CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Every Tuesday throughout the regular season we post a Freshman of the Week winner in addition to our Frosh Watch, which is a ranking of the top 10 most statistically impressive freshmen in men's Division I college basketball. The feature works hand in hand with the Tisdale committee and the USBWA. The winner of the award will be announced in March, and a ceremony for all USBWA honors will take place in early April. The cycle for Freshman of the Week consideration starts on Tuesdays and ends Monday nights.
Deandre Ayton, Arizona
Before we get to anything controversial involving this mammoth talent of a power center, behold the biggest wow play of the weekend in college basketball.
28 PTS, 18 REBS (11-for-15) and 4 BLK for Deandre Ayton vs an undersized Oregon team. Chin-ups on the rim and touch from the perimeter. Ayton now averaging 24.0 PTS and 13.4 REBS per 40 with a 66.0 true shooting %. https://t.co/4p8Rr4Dh3fpic.twitter.com/WXxVQfnPQP— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) February 26, 2018
Ayton's undergoing the most chaotic week of his life. An ESPN.com report on Friday night cited sources who have heard Sean Miller talking on the phone to Christian Dawkins about a $100,000 payment and -- apparently -- Ayton being connected to that money. If you're reading this, you're probably well aware. Since then, Ayton and his family have had two separate legal representatives come out and passionately deny those claims.
Meantime, Ayton looked possessed against Oregon on Saturday night. He had 28 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks while shooting 11-of-15 from the field and anger-dunking his way through the evening as a means of therapy, it seemed. Prior to that, when things were much quieter on Thursday, Ayton had 19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks against overmatched Oregon State. He also totaled just two fouls in those games.
This was an easy pick. Not just because of the stat lines, but because of how Ayton looked in both games. vs. Oregon, the Ducks were ducking out of his way to avoid being collateral damage on a few of his dunks. The crowd was relentless on him, chanting "hundred grand!" and "FBI!" among other things, but Ayton's personal performance wasn't affected. (His team, however, lost in OT 98-93.)
Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through Feb. 27.
| 1. Trae Young, Oklahoma|
Key stats: 28.3 ppg, 9.1 apg, 3.9 rpg, 1.6 spg
Last week: No. 1
With all the hysteria surrounding the sport over the weekend, it put into perspective some of the unwarranted frenzy and hate that was previously directed toward Young. And while the games took a back seat to the Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com stories regarding potential player payments, agent dealings and wiretaps, Young quietly put up 28 points on 11 shots, plus doled out seven assists in Oklahoma's 86-77 win over Kansas State. Young is not only leading the nation in points and assists, he also number one in assist rate. When he's on the floor, 49.9 percent of Oklahoma's scoring possessions come from an assist. Yes, Young is still the favorite for Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year.
Next game: Tuesday at Baylor.
2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona
A FOTW award is not the only reason why Ayton has once again jumped Marvin Bagley III in the Frosh Watch. I was recently reading this terrific article from Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz; the two break down Ayton's game and assess why he's not considered the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in June. Buried in that story is an unreal statistic: "To put Ayton's production into perspective, only three players younger than 20 in NCAA history have averaged at least 19 points and 10 rebounds with a true shooting percentage better than 65.0: Blake Griffin, David Robinson and Ayton."
Griffin was awarded National Player of the Year honors in 2009. The same was true of Robinson in 1987. And on the heels of last week's performance, it's time to put Ayton into the group with Young, Jalen Brunson, Trevon Bluiett, Devonte' Graham and Bagley. The numbers are there. But he's not going to win it -- he has no shot, if we're being honest -- because a lot of voters for the different NPOY award will not give it to a player under such heavy suspicion. Plus, Ayton hasn't been as front-and-center as a lot of other guys vying for NPOY.
Next game: Thursday vs. Stanford.
3. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
Bagley returned on Saturday for Duke's game against Syracuse. He missed the previous four due to a mild right knee sprain, but those concerns appear to be over. Duke went 1-1 in the past week, easily handling Syracuse but then falling in the closing seconds at Virginia Tech on Monday night. Bagley averaged 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in the two games. After trying to stay at arm's length of Trae Young for Freshman of the Year, Bagley's undeniably fallen back in the past month. He missed four games, but sandwiched around that are five games with these averages: 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 30-of-55 shooting (54.5 percent). These are solid numbers but well below his season averages -- and so he has dipped to No. 3 here on the Watch. A major plot of the ACC tournament next week will be how Bagley and Grayson Allen team up, or potentially not. Allen's been really good as of late. Will Bagley return to his January form?
