Top 5 Incoming NCAA Freshmen on the Hard Court

CLA Sports Top 5 Incoming Freshmen

It’s almost Spring and March Madness is about to take the country by storm. Office pools, brackets and riveting winner take all basketball will be in full force. For high school senior basketball stars, it’s a window to the future and their college aspirations. At this time next year, many of them will be leading their teams to the NCAA tournament and competing for the ultimate prize.

As we’ve seen in recent years, college freshmen play a significant role in determining the national champion. Last season, freshmen Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier were key contributors to the Connecticut Huskies cutting the nets down.

Heading into this year’s Big Dance, there are a horde of freshmen expected to make a big impact. The Kentucky Wildcats boast a trio of diaper dandies in presumed NBA top pick Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague. The Wildcats will likely be one of the favorites to reach the Final Four in New Orleans.

In the Big Ten, Indiana freshman big man Cody Zeller and Michigan freshman point Trey Burke have been vital to their team’s success and should be fun to watch down the stretch. Duke freshman sensation Austin Rivers has been ballin for Coach K and has the ability to carry a team on his back. Other notable first year ballers include Florida shooting guard Brad Beal and Baylor forward Quincy Miller.

Projecting forward to next year’s crop of freshmen, there are a number of talented prospects on the horizon. Here are the five incoming freshmen we believe will make the biggest impact in next season’s Big Dance.

1. Power Forward, Mitch McGary (Michigan)

The Michigan Wolverines landed a prize recruit in Brewster Academy power forward Mitch McGary. The pride of Chesterton, Indiana, McGary will provide coach John Beilein and the Wolverines a legitimate post presence for the first time in recent memory.

At 6’10 250, McGary possesses the kind of solid inside outside game Beilein covets and the Wolverines have been lacking. Michigan also landed small forwards Glenn Robinson III (Lake Central HS) and Nick Stauskas (St. Mark’s School) to their impressive recruiting class. Assuming Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr return next season, Mitch McGary should help lead Michigan to the Final Four for the first time since 1993.

2. Center, Isaiah Austin (Baylor)

At 7’0, 215, Grace Prep power forward Isaiah Austin should carry on the recent Baylor tradition of talented big men like Epke Udoh and Perry Jones III. Considering the impact Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis has had, particularly on the defensive end this season, it’s safe to assume that Austin will be an immediate force at the college level.

Hailing from Arlington, Texas, Austin possesses a unique skill set that includes a perimeter game which bodes well for the Bears. Combine that with his instinctive shot blocking ability and Austin is certainly a quality addition to the Baylor program and a player to look out for.

3. Center, Nerlens Noel (Undecided)

Perhaps the recruit with the most upside, center Nerlens Noel from the Tilton School in Everett, MA, is still unsigned and remains highly coveted by numerous programs including Kentucky, Syracuse, Georgetown, and North Carolina. At 6’10 205 with great length and remarkable athleticism, Noel has the makeup to be a dynamic collegiate performer.

Noel reclassified to the class of 2012 from 2013 after working hard to recover from an injury that sidelined him for awhile. As such, his recruitment is still in full swing and remains an open book. Given his unlimited potential and appetite for greatness, Noel should make a huge impact wherever he goes.

4. Guard/Forward, Shabazz Muhammad (Undecided)

The most talented wing prospect in the country by most accounts is Bishop Gorman High swingman Shabazz Muhammad. The crafty left-handed slasher from Las Vegas has the natural ability to score with ease. Several programs including Kansas and Duke have shown interest but UCLA has long been considered the likely landing spot for Muhammad.

Despite recent media reports suggesting Muhammad’s eligibility could be in question, we believe the matter will ultimately be resolved and Muhammad will grace the court next season. Regardless of his destination, Shabazz Muhammad has the all around game to be a dynamic performer at the college level.

5. The top four members of the Arizona Wildcats 2013 loaded recruiting class collectively come in at #5. This crop of ballers headed to Tucson should restore the great tradition that the legendary Lute Olson established at Arizona. Current coach Sean Miller is surely overjoyed with the impending arrival of heralded prospects Brandon Ashley (Findlay Prep), Kaleb Tarczewski (St. Mark’s School), Grant Jarrett (Lutheran High) and Gabe York (Orange Lutheran).

With these recruits in the fold, expect Arizona to reign supreme in the Pac-12 and make a deep run next March. All four incoming freshmen rank in the top 100 of virtually every ranking service and should be a lot of fun to watch.