The five best freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in college basketball
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The five best freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors in college basketball

People always want to talk about college basketball's fabulous freshmen who will spend one year in school before going off to riches in the NBA or the wily seniors who are tough, smart and are seemingly the embodiment of what college hoops is supposed to be.

The truth is there are all kinds of great players in college basketball at all levels of their education. Some take a bit longer to develop, while others simply are better suited for the college game. Greatness is everywhere, no matter the age.

So as the college basketball season is nearing the relatively dead time of finals and Christmas break, let's take a look at the five best freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.  

 
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Freshman: Cole Anthony, North Carolina

Freshman: Cole Anthony, North Carolina
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony is by far the best offensive weapon on a Tar Heels offense that is unusually lacking this year. He can hit from deep, has an outstanding quick step to get to the basket, he is a willing defender and is an outstanding rebounder for a guy his size. He also has the swagger to be that guy for a program that has had some stellar point guards over the last 15 years. The convergence of his skill and the opportunity means Anthony will put up some big numbers this season.  

 
2 of 20

Freshman: Vernon Carey, Duke

Freshman: Vernon Carey, Duke
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Carey may be the antithesis of last year's Duke freshmen. He is a smooth big man who just seems to always be in the right spot and can make any play. He is a double-double machine, posting seven such games in the Blue Devils' first nine. While he will shoot a three-pointer every now and then (he's made four of his five attempts), he knows he is a post guy who does most of his damage down low. He's also a deceptively good shot blocker.  

 
3 of 20

Freshman: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Freshman: Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Edwards may not be as known as some of the other freshman studs, but he could be the No. 1 overall pick. Playing at Georgia may hurt his visibility, but he's an elite athlete who is scary on the break and has a smooth ability at getting to the basket and getting his shot up. In his biggest moment to date, he poured 37 points in a loss to Michigan State in Maui. He's a bad dude!

 
4 of 20

Freshman: Nico Mannion, Arizona

Freshman: Nico Mannion, Arizona
Jacob Snow-USA TODAY Sports

Mannion hasn't been the face of the freshman class like others on this list (and elsewhere). He isn't the athletic big guy, as a Western guy he doesn't get as much press as, say, a Cole Anthony. But if you stay up and watch an Arizona game, you'll fall in love with Mannion's game. He has great handles, he is a deft shooter and he is athletic enough to get into the paint and make plays. The guy can score and pass with anyone and when he heats up, he can spark his team. Isn't that exactly what you want in your lead guard?  

 
5 of 20

Freshman: James Wiseman, Memphis

Freshman: James Wiseman, Memphis
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We've had just an appetizer of what Wiseman can do. In his three games he played before his suspension, he averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and three blocks a game. He is a problem inside due to his size and the level of activity — he owns the paint. He doesn't possess a developed offensive game but has lived on lobs, stick backs and basic back-to-the-basket moves. Even though he is suspended for games, he is able to still work with coaches to become a better offensive player to add to a huge chip on his shoulder when he comes back in January.  

 
6 of 20

Sophomore: Devon Dotson, Kansas

Sophomore: Devon Dotson, Kansas
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Bill Self thrives on having a steady, hard-nosed point guard running his team, and Dotson is his latest leader. As a freshman, Dotson showed his toughness and potential by taking over for Devonte' Graham last season and did a decent job for a Kansas team that had a lot of external issues. This year he has taken a major leap in his scoring (up nearly seven points) and has truly embraced the role of not only running the offense but also being a key cog in it. 

 
7 of 20

Sophomore: Ashton Hagans, Kentucky

Sophomore: Ashton Hagans, Kentucky
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

As a freshman, Hagans was a solid defender who was iffy on offense. This season, he hasn't improved as a shooter but has understood how to be effective on offense. He has shot only 16 threes thus far this season (making just four) but has been great at taking the ball to the basket and picking up fouls. He's nearly automatic from the free-throw line, a much better passer and playmaker (he's up to 6.4 assists per game) and he's a pretty good rebounder for a point guard. 

 
8 of 20

Sophomore: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

Sophomore: Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Haliburton is a guy any coach would love to have on a team. He does everything at a high level. His scoring has jumped to 16.8 ppg, he's grabbing six boards per game and dishing out an insane 8.6 assists every night. He can carry a team with any facet of his game and when he puts it all together (like his near triple-double against Alabama), the Cyclones can be special. 

 
9 of 20

Sophmore: Tre Jones, Duke

Sophmore: Tre Jones, Duke
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Tre Jones was the Ringo Starr of last year's Duke freshman-studded team. While Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish made the leap to become NBA lottery picks, Jones stayed behind to further develop his game. He still isn't a dead-eye three-point shooter, but his percentage has improved immensely (up to 34 percent from 26 percent as a freshman), and he has become one of the most important players in the nation. He continues to be an elite defender, and he's one of the best passers in the country with over seven assists per game. The best Mike Krzyzewski teams have had a point guard he trusts, and Coach K certainly has that in Jones. 

