College basketball is back in full swing, and its freshmen class after one week of action appears to be fabulous. The top players are thus far delivering big-time production, and many of the top teams are weaponizing them to make a difference early on.
Nowhere is that more evident than at Duke, where No. 2 overall recruit Paolo Banchero and fellow five-star freshman Trevor Keels have been unleashed out of the gate in its 3-0 start to the season. Banchero is averaging 19.3 points and 8.7 boards per game and Keels, averaging 13.7 points per game, looks like a difference-making complementary piece.
Memphis, like Duke, is also letting its young guns run free with no restrictions and reaping the benefits. Former No. 1 recruits Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren — both still only 17 years old — are averaging 16.5 points and 12.5 points per game, respectively, through two games. The Tigers are 2-0 and torching opponents on offense to the tune of 89.5 points per game.
Other freshmen outside the typical five-star structure have stepped up early in the season, too, including Nebraska's Bryce McGowens, Creighton's Ryan Nembhard and Jason Roche at The Citadel. So as we digest the opening week that was in college hoops, let's take a spin through the sport with a look at some of the best debut weeks across the newbie landscape.
1. Paolo Banchero | Duke
Rare are the occasions when a player makes a debut so impressive, it requires a re-assessment of that players' team and their potential. Banchero is the exception. He's averaging 19.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in his first three outings — all three of which were wins. And against Kentucky in the season-opener he looked every bit the part of a future No. 1 pick, pouring in 22 points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals — all while battling cramps — in 31 minutes of play.
2. Bryce McGowens | Nebraska
A season-opening loss to Western Illinois is a ding for Nebraska and a not-so-promising sign for its prospects this season, but you can't hang that on Bryce McGowens. He scored 25 on Western Illinois then followed it up with 29 points in a bounceback win over Sam Houston State. Looks the part of a true No. 1 scorer for Fred Hoiberg and the Cornhuskers.
3. Patrick Baldwin Jr. | Milwaukee
He's played in only one game thus far for Milwaukee, but Patrick Baldwin Jr. was sure electric in that appearance as he went for 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in a 77-71 loss to Eastern Kentucky. Baldwin struggled a touch shooting it consistently — he was 7 of 20 from the floor and 2 of 9 from 3-point range — but better days are ahead (and they seem like they're already pretty, pretty, pretty good).