshmen have played well, but not like the memorable, one-and-done game-changers they were projected to be.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was the first to acknowledge that not all that glitters is gold. Good players, yes; great players, no. At least so far.
“There’s no player that’s out there on the horizon that’s a Tim Duncan or a LeBron James,” he said. “I’ve seen all these guys play. I think they’re very talented players. They’re not that kind of player.”
That’s not the assessment that was expected at John Calipari U., where the freshmen had already been dubbed “the greatest class ever.” There was banter about an undefeated season at Kentucky, but Calipari's Wildcats have already lost three games. A showdown against defending national champion Louisville is on tap for Dec. 28.
It’s been much the same at Kansas, where Andrew Wiggins arrived on campus amid comparisons to former Jayhawk star Wilt Chamberlain. Three early-season losses have tempered those comments, but Kansas has played the toughest schedule of the major powers so far, much to its credit.
Duke is off to an 8-2 start and looks to have the best freshman in the country in 6-foot-8 Jabari Parker, who is averaging 22 points a game. The Blue Devils have been ranked in the Top 10 dating back 222 games. That’s likely to continue.
All these teams should survive the two month-plus grind of conference games to play in the NCAA Tournament in March. How far they go will depend on whether the freshmen have matured as college players and shaken off bad habits from high school and AAU.