Top Freshmen to Watch in College Basketball for 2020-21 Season

Top Freshmen to Watch in College Basketball for 2020-21 Season

Greg Brown, Texas (247Sports Rank: 9)

It’s now or never for Shaka Smart. This will be year No. 6 in Austin for the former VCU coach, and he has yet to produce a single NCAA tournament win at Texas. (The Longhorns were arguably on the wrong side of bubble in mid-March, so it was unlikely that last year was going to change that.) Smart was able to sign this  power forward from a high school just a few miles down the road from Austin, but will it be enough?

Joshua Christopher, Arizona State (247Sports Rank: 12)

Christopher is the highest-rated recruit to choose Arizona State in the history of the 247Sports database. Yes, he’s even higher than James Harden—the only other 5-star Sun Devil in the past two decades. If he’s anywhere close to being as good as advertised, Christopher, Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge Jr. might be the best backcourt in the nation.

Moussa Cisse, Memphis (247Sports Rank: 10)

Last year didn’t work out as Memphis hoped, in large part because James Wiseman only played in three games. But Penny Hardaway is getting something of a do-over here with Cisse, who reclassified in May and picked the Tigers in July. He’s going to be an immediate difference-maker in the paint for what is still a young team.

Sharife Cooper, Auburn (247Sports Rank: 24)

Auburn lost all six of its leading scorers from last season, so heaven only knows what the Tigers will look like. The one sure thing is Coopera 6’0″ point guard who averaged 28.6 points, 8.6 assists and 4.1 steals per game as a high school senior. If anyone in this class is going to have a Trae Young-type of year, it’s probably Cooper.

Jalen Johnson, Duke (247Sports Rank: 13)

Duke has a lot of depth, but it is lacking in its usual supply of star power. This is the first time since 2012 that the Blue Devils failed to sign one of the top six recruits in the class, and at No. 13, Johnson is the only top-20 guy in Duke’s 2020 class. But this combo forward has a very similar build to Jayson Tatum and could have that type of dominant presence on the floor.

Khristian Lander, Indiana (247Sports Rank: 27)

For the second time in three years, Indiana was able to keep the local 5-star from leaving the state. And Lander could be every bit the one-and-done star that Romeo Langford was in 2018-19. It’s hard to imagine Lander wouldn’t be the starting point guard. He’ll be the driving force of a team that finally gets Archie Miller to the NCAA tournament in his fourth season as a Hoosier.

Caleb Love, North Carolina (247Sports Rank: 14)

North Carolina signing one of the best lead guards in the country is becoming an annual rite of passage. With Coby White running the show two years ago, the Tar Heels were one of the best teams in the country. Things didn’t go anywhere near as well for the team with Cole Anthony last year, although he was individually fantastic. Look for Love to slide seamlessly into that same sort of type of role (17 points and four assists per game) in Chapel Hill.

Adam Miller, Illinois (247Sports Rank: 33)

In Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, the Illini have what should be the most dominant inside-outside duo in the nation. But it’s going to take more than two players to back up that preseason Top 10 ranking, and they’ll be counting on Miller to provide a big boost in what was their weakest area last year: three-point shooting. Aside from Tyler Underwood making two of six attempts, not a single returning player shot 31 percent or better. This lefty with legitimate NBA range will be critical.

Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga (247Sports Rank: 11)

Gonzaga lost four players who averaged at least 10 points per game last season, and yet it is No. 1 in the preseason AP poll for the first time in program history. That should tell you how special Suggs is. He was named both Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football in the state of Minnesota, as a lead guard in the former and as a dual-threat quarterback in the latter. Good luck finding anyone who can read the floor/defense as well as this guy.

Bryce Thompson, Kansas (247Sports Rank: 21)

Kansas lost both Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike from a team that would have entered the NCAA tournament as the favorite last year. That’s a lot of production the Jayhawks need to replace, but Thompson should be able to fill the backcourt vacancy. He’s an excellent shooter capable of running the offense, so he will plug in nicely beside Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji.

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