Freshmen take the spotlight early in the college basketball season

By: JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer
By: JIM O'CONNELL, AP Basketball Writer

December 8, 2007

This week's Jimmy V Classic looked like a freshmen pledge meeting.

Instead of fraternities deciding which of the campus newcomers they would allow in their ranks, it was college basketball fans getting a look at some of the big names in what is becoming a freshman class for the ages.

Michael Beasley of Kansas State, Derrick Rose of Memphis and O.J. Mayo of Southern California, along with teammate and fellow freshman co-star Davon Jefferson, were all in Madison Square Garden for the annual doubleheader that raises money for the V Foundation.

None of the rookies lit it up, but even those who hate the system had to thank the NBA for changing the draft rules that allowed them to see these players for even one season.

Last season's freshman class was dominated by Kevin Durant of Texas and Greg Oden of Ohio State, who went on to All-American seasons and the first two spots in the NBA draft, and included fine seasons by Michael Conley of Ohio State, Brandan Wright of North Carolina and Stephen Curry of Davidson.

This season, in addition to those freshmen already mentioned, there are a gaggle of first-year wonders who have caught the nation's eye such as Eric Gordon of Indiana, Kyle Singler of Duke, Kevin Love of UCLA and the duo of Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn at Syracuse.

Memphis coach John Calipari was honest about the Rose-Mayo matchup, in which both players struggled from the field in the Tigers' overtime victory.

"I think what you saw tonight was maturity, decision-making in the flow of the game, when to go and when to stop," he said. "They both did the same things, took bad shots. That's freshmen stuff."

Beasley entered the loss to Notre Dame in the Jimmy V Classic leading the nation in scoring (26.7) and rebounding (15.0) and Love was also averaging a double-double (19.3 points, 10.5 rebounds).

"This is the best group of freshmen I've seen in all the years of coaching by far," said Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, a Hall of Fame coach who won the national championship in 2003 with a couple of freshmen named Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara. "There are more physically ready players than I've ever seen."

This group will have to go some to match the freshman class of 1979-80 that included Sam Bowie of Kentucky, Terry Cummings of DePaul, Clark Kellogg of Ohio State, Ralph Sampson of Virginia, Isiah Thomas of Indiana, Dominique Wilkins of Georgia and James Worthy of North Carolina.

SURE SCOUTING

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was asked about Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley after the Fighting Irish's victory in the Jimmy V Classic. He recounted a story that involved one of last season's star freshmen.

Brey was a speaker at DerMarr Johnson's basketball camp in Landover, Md., and he was talking with Curtis Malone, the coach of the D.C. Assault traveling AAU team.

"The guy running the camp said, 'Hey, you've got to see our 12-year-olds playing on another court.' Well, there was Beasley and (Kevin) Durant playing against each other as 12-year-old olds. You knew then they were going to be special. They had great length, they knew how to play, there was a special aura about both of them."

Then Brey laughed when he said what all but two college coaches have said: "I didn't get either one of them."

FOUR TWENTIES

In Texas' 97-78 victory over Tennessee in the championship game of the Legends Classic, the Longhorns had four 20-point scorers in a game for the first time in school history.

D.J. Augustin scored 23, Connor Atchley had 22, A.J. Abrams 21, and Justin Mason 21 to set off some press room talk about how often there were four 20-point scorers on the same team in the same game.

Nicholas Loucks of ESPN Research did the leg work to find out that Texas was the sixth team to do it since the start of the 1999-2000 season.

Arizona did it twice against Pac-10 opponents: Arizona State in 2004 and Washington in 2007. Virginia did it in a triple-overtime loss to Georgetown in the third round of the NIT and Fresno State did it in a double-overtime victory over Hawaii in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament.

