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March Madness 2024: Top 10 Freshmen with the Most Hype Around Them ahead of NCAA Tournament

Top 10 Freshmen with the Most Hype Around Them – With the NCAA Tournament rapidly approaching, college basketball freshmen aren’t really treated as freshmen anymore. Given the past track record of guys like Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis, freshmen can do anything in March – including leading teams to national titles. Here are 10 talented and hyped-up freshmen who will find themselves at the center of March Madness 2024, potentially influencing top March Madness free picks.

Top 10 Freshmen with the Most Hype Around Them – Reed Sheppard, Kentucky

As the son of two former basketball standouts at Kentucky, Sheppard has ably filled some enormous shoes and expectations in his first college season. The stellar freshman averages 12.4 points, shoots an impressive 51.7% from 3-point range, leads the Wildcats squad in assists at 4.3 per game, and also leads the entire Southeastern Conference with 66 total steals. Sheppard has already proven he can handle the brightest lights and the biggest stages in college basketball. He now looks to cement himself as a Kentucky immortal over the next thrilling month of March Madness.

Cody Williams, Colorado

Of all the talented freshmen currently playing college basketball in 2023-24, Colorado’s Williams will likely be the very first one chosen in the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft. The versatile 6-foot-8 Williams has battled minor injuries this year on his way to scoring 13.7 points per game. The Buffaloes are still working to solidly state their case for an NCAA tourney spot, but Williams’ athleticism and rapidly developing wing skills (45.7% from three-point range) make him arguably the top must-see freshman prospect in the nation. 

Jared McCain, Duke  

Duke and supremely skilled freshmen? It’s a tale as old as time in college basketball. This year, McCain serves as Duke’s third-leading scorer at 13.3 points per contest. But the dead-eye shooter has another gear when he gets exceptionally hot. For example, against Florida State on Feb. 17, McCain exploded by hitting 8 three-pointers on his way to 35 points. He’s a 41% three-point shooter for the full season, and will be an integral component of Duke’s strategic offensive attack in March Madness.  

Ja’Kobe Walter, Baylor

Baylor’s Ja’Kobe Walter has emerged as a reliable scoring threat that could be instrumental for the Bears during tournament time. Walter currently leads No. 15 Baylor in total scoring, averaging 14.7 points per game. His consistency is still a work in progress, but with seven consecutive double-figure scoring games under his belt, the freshman seems to be hitting his stride at the right time. With Missi holding down the inside offensively, Walter’s developing perimeter skills could help guide Baylor on another deep March run.

Rob Dillingham, Kentucky  

Somewhat hidden in the giant shadow of teammate Reed Sheppard, Dillingham has still been an offensive dynamo for the Wildcats in his own right. He’s Kentucky’s second-leading overall scorer at 14.8 points per game, while also ranking second in assists at 3.8 per contest – all despite playing just 23 minutes a night. Dillingham is clearly Kentucky’s premier offensive creator and he will continue to make his name known in March.  

PJ Haggerty, Tulsa

Yes, Haggerty did play in six early games last season for TCU as a true freshman. But he transferred to Tulsa and is still classified as a freshman this year statistically. Haggerty has been the top freshman scorer in the entire nation in 2023-24, averaging 20.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest. He also ranks fourth in the American Athletic Conference with 57 total steals. He’s a certified star, even if Tulsa likely isn’t dancing in the Big Dance. 

Josh Hubbard, Mississippi State  

The 5-foot-10 Hubbard has caught absolute fire for the NCAA bubble-bound Bulldogs recently. In his last three games alone, Hubbard has exploded for 89 total points while draining an impressive 19-of-37 shots from 3-point range. His season scoring average sits at a solid 16.2 points, but Hubbard seems to be going nuclear at the perfect time to close out the regular season.

Yves Missi, Baylor

A true post presence for Baylor, Missi’s 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game tell his story accurately. Notably, he’s also shooting an efficient 63.7% from the field and his last two games were 16- and 17-point outings. Missi’s emergence in the paint will be big for the Bears during tournament time.  

Stephon Castle, UConn 

UConn’s Castle could have a brighter spotlight on him, but his team is so stacked with talent that stardom gets shared across the board. He’s averaging a respectable 10.9 points, 3.0 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game in his freshman campaign. In his last five games, Castle has scored in double figures four times. He figures to become an even more pivotal player for the Huskies in March.

Justin Edwards, Kentucky

Some would tab Edwards as a disappointment so far, as his 8.7 points per game scoring average seems rather humble for a Wildcats freshman. But within his last three games were a 28-point explosion against Alabama and 10 points in just 13 minutes in Kentucky’s recent win over Arkansas. Edwards is clearly showing signs of breaking out at just the right time ahead of the NCAA Tournament.  

The 2024 NCAA Tournament seems primed to be highlighted by an incredibly skilled and hyped group of freshmen stars, with top betting websites keeping a keen eye on these emerging talents. From Reed Sheppard guiding Kentucky on a potential championship run to Cody Williams showing why he’s considered an elite NBA prospect, the play of talented first-year players could ultimately decide who cuts down the nets in April. Whichever teams can get the most production from their ballyhooed freshmen will likely advance the furthest this March.