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Freshman Haze: The First Noel

Perry Missner

Missner covers the NBA, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. A veteran fantasy sports writer, Missner also serves as treasurer for the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from all of us at the Freshman Haze freshman watching center! By all of us, I mean me, but I like to pretend others are hunkered down with watching college basketball all the time. In any case, I have been saving a player for this occasion, and he is happily providing presents before the kids get up and find goodies under the tree.

There's no point in delaying Santa's helping of seven profiles, so let's get to the man who some believe is the reason for the season.

Nerlens Noel, center, Kentucky Wildcats

In my first college basketball blog for RotoWire, I opined that Noel would be highly overrated by the fantasy college hoops community. After 11 games (which may be a third of Noel's college basketball career), I would say that I was mostly wrong. Noel is better than I than thought he'd be. The 6-foot-10 Wildcat can pass out of the post and is a good rebounder. His offensive game is as raw as expected, but he makes up for lack of skill with athleticism and a good motor. While not as smooth as his predecessor, he is really good. If the Wildcats solve their problems in the backcourt (which seems to be the case with Ryan Harrow coming on), then they will do some damage in March. Noel will be a part of that success.

Shabazz Muhammad, guard/forward, UCLA Bruins

Many recruiters had Noel as the top incoming freshman, but just as many put the supposed burden on Muhammad. The 6-6 swingman sat out the first three games while the NCAA investigated some issues in his recruitment. Muhammad has scored at least 13 points in every game and appears to be coming on as conference play nears. The Las Vegas native averaged 24.3 points in his last three games to improve his season average to 18.8 points. Muhammad is fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring, but I would not be at all surprised if he won the scoring title.

Charles Mitchell, forward, Maryland Terrapins

From a player who is heating up to one who is cooling off after a strong start. Mitchell, a 6-8, 260, forward looked like he was going to be one of the better first-year rebounders in the country and provided double-digit boards in three of his first eight games. In his last three games, Mitchell has not received much playing time and has provided 2.0 points and 3.0 rebounds. He only averages 5.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 15.3 minutes. Mitchell could be one of those freshmen to snag late in the season as his future remains bright.

Kris Dunn, guard, Providence Friars

Mid-December sees a nice influx of talent to college basketball as mid-season transfers become available. Dunn feels like a midseason transfer after sitting out the first six weeks while recovering from shoulder surgery. The 6-3 point guard brought his passing ways to the Friars on Dec. 18 against Colgate with a school freshman record of 13 assists. He added six more dimes Saturday against Boston College and may supplant fellow freshman Josh Fortune in the starting lineup sooner than later. The Friars also have Vincent Council coming back from a hamstring injury, so PC's backcourt will go from thin to deep in a matter of weeks.

R.J. Hunter, guard, Georgia State Panthers

Is it nepotism when a coach plays his son? It doesn't often seem like it in college basketball where the "juniors" need to earn playing time like everyone else. Hunter, coach Ron Hunter's son, is a 6-5 shooting guard who has certainly earned his minutes. He is able score in a variety of ways and has hit the 20-point plateau in three of his last four games (and five times this season). Hunter makes 35.1 percent of his 3-pointers and 79.6 percent of his freebies. In addition to his team-leading 15.6 points, he is providing 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

Stefan Moody, guard, Florida Atlantic Owls

Moody is a big-time scorer at a smaller school. Coach Mike Jarvis has had success with tiny scorers (such as Shawnta Rogers at George Washington) and he may have another budding shot maker on his hands. The 5-10 Moody provides 15.0 points, good for second on the team. The native Floridian comes off the bench and is not shy about hoisting shots. He is only hitting 37.8 percent of his field goals, but averaged 17.2 points in his last five games.

Lester Wilson, forward, East Tennessee State Buccaneers

You don't see too many 6-4 forwards on Tier 1 teams, but teams such as ETSU in the Atlantic Sun can get away with them. Wilson is a redshirt freshman who bulked up in his off year and has been an excellent scorer for the Buccaneers thus far. He averages 17.0 points. Prior to being held to nine points against Arizona on Saturday, Wilson had scored in double digits in his first nine games, including four 20-point games. Although the Bucs have just two wins this season, it may be a learning year for Wilson who is hitting 39 percent of his threes.

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