The others besides Texas were: Texas Christian in a 134-91 victory over North Texas on Jan. 3, 2000 (Marquise Gainous 27, Estell Laster 26, Myron Anthony 23 and Vladimir Jaksic 21); Fresno State 103, Hawaii 100, 2OT on March 10, 2000 (Courtney Alexander 27, Terrance Roberson 23, Melvin Ely 22 and Demetrius Porter 20); Georgetown 115, Virginia 111, 3OT on March 15, 2000 (Chris Williams 23, Donald Hand 22, Adam Hall 21, Travis Watson 20); Arizona 106, Arizona State 81 on March 7, 2004 (Salim Stoudamire 21, Hassan Adams 21, Chris Rodgers 20, Channing Frye 20); Arizona 96, Washington 87 on Jan. 4, 2007 (Chase Budinger 23, Marcus Williams 22, Jawaan McClellan 22, Mustafa Shakur 21).

REAL RUN

Texas Tech's 42-1 run against Louisiana Tech this week started discussions about how many timeouts the coach of the team with the "1" should have called during the spurt that spanned the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first nine of the second half.

Bulldogs coach Kerry Rupp called only one timeout as his team fell behind 58-13 on the way to an 86-31 loss. He sounded like a coach after his team fell to 1-5.

"We got taught some hard lessons tonight," he said. "There are little things we have to do as a basketball team. We can't come out and not contest shots. I give them credit; they did some good things defensively. We have to compete at the end of the day."

The NCAA record book lists the largest scoring run as Utah State's 37-0 run against Idaho on Feb. 15, 2006. The longest run at the start of a game against a Division I opponent was Connecticut's 32-0 burst against New Hampshire on Dec. 12, 1990.

LONG TRIP

Seton Hall spent Thanksgiving weekend in Philadelphia, where the Pirates beat Navy and upset then-No. 23 Virginia to win a share of the Philly Hoop Group Classic. After that, they played at Princeton on Nov. 28.

So you can imagine that Bobby Gonzalez's team was hardly thrilled to be headed way out West for a matchup with tiny -- and dangerous -- Saint Mary's. The Pirates left McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, Calif., with their first loss of the season, an 85-70 defeat that kept the Gaels unbeaten to begin the week and on the bubble of entering the Top 25.

For Seton Hall, this was a return trip after the Pirates beat Saint Mary's last year in New Jersey. Gonzalez knows many big programs might have blown off the road game with a buyout of the contract rather than play in an intimate gym before a sellout crowd of 3,500.

"Playing in this atmosphere, this venue, it was so raucous," Gonzalez said. "We had to go in the lion's den. We faced constant pressure. Not a lot of teams in general would put themselves in a place like this. There's a lot to lose and not much to gain."

Oregon coach Ernie Kent felt the same way about returning to his former school only to lose 99-87 on Nov. 20. But Gonzalez and seventh-year Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett have moved through the coaching ranks together, not to mention there was a sense of duty and fairness on Seton Hall's end.

"It was important to follow through on that," Seton Hall athletic director Joe Quinlan said, noting both are Catholic-influenced schools.

Said Bennett: "I respect Bobby Gonzalez for coming out here and playing when we set this thing up. You don't see a lot of teams who will do that."

WILD WIN

Providence's 98-89 overtime victory over Boston College last weekend was one of those games that backed up all those coaches who lecture the media and fans about college basketball being a game of runs.

Providence took a 62-38 lead with 15 minutes to play. BC went on a 17-0 run over the next 7 minutes to get to 62-55. The Friars seemed to have things under control with a 70-61 lead with 5:11 left, but Boston College scored the next 13 points to go ahead 74-70 with 2:10 left.

BC led 76-70 when Providence hit two 3s in the final 1:05 to force overtime. The Friars opened the extra five minutes with a 13-2 run.

From 24 up to six down to 11 up in a span of 18 minutes on the clock.

"Obviously it was a tale of three games, not two and not one for sure," Providence coach Tim Welsh said.

AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley in San Francisco and Dave Skretta in New York contributed to this report


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