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Kentucky's class, Aaron Gordon top rookies left in NCAA Tournament
After Mercer got the best of Duke and Jabari Parker, the Blue Devils’ star freshman told reporters he his college career was “incomplete.”
Parker, who could be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, could have picked few words more loaded than “incomplete.”
Beyond Parker, though, incomplete would be the best way to grade the performance of a class of freshmen that’s the best since at least 2008, and perhaps the best of the one-and-done era.
A senior forward from the state of Montana got the best of Andrew Wiggins. Parker couldn’t find a way to score consistently against the Atlantic Sun champions from Macon, Ga. And Tyler Ennis never found his shot against one of the last teams in the field from the Atlantic 10.
If this was to be the year of superstar freshmen, it sure found an interesting way to stage its endgame.
Fred VanVleet’s 3-point attempt ensured the rookies from Kentucky would continue to advance. Otherwise, the major freshman contributions in this year’s Sweet 16 would be led by Arizona’s Aaron Gordon and a handful of freshmen who aren’t their team’s best two, three or four best players.
One of the major storylines of the season was the cast of talented freshmen across the country — from Duke to Kentucky to Kansas to Arizona. This year’s freshman class occupies the top four spots on DraftExpress’ top 100 and six of the top seven for ESPN’s Chad Ford.
Beyond Kentucky and Arizona, the freshman class didn’t translate draft prospects to postseason success. If this was the Year of Freshmen, the results may not be borne out in the Final Four.
No more Jabari Parker. No Andrew Wiggins. No Tyler Ennis. With a back injury, Joel Embiid didn’t make it to the conference tournament, and his team didn’t last long enough to see if he’d return in time for the Sweet 16. Embiid declared for the NBA Draft before the second weekend of the Tourney even began.
Indeed, if freshmen are to lead teams to the Final Four, it’s more than likely going to be in a secondary role ... unless Kentucky reaches Monday night.
|Top Freshmen in Sweet 16 (by minutes played)|
|1. Aaron Harrison||Kentucky||32.4||14.1||2 apg|
|2. James Young||Kentucky||32.3||14.2||4.3 apg|
|3. Andrew Harrison||Kentucky||31.4||10.9||3.8 apg|
|4. Aaron Gordon||Arizona||30.8||12.4||7.8 rpg|
|5. Julius Randle||Kentucky||30.6||14.8||10.5 rpg|
|6. London Perrantes||Virginia||29.9||5.5||3.8 apg|
|7. Monte Morris||Iowa State||27.9||6.6||3.7 apg|
|8. Derrick Walton||Michigan||26.6||8.1||2.8 apg|
|9. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson||Arizona||25.0||8.9||5.7 rpg|
|10. Zach LaVine||UCLA||24.4||9.9||2.6 rpg|