 
10 of 20

Sophomore: Obi Toppin, Dayton

Sophomore: Obi Toppin, Dayton
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Toppin had his breakout of sorts during the Flyers run in the Maui Invitational. The sophomore from Brooklyn is averaging over 22 points and eight rebounds this season and was a stud against Georgia, Virginia Tech and Kansas in the Thanksgiving week tournament. He is an NBA-caliber player who has held his own against other guys who will be playing at the next level. He gives all a reason to pay attention to Dayton the rest of the season. 

 
11 of 20

Junior: Tyler Bey, Colorado

Junior: Tyler Bey, Colorado
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Bey is a double-double waiting to happen every night. He's a combo forward who is athletic enough to play at the wing while having a physical presence to bang inside, which is evident in how he is a magnet for rebounds. He is averaging 14.0 points and 11.9 rebounds in the young season and while he isn't an elite scorer, he has the ability to score in a variety of ways.  

 
12 of 20

Junior: Kellan Grady, Davidson

Junior: Kellan Grady, Davidson
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Grady can fill it up and continues to be one of the most consistent players in college basketball. He's averaging 17.3 points (near his average as a freshman and sophomore) despite shooting just 25 percent from three this year. If he can get his shot back in rhythm, he could explode to have an Atlantic 10 Player of the Year kind of year. 

 
13 of 20

Junior: Jordan Nwora, Louisville

Junior: Jordan Nwora, Louisville
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, Nwora made a huge leap to become among the Cardinals' most dangerous players with a mix of three-point shooting and an ability to get to the basket. This season he has harnessed it, becoming a much more consistent scorer and improving his shooting across the board. His value on a talented Louisville team is that he isn't afraid to make a play in a big moment, and he has a high basketball IQ.

 
14 of 20

Junior: Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State

Junior: Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State
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Wesson's stats may not wow you, but that is due more to Ohio State's style of play than Wesson's skill level. His scoring has gone down a bit this year, but he's a better rebounder, better passer and better three-point shooter. He is a big guy who you can basically just put out there, and he can do anything you ask him to do. 

 
15 of 20

Junior: Omer Yurtseven, Georgetown

Junior: Omer Yurtseven, Georgetown
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Yurtseven is a bit more experienced than most juniors. He sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina State where he was a solid, yet inconsistent, big man for an underachieving Wolfpack squad. With the Hoyas this year he's been a steady hand, nearly averaging a double-double (16.0 pts, 9.6 rbs). It doesn't hurt that he's learning from Patrick Ewing, one of the best college players ever.  

 
16 of 20

Senior: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas

Senior: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We are in a day and age where big men need to be quick and fast and have the ability to shoot threes. Azubuike is a throwback of sorts because he isn't one of those guys. He's big, a bit slow and unmovable. He looks like a man playing among boys when he's out there and in the tournament can be a huge matchup problem for pretty much any other team. He put up 29 points on Dayton in the Maui Invitational championship game. He has missed just 12 shots in his first seven games of the season (59 attempts), and if he can stay healthy he will be a force come March. 

 
17 of 20

Senior: Anthony Cowan, Maryland

Senior: Anthony Cowan, Maryland
Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

Cowan toyed with going into the NBA last spring but elected to return to Maryland, and it is paying off handsomely. His scoring has gone up a bit, and he's become a much more efficient player. He's shooting 42 percent from three (up from 33 percent from last year), and he is taking advantage of playing alongside better talent while not forcing plays as he has in the past. He is one of the rare seniors who has started every game of his career. 

 
18 of 20

Senior: Markus Howard, Marquette

Senior: Markus Howard, Marquette
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Howard can straight fill it up. He is averaging 26 ppg over the first seven games of the season. He has already scored 51 points on USC, 40 on Davidson and 38 on Loyola (Maryland). He's also had a brutal 1-of-12 showing against Maryland and can be wildly inconsistent game to game. He doesn't shy away from getting up his shots but when he's on ...it is something to behold. 

 
19 of 20

Senior: Myles Powell, Seton Hall

Senior: Myles Powell, Seton Hall
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Powell's senior season has picked up where his junior year left off. He's averaging over 23 ppg in the early going (26.7 if you take out the Stony Brook game where he left the game with an ankle injury after four minutes) and has been shooting better from three this year. Powell is a pure scorer who comes up big in the critical games. He put up 37 points on Michigan State and 32 on Oregon already and will be one of the favorites for Big East and National Player of the Year Awards. 

 
20 of 20

Senior: Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Senior: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Winston entered the 2019-2020 season as the favorite among many for National Player of the Year Awards. He's a tough-minded point guard who does everything so well. He is the prototypical lead guard whom Tom Izzo craves to run the Spartans offense and defense. Winston is also one of the most popular players among his peers, which was evident with the outpouring of support following his brother's death. 

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