Is it me or does it seem like the MAC this year has seen a HUGE dropoff in freshman production? Perhaps it was that the league was so down that freshmen had chances to make large impacts. Last year we saw the likes of Trey Zeigler, Javon McCrea, Matt Stainbrook, Reese Holliday, Alex Abreu and Juwan Howard, Jr (before his departure). This year … not so much. There are some good ones but nobody that I think we're going to be discussing as top-five players next year.
Nonetheless the MAC does name an all-freshman team, but while that won't be for about a month we can still get a good idea of who is on it. The list is subject to change any given Wednesday/Saturday but for now here's my five:
5. Stevie Taylor, OHIO — 12.7 mpg, 5.4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.2 apg, 49.3 eFG%
I know what you're thinking: why include a freshman that's playing just a handful of minutes per game? I think we all know why Taylor isn't getting a bunch of reps with the Bobcats: it's because they're rather skilled and have the depth to prove it. If Taylor played for a weaker team he might play more. Let's not count that against him. Additionally there aren't many efficient freshmen who are playing several minutes, so we can afford to be lenient here.
When he's on the court - usually to give DJ Cooper a breather - he makes a considerable impact. He hasn't taken many free throws but that 65% looks average for a guard.
4. Abdel Nader, Northern Illinois — 23.6 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 36.7 eFG%
The first recruiting class of any first-year head coach is always going to look bad, especially when he has to play most of them right away. The Huskies are playing four freshmen at least 10 minutes per game - no other team is using more than two like that. So it appears Nader is the malefactor of this situation and resultantly has to be "the guy" at times. On a more experienced team he could probably pick his spots and not have to take 11 shots a game.
So he's not a very accurate shooter at the moment, and those high minutes have resulted in four foulouts. Still, he leads all freshmen in rebounding and has already taken on a leadership role. It hasn't been pretty at times, but the list seems incomplete without him.
3. Austin McBroom, Central Michigan — 28.1 mpg, 10.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.1 rpg, 51.2 eFG%, 43.1 3PT%, 1.2 A/TO
McBroom has a couple things going for him: a neat surname and a sweet shot. He SHOULDN'T, however, be highlighting his hair or getting suspended from games, helping a 4-win team make the team look bad. Really, the frosted hair looks bad too.
When he IS on the court, however, he is scoring and motoring the offense with an above-average capability for a freshman. What remains to be seen is if he's going to be a shoot-first point guard or if he'll transition to perhaps more of a spot-shooter, since he really is CMU's best 3-point option.
2. Brian Sullivan, Miami — 27.3 mpg, 10.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 62.8 eFG%, 49.3 3PT%
A pure shooter. At this stage in his career, he can score and that's about all Miami really needs. That astounding eFG actually leads the MAC and is ranked 36th nationally. Hitting about half your threes is pretty damn good, and mind you he put on a display in essentially a breakout game at Vanderbilt where he made 8-of-10.
He's a little guy (5'11") and has time to develop some other tools, such as defense and perhaps shot creation, but for now his double-digit points per game have at least put Miami in opportunities to win.
1. Julius Brown, Toledo — 31.7 mpg, 11.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.7 rpg, 1.1 spg, 43.8 eFG%, 1.3 A/TO
The Rockets are a team that you can tell will only improve in the coming years. Juice Brown seems to be that point guard that might be able to bring them together. Since it's his first year he hasn't been able to display that on every night, but especially this month it looks like he's starting to hit a groove.
Not only does he lead the MAC in freshman scoring and steals but his assists per game is fourth among everyone. His hot shooting almost, ALMOST helped the Rockets beat BGSU. Right now Juice looks like a runaway vote for MAC freshman of the year, and he just might finagle an All-MAC honorable mention.