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Ranking college basketball’s 15 best debut performances by freshmen in their first week

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College basketball is back in full swing, and its freshmen class after one week of action appears to be fabulous. The top players are thus far delivering big-time production, and many of the top teams are weaponizing them to make a difference early on.

Nowhere is that more evident than at Duke, where No. 2 overall recruit Paolo Banchero and fellow five-star freshman Trevor Keels have been unleashed out of the gate in its 3-0 start to the season. Banchero is averaging 19.3 points and 8.7 boards per game and Keels, averaging 13.7 points per game, looks like a difference-making complementary piece.

Memphis, like Duke, is also letting its young guns run free with no restrictions and reaping the benefits. Former No. 1 recruits Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren — both still only 17 years old — are averaging 16.5 points and 12.5 points per game, respectively, through two games. The Tigers are 2-0 and torching opponents on offense to the tune of 89.5 points per game.

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Other freshmen outside the typical five-star structure have stepped up early in the season, too, including Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens, Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard and Jason Roche at The Citadel. So as we digest the opening week that was in college hoops, let’s take a spin through the sport with a look at some of the best debut weeks across the newbie landscape.

1. Paolo Banchero | Duke

Rare are the occasions when a player makes a debut so impressive, it requires a re-assessment of that players’ team and their potential. Banchero is the exception. He’s averaging 19.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in his first three outings — all three of which were wins. And against Kentucky in the season-opener he looked every bit the part of a future No. 1 pick, pouring in 22 points, seven rebounds and a pair of steals — all while battling cramps — in 31 minutes of play. 

2. Bryce McGowens | Nebraska

A season-opening loss to Western Illinois is a ding for Nebraska and a not-so-promising sign for its prospects this season, but you can’t hang that on Bryce McGowens. He scored 25 on Western Illinois then followed it up with 29 points in a bounceback win over Sam Houston State. Looks the part of a true No. 1 scorer for Fred Hoiberg and the Cornhuskers.

3. Patrick Baldwin Jr. | Milwaukee

He’s played in only one game thus far for Milwaukee, but Patrick Baldwin Jr. was sure electric in that appearance as he went for 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in a 77-71 loss to Eastern Kentucky. Baldwin struggled a touch shooting it consistently — he was 7 of 20 from the floor and 2 of 9 from 3-point range — but better days are ahead (and they seem like they’re already pretty, pretty, pretty good). 

4. Kennedy Chandler | Tennessee

Tennessee’s five-star point guard addition has already carved himself out quite a role early on. In two blowout wins for the Vols he scored 20 then 16 points and combined for 10 assists in those two outings to only four turnovers . . . all in 48 minutes of action. Chandler’s scoring prowess and vision will make him a mainstay in our season-long Frosh Watch rankings. 

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5. Emoni Bates | Memphis

Memphis coach Penny Hardaway hinted in the preseason that Bates, a 6-foot-9 wing, may play on the ball as point guard at times with the Tigers. That wasn’t for show. Bates is handling the ball and bringing it up the court a lot, and he’s second on the team in assists through two games while leading the team at 16.0 points per game. At just 17 years old he’s already flashed — a lot — the type of pro-style shot-making that has long intrigued scouts.

6. Harrison Ingram | Stanford

File the name away for future (and heck, current) reference. Ingram’s been a revelation for Stanford and looks like a star. The 6-8 wing leads the team in scoring averaging 18.0 points per game through three games, and on Monday he posted a gaudy 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in a win over San Jose State. 

7. Jabari Smith | Auburn

Smith played only 21 minutes in his season debut against Morehead State, a 77-54 win for Auburn, but against Louisiana-Monroe on Friday, Bruce Pearl unleashed him for 29 minutes of play — during which Smith rewarded his coach with 23 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks, two assists and four steals. Holy box-sheet stuffer.

