The debate about the best freshman in college basketball has only just begun.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins. That's the alphabetical listing of the three best freshmen in college basketball.
Randle, Wiggins, Parker. That's ranking them from oldest-to-youngest. (Parker is 20 days younger than Wiggins, who is about three months younger than Randle, who will turn 19 on Nov. 29.)
There are 1,000,001 other ways to rank them – and I'm certain that everybody who loves college basketball (as well as every NBA scout and general manager) will do exactly that from today until the 2014 NBA Draft next June.
College basketball has rarely buzzed the way the game buzzed Tuesday night with all the attention on the United Center when Randle (Kentucky), Wiggins (Kansas) and Parker (Duke) danced across the stage in Chicago during the Champions Classic.
Typically, my message is consistent: Practice safe hype. I've seen too many Kwame Browns and Josh Selbys, guys who rocketed to the top of the recruiting rankings and then disappeared when the bright lights came on.
We're less than a week into this college basketball season but I'm already convinced that I'm practicing safe hype by saying that Wiggins, Parker and Randle are as skilled, talented, passionate and poised as advertised. Three for the show.
Let me get the numbers out of the way quickly in case you find comfort in statistics.
Randle is averaging 24 points per game. The last Kentucky player to average at least 24 per game was Dan Issel -- in 1970. The most any of John Calipari's fabulous freshmen has averaged as a Wildcat was 17.3 by Brandon Knight three seasons ago.
Here's a more remarkable number: Randle is also giving the Wildcats 14.3 rebounds per game. Anthony Davis (10.4) is the only UK player to average double figures on the glass since 1985, and Randle's average is the best since Bob Burrow in 1956.
I know. It's only three games. Sample size. Freshmen ups and downs. Long season. Conference play is a grind. Blah, blah, blah. I can't imagine Randle averaging less than 10 rebounds per game.
As good as Randle looked while taking over the game late in the second half against Michigan State, Parker had moments when he looked more dynamic. A bunch of moments.
Now I understand why Sports Illustrated put him on its cover before he played his senior season at Simeon High School. He's one of those freakishly athletic guys who can play point guard, center or any other spot where Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski decides to use him.
Parker's essential stats are impressive – 24.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.
But here are the numbers that appear stolen from a video game. The kid has made 7 of 10 three-point shots and 8 of 9 free throws. He plays like a guy who understands there is more to basketball than dunking, even though he had the most unforgettable dunk of the evening.
Then there is Wiggins. His two-game numbers – 19.0 points and 5.5 rebounds – are not as overpowering, but Wiggins is doing just fine on the thrill meter as well as the winning meter.
Here is one thing to remember about him: He's the only one in the trio whose team actually won Tuesday night. Despite Randle's relentless work around the rim, Kentucky was beaten by Michigan State, 78-74.
And as dynamic as Parker was for the first 30-plus minutes, Wiggins is the guy who delivered at winning time, burying a critical step-back jumper and then whistling past the defense for a dunk with Duke defenders crowding him. Kansas 94, Duke 83.
That was the moment when his defenders took to Twitter to argue that Wiggins was going to be the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Unless you prefer Jabari Parker.
Or Julius Randle.
The debate has only just begun. It's going to continue all season. And it's going to be grand.