Will Josh Selby be freshman of the year by season's end?
Before Saturday, the only time I saw Josh Selby play basketball was during Oct. 15's Late Night in the Phog.
And, all due respect to the scrimmage, evaluating a player in that type of sloppy setting is dangerous. Doesn't paint a true picture.
Saturday's nailbiter — a 70-68 KU triumph over USC in Allen Fieldhouse — didn't paint the complete picture of Selby either. It was only his first game of playing college basketball after serving a nine-game suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.
But Saturday gave us a pretty darn good idea of what kind of player Selby is. Selby's 21-point outburst in 27 minutes was one of the more fearless performances I've seen from a KU freshman.
The kid was not afraid, with 26 seconds left and Kansas down two, to receive the ball on the wing, fake a pass to his right to ever so slightly free up some space and drill a game-winning, ice-in-the-veins three-pointer. It was one of his five threes on a memorable day.
By Saturday afternoon, Selby's performance was the talk of the town. When people spoke about the freshman, it was like they were describing a religious experience. Selby the savior.
Didn't take long for the Twitter world to catch on to the hype. If you haven't searched for #selbymovies, take five minutes to scroll down the hilarious list that describes Selby's impact with fans. Whatever genre you want, it's there. Star Wars: Revenge of the Selby. Eternal Sunshine of the Selby Mind. Selbys on a Plane. On Monday, I submitted 'When Selby Met Sally.' I'm a sucker for classic rom coms; what can I say?
Should Selby continue to improve, particularly on defense, he will undoubtedly be one of the best freshmen in the country and a potential lottery pick in next year's NBA Draft.
Time to look into the crystal college ball for now. Will Selby end up being the NCAA freshman of the year?
Quite possibly. But he'll have some dynamite freshmen he needs to hold off, even in the Big 12. Here's a list of other potential top freshmen in the country by season's end:
Terrence Jones, Kentucky: Is it any surprise the top three scorers on John Calipari's 8-2 Wildcats are diaper dandies? Jones tops all freshmen in the country with 18.9 points per game, and is pretty close to the top in rebounds per game (10) as well.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb called Sullinger the best freshman in the country over the weekend after the Buckeyes bruiser went for 30 points and 19 boards in a victory over South Carolina. Gottlieb went a step farther and called Ohio State the best team in the country. Wonder how Duke and Kansas feel about that. There's no denying Sullinger's impact, though. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound behemoth is averaging 18.5 points and 9.6 rebounds for No. 2 OSU.
Brandon Knight, Kentucky: For the second consecutive season, the Wildcats have a top 10 recruit running the point as a freshman (John Wall in 2009-10). Knight, not as much of a driver/creator as Wall, has responded with 17.1 points per game this year. Knight has to cut down on his turnovers (38 in 10 games), though, which currently outweigh his assist totals (37).
Kyrie Irving, Duke: Had Irving not suffered a foot injury earlier this month, he may have been the front-runner to receive top freshman honors. Irving led the No. 1 team in the country with 17.4 points per game, while also piling up 5.1 assists and 3.8 boards per contest. Because he only played in eight games and could miss the remainder of the season, Irving seems like a long shot to be considered the best freshman. Interesting to note that Rivals.com ranked only one point guard ahead of Irving in the Class of 2010: Selby.
Perry Jones, Baylor: Jones and Selby lead an underrated class of impact freshmen in the Big 12 this season. The 6-10 Jones leads the 7-1 Bears in rebounding (8.9) and averages 13.9 points per game, tops in the conference for freshmen who have appeared in at least 75 percent of their team's games.
Cory Joseph, Texas: Remember one of the (many) problems with Texas last year? No point guard. Not the case this year because of Joseph, who's averaging 11.9 points, 2.9 assists (vs. 1.9 turnovers) and 3.8 rebounds per game. And if you want to observe the guy's clutch-o-meter, check out Joseph's game-winner from the weekend against North Carolina in front of a pro-Tar Heel crowd in Greensboro, N.C.:
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina: Barnes hasn't been quite as dominant as advertised, but there's still plenty of season left. The 6-8, 210-pounder has been good for 12.3 points and 6.1 boards per game. The unranked Tar heels have struggled to a 7-4 start, but if they pick it up, chances are you'll start to see Barnes mature on the floor.
Also consider: Doron Lamb, Kentucky; Tobias Harris, Tennessee; Tristan Thompson, Texas; Will Barton, Memphis.
Selby has some competition for top freshman. But if Saturday was any indication of what we'll see from the Baltimore native, he could very well finish ahead of everyone on this list.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.