By Steve Silverman
It is time to do some reassessing when it comes to the best freshman in the country – and perhaps the best player.
Marvin Bagley III of Duke was the most highly sought after freshman at the start of the season, and he has not disappointed at all with a 21.1 points per game mark and a .617 shooting percentage. He probably has a brilliant future in the NBA, and he has done little to change that opinion.
But it’s time to declare Trae Young of Oklahoma as the best freshman in the country, and perhaps the best overall player.
The numbers say that Young is both the nation’s leading scorer and assist man. Young is averaging 28.5 points and 10.2 assists per game, and he has shown the ability to take over the game on nearly an every-night basis.
Young led Oklahoma to a 91-83 victory over strong Wichita State team as he scored 29 points and handed out 10 assists.
Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall is not the type who is regularly given to hyperbole, but he sounded amazed by what he saw Young do on the court.
“I haven’t coached against a freshman that plays the game at that level,” he said. “We tried everything against him. Trae Young is not going to get rattled. He is too good.”
The Sooners are the 17th-ranked team in the Associated Press, but they have a chance to be much better than that as the season progresses.
Oklahoma has an excellent head coach in Lon Kruger and Young has help from his supporting cast. Kruger has been to the Final Four twice in his career, and he regularly puts his players in excellent spots to succeed. Brady Manek is a top outside shooter who complements Young, while Khadeem Lattin goes to the glass hard.
Giant killers from Wofford takes down Tar Heels
When you look at a game between North Carolina and Wofford on the schedule, the question becomes how long will the Tar Heels keep their foot on the gas pedal? Will it be a normal 20-point beating, or will this one move into the 30-40 point range.
The Wofford Terriers did not get the memo, as they went into Chapel Hill and embarrassed Roy Williams’ team by a 79-75 score. Unheralded Fletcher Magee scored 27 points to lead the Terriers.
Wofford is not a bad team under any circumstance, but they had never beaten a top-25 team before, and to do it on the Tar Heels home court is eye opening.
Most fans know that Wofford is a solid program, having been to the NCAA tournament four times in the past six years.
North Carolina lost its second game of the year and Williams can look at his team’s shooting in the game as the main reason for the loss. The Tar Heels shot just 36.4 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc.
So, there’s no reason for Williams to panic. He can accept the fact that it was a bad shooting game and move on. However, the game must serve as a warning for North Carolina, and they can’t afford any more letdowns.
Villanova handles No. 1 spot with ease
The Wildcats remained in the No. 1 spot as Jay Wright’s 11-0 team has not been in action since hammering Temple 87-67 December 13.
Villanova returns to action Friday night in a game against Hofstra, and they follow that with what should be an easy game against DePaul in Chicago December 27.
Wright has put together a team that is capable of staying undefeated well into the 2018 portion of the schedule, and with players like Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo, there is a well-rounded feeling to this team. They are going to figure out a way to win, one way or another.
Brunson is playing remarkable basketball, averaging a team-high 18.5 points per game, handing out 4.8 assists per night and shooting 62.9 percent from the field. The 6-3 guard from Lincolnshire, Illinois continues to open eyes all over the country.
Bridges is scoring 17.1 points and taking down 6.1 rebounds per night, while DiVincenzo is scoring 11.8 points and connecting on 50.6 percent of his shots.
The Wildcats will be even better when freshman guard Collin Gillespie returns to the lineup. He suffered a broken bone in his left hand during a practice session earlier this month.
Gillespie was coming off the bench for more than 13 minutes per game and averaging 4.4. While not a star, Wright called him an important part of the team.
“We’re really disappointed for Collin,” Wright said. “He was playing great for us. We miss him on this team. We’re still struggling to replace him.”
Oregon State sends message with winning streak
Little was expected from the Oregon State Beavers at the start of the season, as head coach Wayne Tinkle’s team was expected to finish seventh or eighth in the Pac-12.
That may still be the case, as the Beavers have yet to play a conference game, but Oregon State is showing more talent and consistency than was previously expected. They take a six-game winning streak and an 8-3 record into Thursday night’s road game at Kent State.
Tinkle doesn’t have to look much further than his own son for the reason behind his team’s surge. Forward Tres Tinkle is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per night.
Guard Stephen Thompson Jr., the son of assistant coach Stephen Thompson Sr., is second in scoring with 15.5 point per night, while forward Drew Eubanks is scoring 15.0 point and connecting on 70.5 percent of his shots.
The Beavers may have a hard time competing with No. 3 Arizona State and No. 18 Arizona during the Pac-12 portion of the schedule, but this team may be able to pull off several surprises this year.