It has been a strange start to college for the high school class of 2017. For the most part, the stars have lived up to the hype. Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton have been absurdly good through the first month of the season, Mohamed Bamba is blocking shots as expected, and every top-10 prospect but one (whom we'll get to shortly) is averaging double figures in points this season.
But there are four five-star prospects who have yet to play a single college minute and another who played two minutes before getting hurt. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky and is preparing for the NBA draft; Louisville's Brian Bowen was suspended and won't play for the Cardinals; Kansas' Billy Preston has been suspended since the opening game of the season as the school looks into the financial situation surrounding a vehicle he was driving during a crash; and Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt is injured. With Stanford's Kezie Okpala being academically ineligible and UCLA's Cody Riley and Jalen Hill getting suspended for shoplifting in China, that's eight top-50 players college basketball hasn't seen -- and might never see.
The biggest what-could've-been is Missouri's Michael Porter Jr., the No. 2 prospect entering the season. The debate over Bagley and Ayton would have undoubtedly included Porter. But Porter played just two minutes against Iowa State in the season opener -- scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds -- and will likely miss the entire season after undergoing back surgery.
Trae Young, Porter's AAU teammate with MOKAN Elite, is the biggest surprise so far this season. He was a five-star prospect coming out of high school, and everyone knew he would put up big numbers, but what he's doing is ridiculous. Young leads the country in scoring at 28.8 points per game and ranks third in assists with 8.8 per game. He has also been efficient despite absurdly high usage. Young will get the chance to do it on a national stage at Wichita State on Saturday (4 p.m. ET on ESPN2). He has become must-see television.
Who are some of the other positive surprises?
Tremont Waters, LSU: Had Waters not decommitted from Georgetown and committed to new LSU head coach Will Wade, the Tigers would be in trouble. Waters is doing a lesser impression of Young at Oklahoma, averaging 18.3 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 41.5 percent from 3-point range. He scored 39 points against Marquette in November and has notched 10 assists in each of his past two games. Oddly enough, he hasn't hit double figures in scoring in back-to-back games this season.
Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State: This was relatively easy to predict, and coach Steve Prohm even tried to lower expectations at Big 12 media day. But Wigginton, a Canada native who played at Oak Hill Academy (Virginia), is quickly becoming Iowa State's most dangerous offensive player. He has hit at least 14 points in five straight games and has made 15 of 27 3-pointers in his past four games. Wigginton is going to be a Big 12 star for the Cyclones.
Daniel Gafford, Arkansas: Gafford has started just one game for Arkansas and is playing fewer than 20 minutes per game, but he is one of the most productive freshman bigs in the SEC. His per-40 numbers are impressive: 26.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. Gafford is shooting nearly 70 percent from the field and is coming off a 16-point, seven-rebound, six-block performance against Minnesota -- in just 21 minutes. When the senior guards leave next season, Gafford's numbers could skyrocket.
Romello White, Arizona State: One of the catalysts for Arizona State's terrific start, White was an ESPN 100 prospect in the 2016 class before sitting out last season due to academics. People around the program last season said White was the best player in the program, and he's living up to the hype so far. White has scored at least 13 points in every game but one, notching four double-doubles in the process. He had 13 and seven against Kansas over the weekend.
McKinley Wright IV, Colorado: The first player on the list not ranked in the ESPN 100 coming out of high school, Wright was originally committed to Dayton. When Archie Miller left for Indiana, Wright didn't follow him to Bloomington, instead choosing to play at Colorado. Tad Boyle is certainly happy about that decision. Wright is averaging 15.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the Buffaloes, including a 21-point, nine-assist effort earlier this season.
Oshae Brissett, Syracuse: Brissett wasn't eligible to be ranked in the 2017 class because he took a postgraduate year after his original high school class, but his 84 rating likely would've placed him at the back end of the ESPN 100. He's performing far better than that so far. Brissett is bouncy, can rebound and has some touch from the perimeter. He's averaging 13.6 points and 9.2 rebounds, with double-doubles in three of his past five games. Most impressively, Brissett has played all 40 minutes in three of his past four.
On the flip side, several top-50 prospects have taken a little longer to adjust.
Jalek Felton, North Carolina: No. 28 in the ESPN 100, Felton was expected to take on a bigger role from the opening game due to Joel Berry II's injury. But Berry returned after one game, and Felton had trouble carving out a spot. After four straight outings of single-digit minutes, however, Felton has played better of late. He had 15 points and five assists in the Tar Heels' win over Western Carolina last week and has appeared to beat out Seventh Woods for the backup point guard job.
Malik Williams, Louisville: It has been difficult to get a feel for Williams, who was one of the fastest-rising prospects in the country over the last year of his high school career. He played just four minutes in the season opener and has played more than 12 minutes just twice. With his length, skill level and athleticism, Williams can be an asset at both ends of the floor. But for now, there are veterans ahead of him in the pecking order.
Charles O'Bannon Jr., USC: This one has been surprising. O'Bannon, the son of the former UCLA star of the same name, was a McDonald's All American and a five-star prospect. USC returned several perimeter pieces from last season, but the suspension of De'Anthony Melton seemed like it could open up some time for O'Bannon. That hasn't been the case yet, with O'Bannon playing in just four of seven games and scoring four points total -- all from the free throw line.
Jordan Tucker, Duke: Tucker committed to Duke late in the process, theoretically providing the Blue Devils some much-needed perimeter shooting and floor spacing. However, Mike Krzyzewski hasn't been using his bench much this season, and freshman Alex O'Connell is the first reserve wing in the rotation. Tucker has played in two games, wins over Elon and St. Francis (Pennsylvania). His elite shooting could be called upon at some point.
Emmanuel Akot, Arizona: Akot was a member of the 2018 class, but he reclassified in May so he could play for the Wildcats this season. There was some positive buzz surrounding Akot in the preseason, but after he played extended minutes in the opening few games, Sean Miller has turned to freshman Brandon Randolph for scoring punch on the wing -- and now Rawle Alkins has returned from his injury. Akot has played 10 minutes total in the past four games.