Kentucky started three freshmen in winning the national title this season, including national player of the year Anthony Davis. Connecticut won the national title last season with two freshmen playing key roles, and there's no arguing that the Huskies wouldn't have won it all had Jeremy Lamb not blossomed late in the season.
Florida got a huge contribution from freshman guard Bradley Beal in getting to the Elite Eight this season. Freshman guard Trey Burke was a big reason Michigan was a regular-season tri-champ in the Big Ten. Freshman Cody Zeller was a big reason Indiana made it to the Sweet 16.
So, which incoming freshmen can be expected to play big roles for their teams next season? Here's a look at a "super seven" of sorts, two of whom haven't made their college choice yet. These guys might not necessarily help their team win the national title, but each should make a big impact right away.
1. F Mitch McGary
College choice: Michigan
The particulars: 6-10/250; Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
Buzz: He is a big, physical player who should provide Michigan with a much-needed inside presence. Michigan G Trey Burke announced Monday he was staying in school, and Wolverines coach John Beilein already has to be dreaming of ways he can use Burke, McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr. McGary's passing skills make him a great fit for what Beilein likes to do on offense, and McGary is a good shooter from 15 feet. And, again, you can't overestimate how important McGary's physical nature will be for the Wolverines.
2. C Nerlens Noel
College choice: TBA
The particulars: 6-10/200; Tilton (N.H.) Tilton School
Buzz: Noel reclassified as a senior during the season, and his defensive prowess will be huge for whatever teams signs him (he is down to Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse). His offense remains somewhat raw, but he is freakishly athletic for a 6-10 guy and already has advanced shot-blocking techniques (sort of like Anthony Davis, in a way).
3. F Shabazz Muhammad
College choice: TBA
The particulars: 6-6/215; Las Vegas Bishop Gorman
Buzz: Muhammad is the No. 1 recruit in the class and is down to Duke, Kentucky and UCLA. He is an extremely physical wing player (sort of like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, in a way). He can get to the rim and has a well-developed midrange game. Muhammad also can handle the ball and, when he wants to be, can be a lockdown defender. The team that signs him is getting a ready-made star from day one.
4. G Kyle Anderson
College choice: UCLA
The particulars: 6-8/215; Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony
Buzz: UCLA underachieved this season and went through a lot of player-induced turmoil. Anderson comes from one of the best prep programs in the nation and should be a steadying influence even though he is just a freshman. He can play four positions (all but center) and is a solid passer for a guy his size. Indeed, expect to see him spend most of his time in the backcourt. His scoring punch also is needed.
5. G Kevin Ferrell
College choice: Indiana
The particulars: 5-11/165; Indianapolis Park Tudor School
Buzz: If big man Cody Zeller stays in school, the Hoosiers easily could go into next season as the favorite to win the national title. Ferrell is a throwback pass-first point guard and should be a steady hand for a team that needs a new point man. Every returning Hoosier should become good friends with Ferrell, knowing he is the type of guard who can get them the ball when and where they want it.
6. G Ricardo Ledo
College choice: Providence
The particulars: 6-5/185; South Kent (Conn.) South Kent School
Buzz: The Friars went 15-17 this past season, but every key player is expected to return next season. Ledo is a big-time scorer, and his presence gives coach Ed Cooley a wide variety of offensive weapons. Providence isn't going to win the Big East next season, but the Friars will finish in the top half of the league and could contend for a top-four finish.
7. F Marcus Smart
College choice: Oklahoma State
The particulars: 6-4/220; Flower Mound (Texas) Marcus
Buzz: The Cowboys finished 15-18 this season. While they had some individual talent, the team as a whole never meshed and seemed to lack toughness at key junctures. Smart is an undersized forward who does a little bit of everything, and does it all well. He also has needed intangible.
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Eric Bossi contributed to this report.
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