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Brandon Miller and Gradey Dick helped turn back the clock in college basketball last season as starring freshmen for teams that achieved No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Their contributions — along with those from Duke's loaded freshman class led by Kyle Filipowski — helped push freshmen scoring percentages in college basketball's major conferences back up after two years of significant decline.

But that freshman momentum fizzled in March, when the Final Four featured no true freshman starters for the first time since 1998, and it hasn't resumed in 2023-24. Nearly a month into the season, freshman scoring contributions in the sport's major conferences are down again as super-seniors and the mass transfer era continue to impact college basketball's roster dynamics.

Duke won a national title in 2015 with three freshmen starters and a fourth player who factored prominently into the rotation. As recently as 2019, freshmen accounted for 22.6% of scoring in the Big Six conferences. But times have changed. Freshman scoring dipped to 12.3% in 2022 within the Big Six leagues and is at just 13.2% through Sunday's action after cycling up to 16.3% last season.

Super seniors — players granted an extra year of eligibility amid the COVID-19 pandemic — will remain an integral part of the sport's fabric through the end of the 2024-25 season, and the transfer portal is here to stay. Additionally, rules allowing players to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness have made staying in college longer more appealing to players who would have previously considered leaving for professional opportunities.

Amid those changes, the number of freshman prospects ranked by 247Sports signing with Big Six schools hit a new low with the 2023 signing class at 234, which was down from 313 in the 2020 class.

"Freshmen are a bad investment," one Big Ten coach told CBS Sports Matt Norlander earlier this year. "They're all rentals."

Bucking the trend is Kentucky. The Wildcats have four freshmen averaging in double figures, which is twice as many as the entire Big East and Big Ten combined. The Wildcats' approach has produced mixed results thus far as UK ranks No. 16 this week following a momentous home victory against Miami followed by a loss to UNC Wilmington. Unleashing ultra-talented freshmen is the way 15th-year coach John Calipari built his program, and he's doubling down even as the world around him changes. 

Here is a full breakdown of how freshmen scoring contributions have evolved from the 2017-18 season through present day as the sport has undergone seismic changes.

David Cobb, CBS Sports

Freshman scoring in Big Six conferences

Percentage of total points scored by freshmen in the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.
2023-24: 13.2% (through Sunday)
2022-23: 16.3%
2021-22: 12.3%
2020-21: 17.9%
2019-20: 20.8%
2018-19: 22.6%
2017-18: 22.8%

Freshman scoring in each Big Six conference

ACC Big 12 Big East Big Ten Pac-12 SEC


Freshman scoring in the ACC is at its lowest point of the study to begin the 2023-24 season, and part of that can be traced to Duke and the return of a trio of players who were freshmen a year ago. Sophomore stars Kyle Filipowski, Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell all spurned the NBA Draft for another season with the Blue Devils, and they are each among the team's top-four scorers. Their decisions have left the nation's No. 2 recruiting class fighting for roles. While the group is amply talented, the leading scorer is Caleb Foster, who is averaging 9 points coming off the bench.

ACC freshmen averaging 10+ points per game (3)

  • Markus Burton, Notre Dame: 14.9
  • Carlton Carrington, Pittsburgh: 14.6
  • Baye Ndongo, Georgia Tech: 10.3

Big 12

Big 12 freshman scoring cratered to an almost unimaginable 7.5% in 2022, a low among any league in any year during the study. That season, Iowa State guard Tyrese Hunter (now at Texas) was the league's only freshman to average double figures as he posted 11 points per game. Gradey Dick of Kansas and Keyonte George of Baylor led a stronger freshman class last season before leaving for the NBA Draft, and freshmen contributions have dipped slightly following their departures.

Big 12 freshmen averaging 10+ points per game (3)

  • Ja'Kobe Walter, Baylor: 14.9
  • Eric Dailey Jr., Oklahoma State: 13.6 
  • Jamyron Keller Oklahoma State: 10.0 * 

* - appeared in three games

Big East

The Big East was the least-reliant on freshmen prior to the new transfer rules and the emergence of super-seniors following COVID-19. In fact, the league was more reliant on freshmen in the 2021-22 season (15.9%) than it was before the pandemic. But over the past two years, the league has begun to follow the national trends, as freshmen scoring dipped to 10.8% last season and is at just 10% this season. UConn freshman Stephon Castle should help the league's percentage increase once healthy. The former five-star prospect averaged 14.5 points in his first two games before missing the last few weeks with a knee injury.

Big East freshmen averaging 10+ points per game (1)

  • 14.5 Stephon Castle, UConn: 14.5*

* - appeared in two games

Big Ten

Big Ten freshmen enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2022-23, bucking the national trends to account for 20.7% of the league's scoring. Ohio State's Brice Sensabaugh led the group at 16.3 points per game, followed closely by fellow 2023 NBA Draft picks Jett Howard (Michigan) and Jalen Hood-Schifino (Indiana). No such freshman stars have emerged in the league so far this season, as Minnesota's Cam Christie leads the league's freshmen in scoring at 11 points per game.

Big Ten freshmen averaging 10+ points per game (1)

  • Cam Christie, Minnesota: 11.0


Like the Big 12, the Pac-12 saw its freshman scoring contributions dip significantly in the 2021-22 season, falling all the way to 8% as the league produced just one freshman averaging 10+ points (Stanford's Harrison Ingram). It has bounced back in the two seasons since but remains nowhere near the pre-pandemic mark of 28.5% posted in 2018, when Deandre Ayton averaged 20.1 points for Arizona.

Pac-12 freshmen averaging 10+ points per game (5)

  • Myles Rice, Washington State: 17.4
  • Isaiah Collier, USC: 17.3
  • Sebastian Mack, UCLA: 14.7
  • Cody Williams, Colorado: 14.0
  • Jackson Shelstad, Oregon: 10.7


Freshmen produced a whopping 27.1% of the SEC's points in the 2017-18 season when stars such as Collin Sexton (Alabama), Tremont Waters (LSU), Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Kentucky) were stuffing stat sheets. That percentage decreased for four consecutive seasons until Brandon Miller (Alabama) and GG Jackson (South Carolina) enjoyed big freshman seasons in 2022-23. The SEC consistently ranks among the most freshman-oriented of the Big Six leagues, and this season is no exception as Kentucky leans heavily on its cast of newcomers.

SEC freshmen averaging 10+ points per game (6)

  • Josh Hubbard, Mississippi State: 16.0
  • Reed Sheppard, Kentucky: 13.9
  • Rob Dillingham, Kentucky: 13.8 
  • D.J. Wagner, Kentucky: 13.1 
  • Aden Holloway, Auburn: 10.6 
  • Justin Edwards, Kentucky: 10.3