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September 21, 2007

SCS.comLast year's group of freshmen was one of the most dynamic that college basketball has ever seen. First years Kevin Durant of Texas and Greg Oden of Ohio State took the national scene by storm. Durant posted the best statistics in the country, and Oden embodied how a dominant player playing within the team concept can lead to success. Although neither wound up cutting down the nets down in Atlanta, Oden and his Buckeye teammates did manage to reach the National Championship before falling to the defending champion Gators of Florida.

A deep incoming freshman class that could leave a similar mark to that of Oden and Durant will be showcased for the first time in less than a month. When midnight madness tips off, hopes and dreams of fans will also begin as they optimistically expect that their schoolís prized recruit will be able to elevate their team to number one just as Carmello Anthony did not too long ago for Syracuse. Here is an early look at this seasonís potential freshman stars.

Biggest Impact: Michael Beasley, Kansas State

O.J. Mayo may have gotten all of the headlines, but the 6'9" forward out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts was the best player throughout the past year. He brings tremendous versatility as a scorer, which will cause matchup problems for his opponents each game. Beasley will combine with Bill Walker, who is coming off of a knee injury which cost him most of his freshman season, to put the Wildcats in contention for a NCAA Tournament berth and potentially even a run at the Big XII title.

While Beasley could use some time in the weight room, he is still a solid defender, especially for an incoming freshman who is so dominant on the offensive end. Beasley also showed a lot of character this off-season in honoring his commitment to Kansas State after former Head Coach Bob Huggins departed for West Virginia.

Top Playmaker: Johnny Flynn, Syracuse

Not the most celebrated guard or the best perimeter scoring threat of this freshman crop, however Flynn knows how to create and very well may be the key to Syracuse's season as Jim Boeheim stresses the importance of good decision making from his point guards and relies heavily on their execution. Flynn, a Niagara Falls High School graduate, proved his worth and answered any questions this summer at the Under 19 World Championships, where he showed the ability to develop into a true point guard, but also does what his team needs to win, whether it is creating opportunities for his teammates or getting to the basket.

Flynn does need to work on his outside shooting, but his tenacious defense and ball handing capabilities will garner him immediate playing time for the Orange.

Top Post Player: Kevin Love, UCLA

Due to a changing game that seems to be phasing out the center position, Love becomes a dangerous asset to a Final Four contender. Coming out of Lake Oswego (OR) High School, Love decided to make the rich even richer and attend UCLA over Arizona, North Carolina, and his state school Oregon. The 6'9" do it all center scores and passes better than any other big man coming out of high school this season. The knock on Love surrounds his height, which should not hurt his NBA prospects as he projects as a power forward, and a lack of athleticism. Neither have hurt the Bruin recruit to date.

Love proved himself the top center prospect in the country during his duel with the athletically superior Texas A&M recruit DeAndre Jordan, considered the second best big man entering the college ranks. Expect Love to step right into the starting lineup and give UCLA the low post presence to match up with the Lopez twins (Stanford), Eric Boateng (Arizona State), DeVon Hardin (California), as well as the other trees which can be found in the Pac-10. Love should also create matchup problems due to his shooting range and ability to take defenders off of the dribble.

Top NBA Prospect: Derrick Rose, Memphis

This guy has the potential to be a Jason Kidd with a jump shot. Rose is a dynamic playmaker who also possesses the ability to fill up the scoring column, while playing within the game. The former Simeon High School star out of Chicago happens to be fundamentally sound in most aspects. The only reason he will not make the largest impact this season is due to the talent already at Memphis.

The major knock on Rose is that he lets the game come to him a little too much and tends to blend in with the offense at times, which should not hurt the Tigers this season thanks to an abundance of scoring options. Despite being a significant presence at the offensive end, Rose's on the ball defense lags behind very few players his age. Rose will start for Memphis from day one and will prove to be their best player as the season develops. Expect to see him running the show for Memphis deep into postseason play.

Top Scorer: O.J. Mayo, USC

The most decorated recruit entering college basketball this season is headed out west to USC and is expected to step right in and replace current NBA draft pick Nick Young. Mayo is big, quick, strong, and has range that goes beyond the three point line. The highly touted, well traveled recruit, despite being turnover prone, does create shots for his teammates and uses his strength to contribute on the boards. Offensively, he is the total package and will be an early lottery pick during the next NBA Draft.

Defensively is where Mayo could use some work. Although he is not a complete liability, do not expect to see him matched up with the focal point of opposing team's offenses. It will be interesting to see how Mayo reacts facing a higher level of competition night in and night out in what is shaping up to be the top conference in basketball. The Trojans return a solid core that should complement Mayo very well and give USC a chance to make a lengthy run in March.

Under the Radar: Lavoy Allen, Temple

Temple Head Coach Fran Dunphy was hurt last season by the lack of an inside force, but this season he welcomes Allen, who will more then likely man the middle from day one of practice and make his presence felt on the boards. The Pennsbury (PA) High School graduate needs to use his 6'9, 225 pound frame to his benefit more on the offensive end.

But it is on the defensive end that Allen will help the Owls, which happens to be where they struggled the most last season. Temple returns several quality scorers in Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale, so Allen will not have to produce on that end in a hurry, but do not be surprised if his scoring average at the end of the year is in double digits. Expect around 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game from this underrated recruit.

This is a very deep class that should make an immediate impact. In addition to the aforementioned players, talents such as Eric Gordon (Indiana), Kyle Singler (Duke), Donte Green (Syracuse), J.J. Hickson (North Carolina State), and Jerryd Bayless (Arizona) will all make immediate impacts this season and be well known by the time conference tournaments roll around. Gordon, Bayless, and Greene are all phenominal scorers who will be over 15 points per contest; Hickson is a brute on the post, while Singler is a silky smooth all around forward who will give the Blue Devils a little bit of everything.

Do not expect any player to have the impact that Kevin Durant or Greg Oden had last year, but this class is deep and has many players who will play key roles for their teams throughout this season, and hopefully one or two more.

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