Next game: Saturday vs. North Carolina.
4. Brandon McCoy, UNLV
McCoy has been in the top five of the Frosh Watch for much of the season, but he's not projected as a first round pick -- despite his size and despite his solid 25.3 percent defensive rebounding rate -- due to his deficiencies on defense. UNLV is in a three-game losing streak and has given up 90-plus to San Diego State and New Mexico. The entire team deserves the blame, but McCoy could make a bigger impact if he was able to help-defend better and know how to switch. Good player with a lot of room for growth. If he comes back and commits himself to defending, he'd be one of the 20 best players in the sport next season.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Nevada.
5. Mohamed Bamba, Texas
A bad left toe put Bamba on the bench for all of Texas' loss at Kansas on Monday night. I'm not sure the Longhorns had any chance even with Bamba on the court. Has this injury been something bugging him as of late? In UT's previous two games Bamba totaled 11 points, 10 rebounds and one block. A quick swoon, or could March be a struggle? Depends on how bad that toe is. Hopefully nothing too nagging. Be sure to read Reid Forgrave's profile on Bamba, which published Monday.
Next game: Saturday vs. West Virginia.
6. Collin Sexton, Alabama
Good week personally for Sexton but a bad week for Alabama. He put up 20.0 points in two losses, the Tide falling at Auburn and home to Arkansas. Sexton's been pretty good in obscurity. He had that 40-point output back in November, when Bama famously went 3-on-5 vs. Minnesota and nearly beat the Gophers. But overall it's been a herky-jerky season for the Tide. They've got nice wins (Tennessee, Florida, Auburn), troubling losses (Minnesota, UCF, Vanderbilt) and sit at 17-12, slipping all around that viscous bubble.
Next game: Tuesday vs. Florida.
7. Tremont Waters, LSU
For the second time this season Waters was a top-three finalist for FOTW, but Ayton's performance was too good to not give it to the big man. With Waters, he had 28 points vs. Vanderbilt last Tuesday, then followed that up with 25 against Georgia. He also totaled 12 assists. With Waters probably coming back next season, LSU will look to do something it won't have done in seven years by that point: win four straight SEC gams. The Tigers last did this in 2012, and still only finish 7-9 that season. The Tigers are currently 7-9 in the league with two games remaining.
Next game: Wednesday at South Carolina.
8. R.J. Cole, Howard
Another good week: 23.0 points, 7.5 assists, 3.0 steals as Howard went 1-1. From a raw numbers standpoint, Cole is top-three among all freshmen this season in consistency. But his biggest issue is efficiency. He's only 41.4 percent from 2-point range and 36.3 from beyond the arc. But he is distributing and could be completing the first of a potentially historic four-year career in the MEAC. He's got one regular season game remaining before the league tournament, and that will be it for the Bison, who have just nine wins this season.
Next game: Thursday at Coppin State.
9. Wendell Carter Jr., Duke
Carter will cling to the No. 9 spot after having arguably his worst game of the season on Monday night at Va. Tech. He put up five points on five shots, had eight rebounds, three fouls and three turnovers. Against Syracuse he was much better: 16 and 10 with four rebounds and three blocks. It's probably paramount to Duke's title chances that Bagley and Carter symbiotically learn to complement each other. If they can find a rhythm wherein they're connecting in that zone, then combining to score 40 points, grab 20 rebounds and shooting better than 50 percent from the field, it'll establish Duke as a title favorite.
Next game: Saturday vs. North Carolina.
10. Jaylen Nowell, Washington
I'll be honest: When I put Nowell on the Watch a month ago, I didn't think he was long for the list. There's a good group of players just behind him. But he's managed to hold his spot here. Last week he averaged 20.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists as the Huskies went 1-1. Nowell's well-rounded stat line validates his inclusion yet again this week. If we're to see Nowell in the NCAAs, the Huskies need to win their next two games at home and take at least two Pac-12 tournament victories in order to secure a bid. They're 19-10 now. I think 23-11 would be enough.
Next game: Thursday vs. Oregon State.
Previous Freshman of the Week winners:
Dec. 5: Trae Young
Dec. 12: Deandre Ayton
Dec. 19: David Jenkins Jr.
Dec. 26: Trae Young
Jan. 2: Mohamed Bamba
Jan. 9: McKinley Wright IV
Jan. 16: Trae Young
Jan. 23: R.J. Cole
Jan. 30: Kevin Knox
Feb. 6: Trae Young
Feb. 13: Cameron Lard
Feb. 20: Mohamed Bamba