8. Jalen Duren | Memphis

The comparisons to Bam Adebayo are, at least so far, pretty apt. Duren’s a relentless big who does a little of everything. He’s already recorded eight blocks in two games and is averaging 12.5 points and 8.0 boards in that span to boot in only 49 minutes of action. 

9. Ryan Nembhard | Creighton

Creighton has started its season with two blowout wins over inferior competition and in the process, Nembhard, a former four-star recruit, has quickly emerged as a force. He leads the team with 12 assists and is second on the team, behind only Alex O’Connell, with 26 combined points. He’s already secured the lead guard spot and holds the keys to unlocking Creighton’s potential this season. 

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10. Chet Holmgren | Gonzaga

Gonzaga has a loaded roster led by Drew Timme so Holmgren hasn’t been asked to produce at a high level for the No. 1 Bulldogs. And yet Holmgren has indeed produced at a high level, operating as one of the best shot-blockers in the country. He’s averaging nine points, eight boards and four blocks (!!) through three games, bolstered by a seven-block showing against Dixie State in his career debut a week ago.

11. Jason Roche | The Citadel

Only one college offered Roche out of high school — The Citadel — and now they are being rewarded accordingly. Roche is averaging 19.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game out of the gate, picking up where he left off in high school when he averaged 23 points and six rebounds per game. We’ll see if he can keep this pace up but he was one of the best shooters on the EYBL circuit and already looks like one of the most productive mid-major products in the country. 

12. Trevor Keels | Duke

Against Campbell and Army the last two games, Keels has averaged only eight points, four rebounds and 2.5 assists. But he’s holding steady here just outside the top 10 and worthy of acknowledgment after a breakout in the Champions Classic where he went for 25 points. All preseason long Keels was consistently getting buzz as a potential star and his Lu Dort-like frame and style of play looks like it could be a real difference-maker for the top-10 Blue Devils.

13. Caleb Houstan | Michigan

Juwan Howard has a knack for finding plug-and-play freshmen and Houstan is just the latest example. He scored 13 and 11 points against Buffalo and Prairie View A&M to open the season, respectively, and it appears he’s already locked in a starting role on the wing replacing Franz Wagner and Chaundee Brown. 

14. Taran Armstrong | Cal Baptist

Armstrong is the only freshman in the sport who ranks top-10 in the country in assists per game. He’s dished out 17 dimes in two games — both wins for Cal Baptist — and is adding 12 points and five boards per game to boot. 

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15. Aminu Mohammed | Georgetown

Georgetown lost to Dartmouth — Dartmouth! — in its opener over the weekend. But Mohammed turned in 17 points and 6 six boards in the effort. He was one of the lower-rated five-stars in the 2021 class but appears to already be a key cog for the Hoyas.





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How to watch Appalachian State vs. James Madison: NCAA Football live stream info, TV channel, time, game odds

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Who’s Playing

James Madison @ Appalachian State

Current Records: James Madison 2-0; Appalachian State 2-1

What to Know

The James Madison Dukes watched the action from their couches last weekend, but are set to take to the field. James Madison and the Appalachian State Mountaineers will face off in a Sun Belt battle at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The odds don’t look promising for the Dukes, but the bigger the opponent is, the harder they fall.

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A well-balanced attack led James Madison over the Norfolk State Spartans every single quarter on their way to victory two weeks ago. James Madison claimed a resounding 63-7 win over Norfolk State at home. The game was pretty much decided by the half, when the score had already reached 35 to nothing.

Meanwhile, Appalachian State didn’t have too much breathing room in their contest with the Troy Trojans last week, but they still walked away with a 32-28 victory. Appalachian State QB Chase Brice was slinging it as he passed for two TDs and 279 yards on 34 attempts. Near the top of the highlight reel was Brice’s 53-yard TD bomb to WR Christan Horn in the fourth quarter.

Their wins bumped the Dukes to 2-0 and the Mountaineers to 2-1. Watch the matchup and check back on CBS Sports to find out who keeps up the positive energy and who hits a stumbling block.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium — Boone, North Carolina
  • TV: ESPN Plus
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $40.99

Odds

The Mountaineers are a solid 6.5-point favorite against the Dukes, according to the latest college football odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Mountaineers as a 7.5-point favorite.

