This article is part of our Freshman Haze series.
Not to spoil things, but this year's top seven in the Freshman Haze only has minor surprises. I'd like to build suspense to a surprising number one, but that just didn't happen this year. There are some surprises in the rankings in the top seven, including what will likely be an annual parade of Blue Devils, particularly with next year's ridiculous class coming in. We do have a pair of mid-major interlopers in the last Freshman Haze of the season, but the top of the list is just the guy you'd expect. Let's take a well-deserved victory lap by profiling the best seven freshmen this season.
7. Terry Taylor (G/F)
Coming into the season, it was Taylor's high school teammate Acoydan McCarthy who was expected to make a bigger impact on the Governors. Not much was expected of Austin Peay or Taylor, but both have been pleasant surprises. The 6-foot-5 swingman is leading the team with 15.1 points and 8.1 rebounds and has led APU to third place in the Ohio Valley. Fouls have curtailed his production of late and he has fouled out of two games without scoring more than nine points. He has 11 double-doubles on the season, but none in his last four games. Taylor could be a multi-year All-OVC player.
6. Marvin Bagley III (F)
In the top seven, having Bagley at six might be the biggest surprise. He is leading the Blue Devils with 21.2 points on 59.6 percent from the field and 11.4 rebounds. The problems, if you are to call them problems, are that the 6-11 forward does not pass much (1.7 assists), has a lot of turnovers (2.4), and is not a good free-throw shooter (62.0 percent). It is somewhat odd that Duke has won the last three games without Bagley. The Blue Devils will need their star player to make a March march. Bagley has scored at least 30 points six times and has 18 double-doubles.
5. Eric Williams (F)
The Dukes have a chance to win 17 games to equal their most in the last five years in the first season under coach Keith Dambrot. It looks like the new coach has a building block in 6-5 wing Williams. He has 10 double-doubles and lead the Dukes with 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals to go with 14.5 points. Duquesne had a stretch of three overtime games in four contests and Williams averaged 20.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in that span. Williams has slowed down from 3-point range of late and has hit just 21.2 percent (7-of-33) of his long-range shots in his last four games.
4. Deandre Ayton (F)
Ayton is being mentioned among the top prospects for the 2018 draft and it is not hard to see why. The Wildcat freshman has the measurables (7-1, 250 lbs, giant wingspan) and has been productive for a winning team (which may eliminate him from number one pick contention since the last two top picks did not play in the NCAA Tournament). He is hitting 60.6 percent of his field goals and is averaging 19.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks. Ayton has 23 points and 19 rebounds in the win over Arizona State on Dec. 30, but a signature game may still be yet to come.
3. Wendell Carter (F)
The 6-10 Carter has operated in Bagley's shadow to some extent, but he rates out a touch higher in the Haze's rankings. Carter received a big bonus by being efficient from 3-point range. He has only taken 34 3-pointers, but has nailed 16 of them for 47.1 percent. He has been a solid inside scorer as well and has averaged 14.4 points on 60.3 percent from the field. Carter leads the Blue Devils with 2.2 blocks. He was in the top seven of all freshmen in rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage. Carter has 14 double-doubles and has helped the Blue Devils win their last three straight games with 15.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in his last three games without Bagley.
2. Gary Trent (G)
Trent tops the Duke freshman domination by being a consistent source of points without any real weaknesses. Trent does not block many shots, but there are not many opportunities with Carter and Bagley around. He doesn't handle the ball that much in the Duke offense, other than to shoot. When he does handle, Trent does not turn ball over (just 1.0). He is averaging 15.2 points and 4.3 rebounds, but the 6-6 guard makes his bones by hitting 46.0 percent of his 3-pointers. In his last five games, Trent has canned 53.3 percent of his long-range shots and averaged 16.6 points.
1. Trae Young (G)
Since late November when Young put 43 points on Oregon, this ranking seemed destined. We at the Haze are not going to stand in the way of destiny. Young not only leads all freshmen in scoring and playmaking, but the entire country with 29.0 points and 9.2 assists. His 3-point shooting has fallen off badly in the Big 12 competition and he has only made 14.3 percent (7-of-49) in his last five, all of which have been Oklahoma losses. Young is also excellent at forcing fouls and has made 85.6 percent from the line on 9.3 attempts per game. The guard would have had a more dominant number one ranking, but he had the most turnovers (5.3). Young will likely shoot his way out of his current slump and have some memorable moments in March.