By AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Arizona’s Deandre Ayton have met every expectation as college freshmen with star potential.
And Oklahoma’s Trae Young has managed to top them both.
Those rookies are among a standout group across college basketball as the season crosses its midway point.
Here’s a look at the season’s top performers so far with Selection Sunday less than two months away:
TRAE YOUNG, OKLAHOMA
The 6-foot-2 freshman leads the country in both scoring (29.5 points) and assists (9.8) for the fourth-ranked Sooners, who were picked to finish sixth in the Big 12.
“This is what you dream of when you’re a kid growing up, playing college basketball at a high level — and winning,” Young said after going for 43 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against TCU last weekend.
Young is the only player with two 40-point games this season through Wednesday’s games and tied an NCAA Division I single-game record with 22 assists against Northwestern State.
“It’s very hard for a guy to be consistently at that high level through 15 ballgames,” Sooners coach Lon Kruger said. “Normally you start maybe just expecting it to happen, you get that big dropoff here or there. And it hasn’t happened with him.”
MARVIN BAGLEY III, DUKE
He can be a force any time he takes the court.
The possible No. 1 overall NBA draft pick already has more 30-point games than any other freshman in school history. He also became the first Duke player in 38 seasons under Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski to have a 30/20 game (32 points, 21 rebounds against Florida State ).
Bagley ranks in the top 15 nationally in scoring (22.0 points) and rebounding (11.7) while ranking second with 15 double-doubles — already a freshman record for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils.
As freshman teammate Trevon Duval put it: “Something good always happens when you throw it inside to Marvin.”
DEANDRE AYTON, ARIZONA
Preaseason Associated Press All-American Allonzo Trier got the early attention, but the 7-1 Ayton has been dominant for the No. 14 Wildcats.
The freshman is averaging 20.2 points while ranking in the top 10 nationally in rebounding (11.3) and double-doubles (13). He’s shooting nearly 64 percent from the field with enough power and athleticism to finish through contact. But he’s shown good touch, too, making 71 percent of his free throws and knocking down eight 3-pointers.
His best stat lines came against Alabama (29 points, 18 rebounds) and then-unbeaten Arizona State (23 points, 19 rebounds, three blocks).
TRA HOLDER, ARIZONA STATE
Holder’s rise has made the No. 16 Sun Devils one of the season’s biggest stories.
The 6-1 senior has upped his output across the board. He’s averaging 19.3 points (up from 16.2 last year), 4.8 rebounds (3.7) and 3.8 assists (3.2) while shooting a career-best 84 percent from the line and 41 percent on 3s. He’s also been big in marquee matchups, scoring 29 in a win at Kansas , 31 against Arizona and a season-high 40 against Xavier .
With Holder leading the way, Arizona State reached No. 3 in the AP Top 25 last month for its highest ranking since 1980-81.
JALEN BRUNSON, VILLANOVA
The 6-2 preseason AP all-American has been as steady and efficient as they come for top-ranked Villanova.
Brunson is averaging 18.8 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 58 percent. He also ranks in the top 10 nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.52) and has just 27 turnovers despite averaging 30.7 minutes in 18 games.
Brunson’s play, along with the leap by Mikal Bridges (17.4 points), has lifted Villanova to No. 1 for a third straight season.
“If you thoroughly examine him, you would think he is a robot,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said last week. “He’s a phenomenal player that just dominates the court.”
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE:
JOCK LANDALE, ST. MARY’S — The 6-11 Australian ranks among the national leaders in scoring (22.0), rebounding (10.4), shooting percentage (.662) and double-doubles (13) — including a 26-point, 12-rebound performance in Thursday’s win at No. 13 Gonzaga . It’s an example of why KenPom has Landale second to Oklahoma’s Young in its national player of the year rankings.
JEVON CARTER, WEST VIRGINIA — The senior point guard does more than just score. The Big 12’s reigning defensive player of the year ranks second nationally in steals (3.4) while averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
MARKUS HOWARD, MARQUETTE — The 5-11 sophomore had 52 points and 11 3-pointers — both are the most by any Division I player this year — at Providence, then followed with 37 points in a loss to current No. 1 Villanova. He’s also 57 for 57 at the line.
LUKE MAYE, NORTH CAROLINA — The 6-8 junior best known for making a last-second shot to reach last year’s Final Four has blossomed (17.8 points, 10.5 rebounds) into possibly the nation’s most improved player.
JORDAN MURPHY, MINNESOTA — The 6-6 junior is first nationally in double-doubles (19), second in rebounding (12.1) and averaging a team-best 18.1 points.
MID-MAJOR SCORERS: Oakland’s Kendrick Nunn (25.8 points) and Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman (25.1) are putting up big numbers, but Wofford’s Fletcher Magee deserves a special nod. The 6-4 junior averages 23.1 points and ranks among the national leaders in 3-point percentage (.506) and made 3s per game (4.6). More impressively, he averaged 25.2 points in five games against power-conference opponents — including 36 points in a win against Georgia Tech and 27 in a road upset of reigning national champion UNC.
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Durham contributed to this report.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
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