Over/Under: -111

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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UTSA vs. Texas Southern: How to watch NCAA Football online, TV channel, live stream info, game time

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Who’s Playing

Texas Southern @ UTSA

Current Records: Texas Southern 1-2; UTSA 1-2

What to Know

The Texas Southern Tigers will take on the UTSA Roadrunners at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Alamodome. Texas Southern isn’t favored, but they just beat the odds in their last game, so don’t count them out.

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The Tigers kept a clean sheet against the Southern University Jaguars last week and took the matchup 24 to nothing. The squad ran away with 21 points in the first half and mostly just sat on those in the second to pick up the victory.

Meanwhile, it was all tied up 17-17 at halftime, but UTSA was not quite the Texas Longhorns’ equal in the second half when they met last week. The Roadrunners suffered a grim 41-20 defeat to the Longhorns. This contest was a close 17-17 at the break, but unfortunately for UTSA it sure didn’t stay that way. A silver lining for them was the play of RB Brenden Brady, who threw one touchdown in addition to punching in one rushing touchdown.

Texas Southern’s win lifted them to 1-2 while UTSA’s loss dropped them down to 1-2. We’ll find out if the Tigers can add another positive mark to their record or if UTSA can shake off the defeat and take the spring out of Texas Southern’s step.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
  • TV: STADIUM
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $69.00

Odds

The Roadrunners are a big 42-point favorite against the Tigers, according to the latest college football odds.

Bettors have moved against the Roadrunners slightly, as the game opened with the Roadrunners as a 44-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

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Series History

This is the first time these teams have played each other within the last seven years.



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North Carolina vs. Notre Dame live stream info, TV channel: How to watch NCAA Football on TV, stream online

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Who’s Playing

Notre Dame @ North Carolina

Current Records: Notre Dame 1-2; North Carolina 3-0

What to Know

The North Carolina Tar Heels will be returning home after a two-game road trip. They will take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Kenan Memorial Stadium after a week off. UNC is expected to win — but not by much — so they will need to come into the game prepared for a fight.

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The Tar Heels beat the Georgia State Panthers 35-28 two weeks ago. Among those leading the charge for UNC was RB Omarion Hampton, who rushed for two TDs and 110 yards on 16 carries. Hampton put himself on the highlight reel with a 58-yard TD scramble in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame netted a 24-17 victory over the California Golden Bears last week. RB Audric Estime and RB Chris Tyree were among the main playmakers for Notre Dame as the former punched in one rushing touchdown and the latter snatched one receiving TD.

Notre Dame’s defense was a presence as well, as it embarrassed California’s offensive line to sack QB Jack Plummer six times for a total loss of 47 yards. It was a group effort with four guys contributing.

The wins brought the Tar Heels up to 3-0 and the Fighting Irish to 1-2. A pair of stats to keep an eye on: UNC enters the matchup with 310 passing yards per game on average, good for 21st best in the nation. But Notre Dame comes into the contest boasting the 34th fewest passing yards allowed per game in the nation at 184. These opposing strengths should make for an exciting matchup.

How To Watch

  • When: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Where: Kenan Memorial Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • TV: ABC
  • Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.)
  • Follow: CBS Sports App
  • Ticket Cost: $110.00

Odds

The Tar Heels are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Fighting Irish, according to the latest college football odds.

The line on this game has moved quite a bit since it opened, as it started out with the Fighting Irish as a 1.5-point favorite.

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Over/Under: -110

See college football picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Notre Dame have won all of the games they’ve played against North Carolina in the last eight years.

  • Oct 30, 2021 – Notre Dame 44 vs. North Carolina 34
  • Nov 27, 2020 – Notre Dame 31 vs. North Carolina 17
  • Oct 07, 2017 – Notre Dame 33 vs. North Carolina 10



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