Star flops: Several NBA prospects already bounced from NCAAs
By STEVE MEGARGEE
Many of the freshman stars who garnered so much of the college basketball world's attention during the regular season have already been bounced from March Madness.
Arizona's Deandre Ayton, Oklahoma's Trae Young, Missouri's Michael Porter Jr., Alabama's Collin Sexton and Texas' Mohamed Bamba are all considered potential NBA lottery picks whenever they decide to turn pro. They're also all out of the NCAA Tournament after facing the harsh reality that sometimes individual talent isn't enough in March.
Sexton is the only freshman from that group who even reached the second round.
"I hate losing," Young said after Oklahoma's first-round overtime loss to Rhode Island . "That's not in my DNA, losing."
One lesson these freshmen are learning is rather obvious: It always helps to be surrounded by experienced players or equally talented freshmen.
Only three of the top seven prospects from the 2017 recruiting class according to the 247Sports Composite remain in the tournament. It's probably no coincidence that all three of them play for the same school: Duke.
Duke's Marvin Bagley, Trevon Duval and Wendell Carter Jr. are in the regional semifinals after helping the Blue Devils win their first two NCAA Tournament games by an average margin of 23+ points. Duke has five players - including four freshmen - with NCAA Tournament scoring averages in double figures thus far.
"Just being able to share the wealth in between one another and for us to be all together and be unselfish, it's a great thing," Carter said.
The Duke freshmen say they have benefited from having talented classmates around them who are going through similar situations. They've also worked alongside senior guard Grayson Allen and his wealth of postseason experience.
"That's the reason I came to Duke, to play with a lot of great guys who I've seen play before and to be able to team up with these guys and figure out each other and work together," Bagley said. "It's a great feeling."
Kentucky also has reached the Sweet 16 with a freshman class that included five of the nation's top 18 Class of 2017 recruits according to the 247Sports Composite. Freshmen Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo, PJ Washington and Kevin Knox have averaged a combined 66 points in two NCAA Tournament games.
Many of the notable freshmen who were ousted from the NCAA Tournament played quite well.
Young had 28 points and seven assists against Rhode Island. Ayton had 14 points and 13 rebounds in Arizona's loss to Buffalo . Bamba had 13 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out of an overtime loss to Nevada. Porter played just three games for Missouri all season because of a lower back injury that required surgery , but he had 16 points and 10 rebounds against Florida State . Sexton averaged 21 points in his two NCAA Tournament games.
"For anybody not to remember Deandre as the greatest freshman that ever walked through Arizona, they weren't paying attention, statistically and just the type of kid he is," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "He's destined to do some great things. When you get someone like him, you want to go all the way, right? And when you lose in the first round, that's a tough pill to swallow."
But in many cases, they didn't have enough help. For instance, Sexton was the only Alabama player to score in double figures in the Crimson Tide's second-round loss to Villanova.
Now these freshmen will have to sit and watch the rest of the NCAA Tournament while learning from the frustrating finishes to their seasons.
"I left everything I could, and I know my teammates did as well, (left) everything they could on that floor," Young said. "But I've had to mature, like I said, all season. This is all the process. This is all - this is a chapter in my book. This season, that chapter is closed now."
AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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Updated March 18, 2018