An unofficial audit of this year's freshman class has led a panel of expert (me) to a conclusion that may anger some mothers, sneaker reps, AAU coaches and English teachers:
It ain't close to last year's freshman class.
Of course, in terms of attention grabs, following Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Jerryd Bayless and Eric Gordon is like following Britney Spears out of a barbershop.
Rose, as a ferocious freshman, would have/should have/could have led Memphis to the national title last year had the Tigers not started celebrating with two minutes left against Kansas.
No player in extended shorts brought more mustard to USC than Mayo, Beasley was a beast at Kansas State and UCLA's Love wowed NCAA tournament crowds in practice by sinking full-court baskets with effortless flips of his wrists.
And he made the outlet pass cool again.
These guys were "one-and-done" impresarios who picked up where the classy Greg Oden-Kevin Durant class of 2007 left off.
Eleven freshmen were chosen in last year's NBA draft, nine in the first round.
Rose, Beasley and Mayo went 1-2-3; Love was fifth.
Beasley averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds a game, Mayo was always good for 20, and Love was a 17-and-10 post presence.
OK, who's got next?
"It's way out of whack that way," USC Coach Tim Floyd said of expectations last year's class set.
DeMar DeRozan, a 6-7 forward, was billed as the next Mayo at USC; 6-3 guard Jrue Holiday, the 2008 Gatorade player of the year, was coming to fill Love's vacuum.
So far, both have been . . . nice young players.
DeRozan averages 12 points and five rebounds but scored only five in 32 minutes in last week's snail-crawl win at Washington State. Holiday scores in single digits, but he is starting.
Washington State Coach Tony Bennett's assessment of Holiday:
"He's a freshman," Bennett said. "Is he O.J. Mayo right now? Is he one of those? Perhaps not, but he's going to be a special player. You can see that."
The problem: Fabulous freshmen aren't allowed time to grow into their second semesters. They have to be good now because, you know, the NBA cares.
Sometimes, though, it does take more than 10 minutes to warm up and, heaven forbid, you might actually have to become a sophomore.
Most of the freshmen of UCLA's prized class are biding time on Ben Howland's bench.
Jerime Anderson, the highly touted guard out of Anaheim Canyon High, is averaging 8.9 minutes.
"Everything's different," Howland explained. But had Darren Collison not returned for his senior year the coach added, "we'd be seeing Anderson playing a lot more than he's playing."
The freshman of the year in the Pacific 10 Conference has been a 5-8 point guard from Washington, Isaiah Thomas, who would just as soon run under your legs to score as go over the rim.
"He's fearless," Arizona Coach Russ Pennell said of Thomas.
So, again, a round of applause for this year's freshmen: Tyreke Evans of Memphis, Louisville's Samardo Samuels, Greg Monroe of Georgetown and the sleek Al-Farouq Aminu of Wake Forest.
Someday -- hopefully not today, for NCAA probation sake -- you all will make your agents proud.
Just so you know, the lack of immediate-impact star power hasn't lowered the NBA's drool level on most of these guys. That league always has 30 first-round slots ready to fill with DeRozans and Holidays and Monroes.
It just might be that the 2009 class, unlike 2008, may turn out to be "one and what have you done?"
Dribbles and drabs
Northwestern scored consecutive wins last week against ranked Big Ten opponents, Minnesota and Michigan State, prompting some to wonder whether this might be the year the Wildcats finally make the Big Dance. Northwestern hosted the first NCAA tournament, in 1939, but has never played in one.
Reality check: Northwestern entered Big Ten play this week tied for 10th, at 2-5 and 10-7 overall. On a positive note, there's a new postseason tournament being set up by collegeinsider.com for 16 teams not chosen for NCAA or NIT.
Hey, it's already been a notable year in Evanston. Northwestern beat Michigan in football at Ann Arbor and won a basketball game at Michigan State for the first time in the same school year since . . . ever.
Those of you getting jacked up for Notre Dame's visit to UCLA on Feb. 7, take note: Notre Dame, ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press preseason poll and a Final Four sleeper pick for some people, has lost four straight games and dropped out of this week's top 25. Notre Dame (12-7, 3-5) is now closer to Rutgers in the Big East standings than league-leading Marquette. UCLA, preseason No. 4 by AP, has lost two of its last three and dropped to No. 17.
This week's "North Carolina must have invented basketball" note: For the first time in the 56-year history of the AP poll, three teams from the same state have been No. 1: North Carolina, Wake Forest and Duke.