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Freshman Haze: Counting Down the Top Frosh

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.

The college basketball season is starting to wind down. We have just four weeks remaining before Selection Sunday, so it is as good a time as any to start handing out some awards. The next three weeks, I will count down the Haze's top 21 freshmen of the season.

Here is my method for ranking the freshmen. I tracked every first-year player I profiled this season. I copied their season averages into a spreadsheet and ranked them on nine categories (minutes, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, 3-pointers made, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and points). I did not weigh these categories, so an excellent free-throw shooter gets as much value as a player who scores a lot. I also did not weigh for conference power. Therefore, I am not sure if these rankings are completely fair, but they are interesting nonetheless. Without further ado, we start with a personal favorite.

21. Glenn Robinson III, forward, Michigan Wolverines

It is tempting to measure any second generation basketball player with his father. The Big Dog was a devastating offensive player, especially in college. Glenn III has good offensive skills and may be a better 3-pointer shooter and a better defender than his pops, but he doesn't appear to be a top NBA prospect. Robinson produced his biggest numbers in non-conference play. He has garnered big minutes on a very successful team. It will be interesting to see how he progresses, but I can imagine a similar pattern as his teammate Tim Hardaway Jr.

20. Archie Goodwin, guard, Kentucky Wildcats

When people talk about talent, they usually mean athletic gifts. No one has more talent than Goodwin. Whether he has basketball skill is another matter, but it is impressive that he ranks on this chart despite not shooting very well. After opening the season with fairly consistent production, the 6-foot-4 guard has been anything but consistent in SEC play. He only had three points in the win Saturday over Auburn. On Jan. 29, he had 24 points to lead the Wildcats past Ole Miss on the road. Goodwin likely will be drafted should he leave Kentucky (so he should), but it is hard to say what his professional career will hold. He could be a bust or the best player in this class.

19. Nick Stauskas, guard, Michigan Wolverines

Coming into the season, Stauskas was clearly the third banana in the recruiting class behind Robinson and Mitch McGary (who I didn't even profile), but he may be the best fit for coach John Beilein's system that relies heavily on 3-pointers. The 6-6 Canadian has nailed 47.6 percent of his long-range shots and has only been held to single digits three times, including the most recent game against Wisconsin. Like Robinson, Stauskas scored better in the non-conference slate, but he has continued to put up scoring numbers in the low teens against Big Ten teams. Stauskas is also an excellent free-throw shooter (82.7 percent), which helped in these rankings.

18. DeWayne Russell, guard, Northern Arizona Wildcats

Being a short guard playing for a middling team in the Big Sky won't get a player much national publicity, but scoring in bunches will help a player like Russell rank above many Tier 1 players. Another thing my ranking system does not take into consideration is what a player is doing lately. For Russell, it has not been much. In his last five games, he has only provided 8.2 points (compared to a 14.5 season average). The 5-11 guard scored 22 points or more four times in the first two months of the season. He also provides 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals.

17. John Brown, forward, High Point Panthers

Brown has not disappointed in his long-awaited debut for the Panthers. In his redshirt freshman year, the 6-7 high flyer has averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.4 blocks. He has scored in double digits in every game except the Nov. 17 loss against William & Mary (that Mary plays staunch defense). Brown has four double-doubles, but none since Jan. 16. Perhaps more important, the freshman has led the Panthers to first place in the Big South's North Division. If High Point can win the conference tournament, Brown would lead the school to its first NCAA tournament since joining Division I in 1999-2000.

16. Taran Brown, Santa Barbara Gauchos

From the Big Sky to the Big South, and back over to the Big West, we are leaving no Big uncovered in our search for the best freshmen. Brown is a 6-8, 190, redshirt freshman who does a bit of everything. He soars up this chart for his ability to hit 3-pointers (2.3 per game) and provide 12.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 1.0 blocks. He is more of a consistent rebounder than scorer, but he did put in 20 or more points thrice in 2012. Brown spends too much time on the perimeter on offense and has only taken 31 free throws.

15. Olivier Hanlan, guard, Boston College Eagles

The Eagles are like a rebuilding NBA franchise. They are amassing assets and may eventually move from the outhouse to the penthouse. The freshman and sophomore-laden team has taken its lumps for the second straight year, but players like Hanlan and sophomore forward Ryan Anderson portend a nice future. Like Stauskas, Hanlan is a Canadian import averaging 14.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. The 6-4 guard has only been held to single digits once in ACC play and has scored 20 or more points three times this season, including in the excruciatingly close loss to Duke on Sunday. B.C. hasn't been in the NCAA tournament since 2009, but it may make it next year if all of their young players progress.