With a group of star-studded freshmen like Kentucky has, it’s no surprise that they’re among the best players in the tournament.
Multiple publications have released their rankings of the top players in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and that includes freshman shooting guard Malik Monk, freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox and freshman forward Bam Adebayo all drawing praise
In ESPN’s top 25 list, they have Monk ranked 11th, and De’Aaron Fox ranked 14th. Here’s what they had to say about Monk:
Rankings of the nation's top recruits became rather notorious a while back for highly esteeming shooting guards and, especially, wings who didn't really shoot that well, at least not as college freshmen. Conversely, with Monk we have Kentucky's second highly accurate blue-chip shooting guard in a row. Following Jamal Murray would have been no easy task for most players, but Monk has matched his predecessor's numbers for both accuracy and volume almost exactly. That being said, give coach John Calipari's current star bonus points for show-stopping. Monk has had the good theatrical sense to spread that scoring around into outbursts: 33 (Florida), 37 (Georgia) and 47 points (North Carolina). Do that and you earn a deserved Kemba-like aura.
And their take on Fox:
In 2017 there are few spectating joys in college basketball quite like the spectacle of Fox in the open floor. Commentators love to dwell on how fast the freshman is, particularly compared to speedy former Wildcats great John Wall. Fox is crazy-fast, no doubt. I just hope we're not seeking compensatory compliments where there's no need. The freshman also merits the use of polar-opposite terms like "fundamentally sound" and, yes, "pure point guard." Fox's decision-making is excellent, and his very good assist rate would be outstanding if he weren't playing alongside a worthy distributor like Isaiah Briscoe. No, Fox isn't, as yet, proficient on 3s, but he offsets that by getting to the rim as if drawn there by maglev.
Monk is 13th in Yahoo Sports’ rankings of the top 68 players in the tourney.
The streakiest and most lethal scorer in college basketball this season, Monk can go scoreless one half and drop 30 the other. The 6-foot-3 freshman scored 20 or more 18 times this season and memorably torched North Carolina for 47 back in December.
Meanwhile, Fox is just a few spots behind at No. 18.
Maybe the fastest player in college basketball, Fox is a gifted on-ball defender with a quick first step to the basket and the ability to create for himself or others. All that’s missing from his game is a consistent jump shot, or he’d be in the mix to be taken No. 1 overall in June.
Rounding out the list for Kentucky players is Bam Adebayo, coming in at No. 58. This is the only of the three lists that he made.
Adebayo is one of the most physically imposing players in college basketball. He’s as physically mature a 19-year-old as you’ll come across. His game is more or less confined to a 10-foot radius around the rim, but he’s so powerful that his field goal percentage (61.4) is unaffected, and his free throw rate is astronomical.
Lastly, SB Nation has Malik Monk at No. 10 on their top 50 list.
When Monk is locked in, he’s the most electric scorer in college basketball. North Carolina found this out the hard way when he dropped 47 points and eight three-pointers on the Tar Heels in December. John Calipari has had a lot of great freshman, but he’s never had one that scores as effortlessly as Monk.
They have De’Aaron Fox, somewhat disrespectfully, at No. 28.
De’Aaron Fox’s game is defined by his speed. The freshman might be the fastest player in college basketball end-to-end. He’s not just a track star, though: Fox is an elite defender, a good facilitator, and a crafty finisher. The only hole in his skill set is his jump shot. He’s one-half of the most exciting backcourt in college basketball.
With the seasons these guys have had, and their draft projection, it’s no surprise that they’re finding themselves on these lists. Hopefully they’ll beat out the others on the list on the court.
As for other players, both SB Nation and ESPN have UCLA’s Lonzo Ball ranked as the top player, while Yahoo has Kansas’ Frank Mason as the top guy. Kentucky has already seen both guys this season, so if they face off again, hopefully it’s the Cats getting the win this time around.