Not just one freshman in the mix, but two? Anthony Bennett has been just that good for No. 20 UNLV, leading the Rebels in scoring (19.5) and rebounding (8.5). The 6-foot-8 forward is shooting 35 percent on 3's, and against UNLV's opponents with the top RPIs, Canisius and Cal, he averaged 23 and 10. He gets another chance to elevate his profile Saturday at North Carolina.
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Plumlee is the top player on the top-ranked Blue Devils, leading them in scoring (19.3) and rebounding (11.3), and is among the leaders in Division I in rebounding and field goal percentage (.641). With Duke playing back-to-back games last week, the senior center had 18 and nine with three blocks in routing Cornell, then came back with 21 and 15 in a blowout of Elon. Plus, he's having his best season at the line (69.7). And don't forget: Duke has wins over Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State — all Final Four teams last season.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
The Hoosiers 7-footer is Plumlee's biggest competition for the "most dominant big man" label. He leads fifth-ranked Indiana in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (8.3) but has only two double-doubles. He's had one monster game (19 and 19 against Central Connecticut State) but otherwise has just been good — and against Butler, not good enough. Some say he's not even the best player on the team; Victor Oladipo is.
Ben McLemore, Kansas
He's only a freshman, but Kansas guard Ben McLemore is leading the sixth-ranked Jayhawks in scoring (16.5 ppg) and 3-pointers (20), and earned Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors after scoring 22 points with six rebounds in Saturday's win over Ohio State. He's scored in double figures in every game since his debut. Some are calling him the most talented freshman Kansas has seen in the past 30 years.
Laurence Bowers, Missouri
All the preseason hype about Mizzou centered on the Tigers' talented backcourt. But the 6-foot-8 forward Bowers, who missed last season with a knee injury, has led the team in scoring (16.9) while averaging 6.9 rebounds, and the Tigers have risen to seventh in the AP poll. Bowers had 23 points and 10 boards in Saturday's signature win over Illinois.