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Spencer Parlier | | November 10, 2020

15 freshmen who could have a big impact on college basketball this season

Andy Katz makes his first 2021 NCAA bracket prediction for March Madness

There is a loaded freshman class ready to make its impact on the 2020-21 college basketball season. 

That's one of the topics on this week's March Madness 365, where Andy Katz and Turner Sports' Chad "March Chadness" Aycock rank 15 freshmen to watch in this upcoming college basketball season. These are not in order of the most talented (though all are talented) but instead the guys who will make the biggest impact.

Two of those freshmen joined the pod this week as Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and Howard's Makur Maker talk with Katz about their decisions to attend the schools they chose. Katz also ranks his top 25 contenders for the Karl Malone award headed into the 2020-21 season, and is joined by ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla to preview the Big 12.  

Here the top 15 impact freshman going into the 2020-21 season, according to Katz: 

15. Greg Brown — Texas, Forward

Greg Brown was a McDonald's All-American out of high school and joins a team that brings most of its players back. Katz thinks Texas' depth means Brown doesn't have to be a star right away. He can contribute as an impactful role player, especially in the frontcourt. 

14. Sharife Cooper — Auburn, Guard 

Sharife Cooper could end this season as the freshman who had the largest impact. Bruce Pearl lost his entire starting five after last season, so Cooper has a lot of room to prove himself. 

13. Moussa Cissè — Memphis, Center

Moussa Cissè decided to stay in his hometown and join Penny Hardaway and Memphis after receiving offers from the likes of Florida State, Georgetown and UConn. He's a 6'10" center who can get up and down the court and Katz thinks he will be leaned on heavily by Hardaway right off the bat this season. 

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12. Cliff Omuruyi — Rutgers, Center

With the addition of the 6'10" freshman, the Scarlet Knights will have a chance to finish in the mix of things atop the Big Ten. Omuruyi will have a lot of talent to compete against, not only on his team but in the conference as a whole, as Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn will be happy to welcome the freshman to one of college basketball's toughest conferences. 

11. Jalen Johnson — Duke, Guard

Jalen Johnson is a 6'8" point guard. That's right, point guard. He began as a playmaker and then hit a late growth spurt. So, with the frame of small forward and the skills of point guard, Johnson will have his hand on the ball quite a bit this season. 

10. Zaire Williams — Stanford, Forward

Katz thinks Stanford will have a solid one-two punch with freshman Zaire Williams and junior Oscar Da Silva. Williams chose to attend Stanford over Southern Cal, Arizona and North Carolina. 

9. Scottie Barnes — Florida State, Forward

Leonard Hamilton has his next big-time recruit in Scottie Barnes, a big-time talent and body to develop for a run in the NCAA tournament.

8. Makur Maker — Howard, Forward

Makur Maker has already made a name for himself off the court — choosing to attend an HBCU over programs like Kentucky and Memphis as a highly-touted recruit. This season he'll have Purdue transfer Nojel Eastern with him to try and take Howard, a four-win team last season, to a MEAC Championship. 

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7. Caleb Love — North Carolina, Guard 

Last season, North Carolina had a star freshman point guard in Cole Anthony. This year the Tar Heels have that in Caleb Love. With Anthony bound for the NBA Draft, Love will step right into the role as the team's lead playmaker. Katz thinks Love will have a better UNC team to play with than Anthony did.

6. Evan Mobley — Southern Cal, Center

Evan Mobley will be the third Mobley to join the Trojans. His brother Isaiah Mobley plays for the team and his dad Eric Mobley is an assistant coach. Evan Mobley stands at 6'11" and Katz thinks a lot of the USC offense will be funneled through him. He will have big shoes to fill as he is expected to step in to Onyeka Okongwu's role this season. Okongwu is expected to be a lottery pick in this year's NBA Draft. 

5. Josh Christopher — Arizona State, Guard

Katz thinks Arizona State might be a Final Four sleeper, but if they are going to make a run to the National Semifinals, they need Josh Christopher to fill a certain role. With the Sun Devils' star Remy Martin likely to get most of the touches on offense, Christopher will have the chance to hone his craft and become a reliable second or third option outside of Martin. 

4. Jalen Suggs — Gonzaga, Guard

Jalen Suggs will be on one of the best teams in the nation as a freshman. Katz thinks the pressure isn't on Suggs to be the best player on the floor because he will be joined by veterans Drew Timme and Corey Kispert.

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3. Terrence Clarke — Kentucky, Guard

Kentucky is going No. 3 and No. 2 with two of their freshmen, Terrence Clarke and B.J. Boston. First is Clarke who is a five-star recruit out of Boston. Katz says he hears both Clarke and B.J. Boston are flourishing for John Calipari in practice thus far.

2. B.J. Boston — Kentucky, Forward

Along with a great amount of skill and talent, Boston and Clarke bring size to Kentucky's backcourt. Boston stands at 6'6" with Clarke being 6'7" making the duo a matchup problem on both ends of the floor.

1. Cade Cunningham — Oklahoma State, Guard

The Cowboys landed one of the most talented players in the country when Cade Cunningham chose Oklahoma State over Kentucky and North Carolina. His size (a 6'7"-6'8" point guard) causes matchup problems for opponents and Katz thinks Cunningham will be able to do a little bit of everything on the offensive end. He is a National Player of the Year candidate.

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