The NCAA Men’s College Basketball season is finally upon us! While we have seen a slew of games get canceled due to Corona Virus concerns, many teams found a way to kick off their seasons this week. In a year where depth is going to be more important than ever before, the freshman could potentially have a much bigger impact than we have ever seen.
In this article, we are going to highlight five of the top freshman in the country that need to be taken into account whenever you are betting on college hoops. If you don’t know these names by now, you need to. These kids are going to be household names by the time March Madness comes around, but to really take advantage of them, you need to know who these guys are right now! Let’s get started!
Jalen Suggs – Gonzaga Bulldogs
Two-sport super athlete Jalen Suggs is the highest-profile prospect that we have ever seen at Gonzaga. Suggs is just the second-ever McDonalds All-American to attend Gonzaga, following Zack Collins in 2017, and the last time Mark Few had a freshman of this caliber on his roster, he rode him all the way to the Final Four. Suggs was the first athlete in the history of Minnesota high school sports to be named both the state’s Mr. Football and Mr. Basketball, in the same season.
Suggs joins a very talented team in Spokane and will pair nicely with incumbent backcourt mates Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi. Suggs might have to fight for playing time on this loaded Zags roster as Few also has Florida Gators transfer Andrew Nembhard, who averaged 11 points and 6 assists a game last year, to help lead the powerful Gonzaga offensive attack.
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) November 26, 2020
But after seeing what Suggs did in his NCAA debut, it’s looking like Suggs just might end up being a superstar in Spokane. Suggs helped the number one ranked Zags pound the sixth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 102-90, in their season opener. In just 24-minutes of action, Suggs showed that he has a man’s body and can get to the rim any time that he wants, even against quality defenders. Suggs scored 24 points on 9-15 shooting and filled up the stat sheet with 8 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals, while only turning the ball over once.
The only thing that Mark Few hasn’t done in his storied tenure running this Gonzaga basketball program is take home a national title, and with a blue-chip prospect like Suggs leading the offense, Few might finally be able to shed his title of the greatest coach ever to not win a national championship.
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) November 26, 2020
Suggs shows a lot of swagger and announced his presence with authority with a rim rocking dunk on an ally-oop to score his first-ever points as a Bulldog. We all knew the Zags were going to be good this year, but they just might be all-time good if Suggs can continue to mature throughout the year.
Cade Cunningham – Oklahoma State Cowboys
There has never been a recruit as talented as Cade Cunningham at Oklahoma State University. Cunningham is the first consensus five-star recruit for the Cowboys since Marcus Smart in 2012 and is already being looked at as the potential first pick in the 2021 NBA draft. Cunningham is enormous for a point guard at 6-8 and 220 pounds, and his presence immediately makes the Cowboys contenders in the Big 12.
After coming into this year as the most hyped of what is looking like one of the best-recruiting classes in NCAA history, it was going to be hard for Cunningham to live up to the hype. So, what did he do in his first-ever college game? Oh, he just became the first OK State freshman ever to have a double-double in his first game. The only player to ever go for 20/10 in their NCAA debut in the Big 12? Michael Beasley for Kansas State, and all that kid did was go on to be the number two draft pick in 2008.
— OSU Cowboy Basketball (@OSUMBB) November 26, 2020
Cunningham was a bit sloppy in his first start, as he turned the ball over five times, but he scored 21 points and snatched 10 rebounds, and more importantly, the Cowboys won the game. It is an absolute shame that we likely won’t ever see Cunningham on college basketball’s biggest stage, the NCAA tournament. That is because the Cowboys were slapped with a postseason ban this year, and with Cunningham a lock to be a one and done player and bolt to the NBA fowling this season, we won’t get to see what he can do in the Big Dance.
But that doesn’t mean that Cunningham can’t play spoiler in a loaded Big 12. OK State opens up their conference play season on December 20th at Texas and follows that up on the road at Texas Tech and then home against West Virginia.
Cade Cunningham, ladies and gentlemen.
Remember the name 🔥 pic.twitter.com/wdbeZ0lX6u
— ESPN (@espn) November 25, 2020
All three of those teams are ranked inside the top-20 right now, and we will get to see how Cunningham can compete against the top that the Big 12 has to offer in terms of competition. The Cowboys aren’t expected to be an elite team this year, but with a kid as good as Cade Cunningham, something tells me that they are going to be much better than most people think.
Marcus Bagley – Arizona State Sun Devils
You all have likely heard of Cade Cunningham and Jalen Suggs, as both guys were considered top-5 recruits in the nation, and they got a lot of hype in the offseason. One guy you may not have heard of, unless you live out on the West Coast, is Arizona State Sun Devils forward Marcus Bagley. Does that last name ring a bell? Well, it should, as Marcus is the younger brother of former Duke standout and number two overall pick, Marvin Bagley.
Just like his older brother did at Duke, Marcus wasted no time getting acclimated to the college game, as he scored 16 points in his debut with Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils. Bagley also showed that he can rebound, with 7 boards, and he hit 50% of his three-pointers as well.
Most of the talk at Arizona State this year will be about National Player of the Year candidate Remy Martin. Some people even think that Bagley isn’t even the best freshman on this team, as Sun Devils guard Josh Christopher was a five-star recruit, ranked as the 11th best prospect in the country coming out of high school.
just an introduction.
— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) November 26, 2020
For those of you that don’t stay up late to watch West Coast basketball, you need to know that this Arizona State team is absolutely loaded. With Martin and Christopher drawing a lot of the opposing team’s defensive attention, it’s going to leave Bagley open a lot, and he should get a lot of opportunities to score the basketball. He has a smooth stroke and a big body at 6-8 215 pounds.
Marcus knocks in two more from the free throw line → he leads the way with 9 early points.
Sun Devils 18 Rams 13 // 11:56 1H pic.twitter.com/4R9cOfa7Ma
— Sun Devil MBB (@SunDevilHoops) November 26, 2020
The PAC-12 is going to be top-heavy, with Oregon and UCLA both looking like national contenders, but I really see Bagley and his Sun Devils as the favorites out west. The Bruins bring back their entire starting five from a team that caught fire late last season, but no team in the league has a third player as good as Marcus Bagley in the conference, and his play is going to determine if this is a team that can compete at the top of the PAC-12, or if it is a team that can compete with the best teams in the nation.
Adam Miller – Illinois Fighting Illini
Similar to Marcus Bagley, nobody is talking about Adam Miller at Illinois. Yet. Trust me, they will be. Miller was a four-star recruit, ranked as the 33rd best prospect in the country coming out of high school. So, it’s not like he wasn’t a big get for the Illini. It’s just that Illinois has so much talent on the floor that Miller is going to have to fight for the spotlight with his All-American teammates Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn.
Despite being on a team that features more top-line talent that maybe any other team in the country, Miller managed to get his name in the headlines as he has been explosive for the Illini. In just 51 total minutes played in his first two career games, Miller has scored 43 points on 15-21 shooting, including draining 8-13 shots from beyond the arc. It’s hard to beat 71% shooting from the field and 62% shooting from 3-point land.
— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniMBB) November 26, 2020
The Illini opened the season up in the top-10 of all the major polls, and even with all of those lofty expectations, they have managed to exceed them so far through two games. Full disclaimer here, Illinois has played Chicago State and North Central A&T, not exactly a murderer’s row of talent, but to be honest, I don’t care who the competition has been, as what they have been able to do has been very impressive. The Illini have gone 2-0 with an average margin of victory of an astounding 60 points per game!
With Miller sharing the backcourt with Dosunmu and the Illini having Cockburn in the paint, Miller is basically never going to draw a double team. That means he is going to get every team’s weakest perimeter defender in every game, and he is going to get lots of opportunities to make it rain from deep. If the lack of competition has you concerned, we will find out soon what this kid is made of as the Illini have non-conference games coming up against Baylor and Duke, with both of those teams ranked in the top-10.
— Illinois Basketball (@IlliniMBB) November 25, 2020
Last year it was freshman Kofi Cockburn that stole the spotlight away from the incumbent stud in orange, Dosunmu, and this year, it might end up being Miller that steals the show for the Illini. While his current shooting pace certainly won’t hold up for the entire season, this kid was ranked as high as 14th in the nation in high school before dropping a bit his senior year. This guy is an elite talent, and he has a really great situation to thrive as teams are going to be forced to focus on Dosunmu and Cockburn.
Micah Peavy – Texas Tech Red Raiders
The last freshman we are going to highlight today is another guy that is flying under the national radar, Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Micah Peavy. Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard has built one heck of a program in Lubbock, and he prides himself on the defensive end of the court. The Red Raiders had a bit of an off-year last season but did make a run to the national finals in 2019 before losing to Virginia in overtime, coming up just short of a national title.
The Red Raiders look locked and loaded this year as they added a bunch of talent. Most of the people will tell you the big addition in the offseason for Texas Tech was Georgetown transfer, Mac McClung. And while there is certainly no denying that McClung will be a major part of this Red Raiders team’s success this year, the guy I am focusing on is Peavy.
Freshman gets us started😤 pic.twitter.com/zJOk09kMCB
— Texas Tech Basketball (@TexasTechMBB) November 26, 2020
Peavy is a ferocious defender and showed that he fits right in with this defensive-minded Red Raiders team when he picked up three steals in Texas Tech’s opener against Northwestern State. Peavy contributed all over the floor as he scored 14 points, grabbed 6 boards, and dished out 3 assists. Chris Beard is at his best when he has elite perimeter defenders, think Jarrett Culver from that 2019 Final Four squad, and Peavy plays that role perfectly.
Peavy gives the Red Raiders a guy that can lock people down on defense and was a homegrown four-star recruit from nearby Duncanville, Texas. The fact that Beard is able to attract in-state talent away from the likes of Baylor and Texas, tells me that this Texas Tech program is only going to get better and better. Keep an eye on Peavy as he could blossom into a superstar on this loaded Texas Tech team that will challenge Baylor and Kansas for the Big 12 title.
It is only a matter of time before one of college basketball’s best players goes down. Whether it be to COVID-19, an injury, or some other eligibility issue, we always see players that start the season as one of the best and fail to finish the year out. This year, more than any other, you need to expect the unexpected. That means in order to stay a step ahead of the books, you need to know these rosters inside and out.
That starts with the incoming freshman. I’ve given you a head start, but you need to keep doing your homework on all of this young talent around the country! Thanks for reading, and make sure that you check out TheSportsGeek’s college hoops betting page, where we bring you free daily betting picks, with all the sharp betting advice you need to make money betting NCAA Men’s College Basketball this year!