basketball Edit

Freshman tracker: Simmons continues to impress

More than ever, freshmen are having immediate impacts on the college game. This year is going to track them closely throughout the season and keep up on their progress. In our bi-weekly listing of the nation’s top 10 freshmen, LSU’s Ben Simmons has a strangle hold on the top spot but a pair of post players from the Big Ten have pushed their way onto the list.


1. PF Ben Simmons, LSU

This season: 19.3 points, 13.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.

How he got here: Simmons moved to the States midway through his high school career and was an early commitment to LSU. Tigers assistant David Patrick is Simmons’ godfather and nobody else ever had much of a chance at him.

Analysis: In order to make the NCAA Tournament, LSU is going to need a strong run through the SEC so the play of Simmons will become even more important. Even as defenses have keyed on the nation’s best freshman he’s continued to put up sensational numbers. He’s relied upon for so much and is playing 34 minutes per game, is it too much to expect him to keep this up?

2. PF Henry Ellenson, Marquette

This season: 16.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

How he got here: Ellenson had a final three of Marquette, Kentucky and Michigan State. Marquette had immediate minutes and the ability to feature him offensively and that combined with proximity to home and his older brother Henry transferring there from Minnesota got it done.

Analysis: Ellenson has actually gotten stronger on the glass as the season has progressed and the 14 rebounds per game he’s grabbed over the last three outings have moved him into double digits for his season average. However, his efficiency has dipped somewhat and he’s made only 34 percent of his field goals over that same three game stretch.

3. SF Brandon Ingram, Duke

This season: 15.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.

How he got here: Ingram’s recruitment stretched well into the spring as he also heavily considered programs like Kansas, Kentucky and UCLA. North Carolina was heavily in the mix but Ingram cited worries over potential NCAA problems at UNC before selecting the Blue Devils.

Analysis: With Amile Jefferson out due to injury, Ingram has played minutes at the power forward spot in recent games. Though he will be giving up strength at that position entering ACC play, his ability to face up, shoot from deep and create off the dribble could cause some serious mismatches.

4. SF Dwayne Bacon, Florida State

This season: 17.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

How he got here: Bacon had a top 10 list of schools and took an official visit to USC. A native of Florida, though, the Seminoles were always seen as the team to beat and he committed the same night Beasley did.

Analysis: Bacon continues to sizzle and is playing his best ball entering ACC play. He’s averaged 21.7 points over his last four outings and he’s hopefully got his three point shooting headed in the right direction. Bacon made 5-8 from three-point range in the Seminoles most recent win against Florida after he’d been 0-14 from deep in the previous six games.

5. SG Jamal Murray, Kentucky

This season: 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

How he got here: Originally slotted to be a member of the class of 2016, Murray elected to arrive in the class of 2015 after really enhancing his reputation playing for Canada’s national team. Oregon was heavily considered but John Calipari won out.

Analysis: Murray didn’t have his best shooting game in Kentucky’s big win over Louisville, but he hit some huge three pointers in the second half to help fight off a furious comeback. The key entering SEC play will be to improve shot selection and work on getting his assist to turnover ratio on the positive side after turning the ball over more than he handed out assists in out of conference play.

6. PF Dedric Lawson, Memphis

This season: 15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

How he got here: Part of a true package deal, Lawson’s father Keelon Sr. was hired as an assistant by Josh Pastner. The Tigers also landed Lawson’s older brother, four-star Keelon Lawson.

Analysis: Memphis has only played twice since the initial freshman top 10 and in those games Lawson has his worst outing of the year (6 points against IUPUI) and a DNP because of an abdominal strain. Whether or not that injury limits him moving forward is something that will have to be monitored closely.

7. C Diamond Stone, Maryland

This season: 13.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 bocks per game.

How he got here: A five-star from Milwaukee, Wisc. who ranked No. 6 overall in 2015, Stone had a long and drawn out recruitment. After completing visits in the Fall of 2014, it wasn’t until March that Stone picked the Terps over his home state school Wisconsin.

Analysis: Already one of the hottest freshmen in the country, Stone turned in an electric performance during Maryland’s Big Ten opener. The 6-foot-10 big man went for 39 points and 12 rebounds while setting the Terps single game scoring record for a freshman.

8. PF Ivan Rabb, California

This season: 12.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.

How he got here: One of the late deciders in 2015, Rabb took his time before picking Cal in April. Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA all received long looks but [tm]Arizona[/tm] was the strongest competition. The chance to rebuild a program near his hometown of Oakland and relationship with Cuonzo Martin was what won him over.

Analysis: If there is an under utilized player among the top 10 freshman, it is Rabb. Though he’s shooting just under 66 percent from the field he’s only getting 7.4 shots per game in just under 27 minutes. A ferocious rebounder and tough interior defender, his impact on the 10-3 Golden Bears is even larger than his impressive numbers might suggest.

9. SG Malik Beasley, Florida State

This season: 16.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

How he got here: Beasley seriously considered home state Georgia taking unofficial visits and he also took an unofficial visit to St. John’s. However, the Seminoles were his only official visit and he committed almost the minute he stepped foot on campus for a visit.

Analysis: Since his unbelievably hot start, Beasley has cooled slightly from the field and is now the second leading freshman scorer for the Noles behind the already listed Dwayne Bacon. His production remains impressive and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to shoot at nearly 50 percent overall and 40 percent from three as ACC play begins.

10. PF Caleb Swanigan, Purdue

This season: 10.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

How he got here: Swanigan’s recruitment was one of the wildest in the class of 2015. A McDonald’s All-American, Swanigan somewhat surprisingly picked Michigan State over California in late April. He then backed off of his commitment to the Spartans a little over a week later before ultimately giving the Boilermakers the near the latter part of May.

Analysis: Though he struggled from the field going 0-5 in his first Big Ten game, Swanigan has been impressive overall with his scoring, rebounding and passing. There’s no question that he’s a huge part of Purdue’s impressive 13-1 start to the season.

Ten to keep an eye on

SF Jaylen Brown, California
PG Jalen Brunson, Villanova
PG Bryant Crawford, Wake Forest
C Tyler Davis, Texas A&M
SG/PG Tyler Dorsey, Oregon
SG Shake Milton, SMU
SF Jordan Murphy, Minnesota
SG DeJounte Murray, Washington
SG Allonzo Trier, Arizona
SF Jordon Varnado, Troy