So far, the highly-touted high school class of 2016 has backed up the hype. With the NCAA Tournament just around the corner, winning and continued growth through the year takes on even greater importance. With that in mind, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is now our top freshman in the country.
Below is National Analyst Eric Bossi's list of the nation's top freshmen.
Previous: No. 3
How he got here: Ball picked UCLA in January of his junior year and never seriously considered any other programs. His brothers LiAngelo Ball (2017) and LaMelo Ball (2019) have also committed to the Bruins.
This season: 15.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game.
Analysis: Ball isn’t just the top freshman in the country at this point, he’s turned himself into a legitimate National Player of the Year contender. His all-around game, remarkable poise and skill level have made a major impact for a Bruins squad that is currently 23-3. This time last year, the Bruins were 14-12 and on their way to a losing record.
Previous: No. 1
How he got here: Fultz picked Washington over Arizona and Louisville thanks to Lorenzo Romar being involved the earliest.
This season: 23.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.
Analysis: Fultz has had an incredible freshman season, and if we were going strictly by stat line he would still be the No. 1 freshman in America. However, winning is factored into the equation, and Washington’s 9-16 record has taken some of the shine off his incredible individual performance. Fultz has missed the last two games due to a knee injury, and it is still unclear when he may be back.
Previous: No. 5
How he got here: The No. 1 player in the class of 2016, Jackson picked Kansas over Arizona and Michigan State in April of his senior year.
This season: 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game
Analysis: As the season has gone on, 2016’s top-ranked high school player has kicked his game into overdrive. Free throw shooting remains a concern, but Jackson has improved considerably as a deep jump shooter during the season and has made 15 of his last 30 three-point shots. A terrific two-way player, Jackson has also had double-digit rebounds in five of the last six games.
Previous: No. 2
How he got here: Most thought Monk’s decision would drag out until the spring of his senior year. Instead, he picked the Wildcats over home state Arkansas shortly before the start of the early signing period.
This season: 21.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Analysis: Monk continues to produce at a high level and is currently on pace to be the highest-scoring one-and-done that John Calipari has coached. As his outside shooting goes, so go the Wildcats, but seeing him use his athleticism to grab eight rebounds in a win over Tennessee was impressive. The more Monk uses his athleticism, the better he is.
Previous: No. 7
How he got here: Leaf initially committed to Arizona early in his junior year before opening things up shortly before his senior season. Once he opened it up, UCLA was the clear favorite.
This season: 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists
Analysis: Because of all the attention his teammate Lonzo Ball has been getting, Leaf is probably having the most underappreciated big-time freshman year in recent years. Leaf has been incredibly reliable for the Bruins and has scored in double figures in 24 of 26 games this season, while converting on nearly 63 percent of his field goal attempts.
Previous: No. 8
How he got here: N.C. State was always a heavy favorite for Smith. He enrolled a semester early to rehab a torn ACL.
This season: 18.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.
Analysis: Like Fultz, Smith would rank even higher if it was just about individual numbers. He’s been a threat to create a highlight each time he’s touched the ball and knows how to use his explosive athleticism to his advantage. However after looking like it had turned the corner during an exciting comeback win at Duke, N.C. State has lost its last five and dropped to 14-12 overall and just 3-10 in the ACC.
Previous: No. 4
How he got here: Fox also visited Kansas, LSU and Louisville before picking the Wildcats. Kentucky was considered the prohibitive favorite for the final six months or so of his recruitment.
This season: 15.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.
Analysis: As he’s battled through some minor injury issues, Fox has done a very nice job of boosting his overall shooting percentage to 46.9 percent. Fox’s biggest impact early in the season was his playmaking for others, which has dropped off a little as he's fought through the rigors of his first college season. His end-to-end speed and quickness remain potentially game changing.
Previous: No. 6
How he got here: A native of Finland, Markkanen’s dad played for Roy Williams at Kansas. However, Arizona won out over North Carolina and Utah.
This season: 15.2 points, 7.2 rebounds per game.
Analysis: There can’t be a big man in college basketball with a more pure-looking jumper. However, at times Markkanen has been too reliant on it, and he’s slumped over the last five games, making 6-of-20 from downtown while averaging just 7.6 points and five rebounds. The bright side is Arizona is still winning and the threat of his shooting keeps the floor open for the Wildcats.
Previous: Not ranked
How he got here: A native of Michigan who left the state for his final two years of high school, Bridges looked like he might be leaning to Kentucky early. In the end, the chance to play at home won out.
This season: 16.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Analysis: Bridges lost seven games in the middle of the season due to an ankle injury, but he has bounced back nicely. He has been a little more patient and made better decisions as the season has gone on, and his near 40-percent three-point shooting has been a bit of an unexpected, but pleasant, surprise for the Spartans.
Previous: Not ranked
How he got here: One of the most heavily recruited players ever out of St. Louis, Tatum flirted with many other programs but was considered a heavy Duke lean before committing in July prior to his senior season.
This season: 15.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Analysis: Tatum missed the first eight games of the season due to injury and has had flashes of brilliance - notably in wins over Florida and North Carolina. He’s not yet found consistency with his jumper but has been a major matchup problem as a skilled and versatile stretch four-man. Once things start to really click for him he could soar up the list.