The 2008 college basketball season has been an exciting one so far and it looks to pick up the pace as March Madness is fast approaching. This is the time of the year when stars are born and we should expect to see our fare share of new faces. From freshman to seniors, the 2008 campaign has proven to be one of parity and all it takes is for one player to make the difference. With Selection Sunday less than a week away, let us take a look at those key players at each position whose names will become household names by the time the tournament concludes.
Power Forward – Michael Beasley (Kansas State) This young man had a real chance to lead the nation in scoring in rebound. Currently the freshman Beasley has 26.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game and has continued at this pace for the majority of the season for Kansas State. With Beasley leading the team, Kansas State should reach the NCAA Tournament for the firs time since 1996. Beasley has shattered Carmelo Anthony’s NCAA freshman record of 22 double-doubles. As Kansas State is entering the Big 12 Tournament, Beasley has recorded 26 double-doubles. During the season we have seen glimpses of Beasley’s dominant offensive presence when he has show little trouble scoring when his opponent may have the advantage in size or athletic ability. Beasley’s athleticism helps him on both ends of the court, especially the defensive side when he uses his natural ability to compensate for making questionable decisions. Look for Beasley to continue his dominating performance in the tournament as he will be playing for the NBA scouts who are salivating over the chance of this freshman leaving after his first season.
Small Forward – Gary Forbes (Massachusetts) At the conclusion of Forbes’ senior season, he was selected as the Atlantic-10 Player of the year and it could not go to a better player. As of this weekend, Forbes is averaging 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game for the University of Massachusetts. This mentally tough small forward has shown the necessary skills to succeed. Forbes is a tremendous shooter who has shown he can play with power to go along with the soft touch on the outside shots. Forbes has shown versatility since he can play at either of the guard positions. Forbes is head and shoulders above the rest of those at the small forward position in college basketball.
Center – Kevin Love (UCLA) This freshman center from UCLA has been the talk of the nation radio shows since college basketball kicked off. Love has done his best not to disappoint while averaging 17.4 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. The painted area is where Love does the most of his damage with his simple yet effective post game. His soft hands aid Love with the ball movement and has helped him maintained a respectable shot percentage from the court. Love’s exceptional rebounding skills has netted him a total of 339, which broke the previous record set by the red head giant, Bill Walton. His instincts and strength have helped Love with nailing down his position and being able to predict where the ball will bounce. One area of concern is the athleticism of Love and how it will translate to the next level, but here in the college ranks, he will continue to dominate his opponents with ease. If Love opts to stay with UCLA beyond this season, he has the potential to become a truly dominant college player and be named with the other greats at UCLA, like Walton and Alcindor.
Point Guard – D.J. Augustin (Texas) The sophomore guard out of Texas was waiting in the wings last season as Kevin Durant stole the show. With Durant in the NBA, Augustin has had the chance to make a name for himself with the Longhorns. Up until this point in the season, Augustin has averaged 19.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 5.7 assists per game. These numbers were all up when compared to Augustin’s freshman campaign. This production was a concern going into the season since Augustin would be taking on more responsibility with the offense. Aside from his offensive progression, Augustin has shown the ability to run the offense and manage the tempo far better than most point guards across the nation. Behind his leadership, the Longhorns have maintained their level of excellence this year and will be making a deep run into the NCAA tournament where point guard play is a key factor to success.
Shooting Guard – Shan Foster (Vanderbilt) Foster has been the talk of the SEC as the coaches continue to rave about his talents. Foster’s 20.4 points per game has been fueled by his 54.9% field goal percentage from three point range. Some have attempted to label Foster as a one dimensional player and but their judgment has been off. While Foster possesses average athletic ability, his awareness on the court has benefited his defensive play during the season. Foster’s turnaround from a year ago has captured those who watch any of Vanderbilt’s games. Foster’s confidence in his stroke is unresolved as no shot appears to be out of range for him. Every game Foster puts in a solid effort on both ends and his team benefits from the intensity he brings to the court.