We here at CBS Sports have 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'll be posting 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. This weekly feature will work 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.
I want to start this week's Frosh Watch post with a shoutout to Iowa State's Lindell Wigginton. The Cyclones are 10-6 and probably bound for the NIT, so Wigginton hasn't gotten too much pub. He's appeared on the Frosh Watch, but after some up-and-down play, dropped out of the top 10. Last week, he averaged 28.5 points, including a career-best 30 points in ISU's win over Baylor, the Clones' first victory in league play.
Needlessly to say, yet here I am writing it, Wigginton had a really good week. And yet he is caught in the glare of a supergiant sun: Oklahoma's Trae Young. After matching his career high (43 points), Young is again FOTW. In most seasons, Wigginton's play would lock him up as Freshman of the Year in the conference. He's merely a victim of bad timing.
Trae Young, Oklahoma
Young has now won the Big 12's Player of the Week award six times in 10 weeks. He's inevitably going to win another, and when that happens, he'll break Blake Griffin's record for most in one season by an Oklahoma player. If he wins three more that will get him to nine and set the record for the most career Player of the Week honors in league history.
Young averaged 35.0 points, 8.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in Oklahoma's big pair of home wins against Texas Tech and TCU last week. He was 50 percent from 3-point range -- hitting 14 of 28. Against TCU, Young put up 43 points and got a career-high 11 rebounds. His 10 3-pointers in that game set the record for most triples in a game by a Lon Kruger-coached player.
In the past 20 years, no player from the Big East, ACC, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 or Big Ten has had a 40-point, 10-rebound game that also included 10 3-pointers. No player except Young, that is. With all this in mind, Young (barring injury) has essentially wrapped up Freshman of the Year. He's reduced the Frosh Watch to a ranking of nine instead of 10 because there is no suspense, and hasn't been any since the start of December, about the top spot in the rankings. It's impossible to see how any player catches him. As I wrote on Saturday, he seems physically incapable of having a bad game at the college level.
Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball from the start of the season until now.
| 1. Trae Young, Oklahoma|
Key stats: 30.1 ppg, 9.9 apg, 4.3 rpg, 1.9 spg
Last week: No. 1
We can use this space to pick apart the one glaring problem with Young's game: turnovers. Against TCU he had a career-high nine. He's averaging 4.8 giveaways per game (Oklahoma's turning it over 17.7 percent of the time when he's on the floor). That's a lot, but context is vital for understanding here. First, Oklahoma averages 77.4 possessions per game, the third-most in college basketball. More possessions means a faster pace. A faster pace means a higher probability of turnovers.
Then you factor in that Young is not only averaging 33.4 minutes per game, he has the ball in his hands more than any other player -- by a long shot. If Oklahoma plays 78 possessions in game, Young will be predominantly featured in 75 percent of those possessions, with a basket or an assist coming from him on 40 percent of all possessions. That's a crazy rate. He does make some bad decisions every game, but his shooting and his vision make up for it. The question becomes: Will Young wind up costing his team down the road because of a bad play in a big spot in a close game? Oklahoma's coaches are surely trying to get him to shed his turnover habits as quickly as possible.
Next game: Tuesday at Kansas State
2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona
Thanks to a just-OK showing from Bagley vs. Miami on Monday night, Ayton still stays solid at No. 2. Arizona went 2-0 last week, winning at home against Oregon and Oregon State. Ayton had 38 points and 17 rebounds against the Ducks and Beavers. He shot 13 for 19 across both games. He's a beast, and a consistent one. Shows up every game. What's been fun to watch with him is how he's been (mostly) used correctly by Sean Miller. This comes one season after Miller had Lauri Markkanen, who was also used to his potential and in such different ways. Markkanen, by the way, just set an NBA record for the quickest to 100 made 3-pointers -- by 17 games!
Next game: Wednesday at Cal
3. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
How about some more context on this man of a power forward. His 13-point, 12-rebound performance against Miami was Bagley's 15th double-double in a Duke uniform. That's the most for a freshman in Duke history ... and he's probably going to finish with at least 30 of them by the time Duke plays its final game in March or April. Ridiculous. Jabari Parker (2014) and Gene Banks (1978) held the previous record of 14. Bagley had 30 points, 11 rebounds, four steals three assists, three blocks vs. Wake Forest on Saturday, an 89-71 Duke win. His 30 points in that game set an ACC freshman record for most 30-point games. All this got him to be named the ACC Rookie of the Week for the fifth time this season.
Next game: Saturday vs. Pitt
4. Brandon McCoy, UNLV
McCoy will hold on to his No. 4 spot here, but the gap is closing. Surprisingly, it was Air Force -- 7-10 Air Force -- that induced McCoy into the worst game of his young college career. UNLV won 81-76 last Wednesday over the Falcons but McCoy had eight points, five rebounds and five fouls in 22 minutes. McCoy is a 7-foot oak tree. AFA ranks 145th in height and 281st in defensive rating.
Next game: Wednesday vs. New Mexico.
5. Tremont Waters, LSU
Under Johnny Jones last season, LSU was a 10-21 team that had an adjusted offensive efficiency ranking of 80th (109.7 points per 100 possessions). With Will Wade as coach and with Waters as Wade's point guard, LSU now ranks 34th in adjusted offensive efficiency ranking (114.7).
Next game: Tuesday vs. Georgia
6. Collin Sexton, Alabama
Sexton remains a must-watch player, and the reasons change for it.
Collin Sexton has something stuck in his teeth. No one had floss so he's now using someone's credential to pluck whatever he had stuck.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) January 14, 2018
Hard-hitting news, I know.
Anyhoo, Sexton had a rough week. Against South Carolina last Tuesday, he posted a season-low five points in 22 minutes. Bama lost. Then, on Saturday, Sexton helped Alabama get past LSU on the road -- but he had nine turnovers (more than double his previous season-high) in addition to 15 points. The Georgia native is a competitive player with an unpredictable streak. Still feels like his big moment is yet to arrive this season.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Auburn.
7. R.J. Cole, Howard
Put up 27 points in a points in consecutive games, and consecutive losses, to South Carolina State and Savannath State. Howard played both of those games on the road and lost by a total of four points, with the SCSU game going to OT. For those new to the Frosh Watch and wondering why a player on a 3-17 team is on the list, a reminder that the Frosh Watch is not like Player of the Year. Team success is not a prerequisite for inclusion here. It's about stats and impact, pure and simple. Cole is not a highly efficient player but he is carrying a bigger load for his team than any other frosh on this list not named "Young."
Next game: Saturday vs. North Carolina Central
8. Mohamed Bamba, Texas
Texas went 1-1 last week, getting an emotional double-overtime victory against TCU on Wednesday before dropping a road game against Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Wednesday win came hours after UT announced sophomore guard Andrew Jones was diagnosed with leukemia. Teammates held up his jersey after the win. The state of Jones' cancer situation isn't specifically known, but something like that is obviously going to have a huge impact on that team. Shaka Smart's known for his connection with his players. Perhaps the Longhorns will become one of the really good stories in the second half of this season. As for Bamba, his block rate of 16 percent is fifth-best in the nation.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Texas Tech.
9. McKinley Wright IV, Colorado
Wright won FOTW last Tuesday, but he had a bad follow-up: 11 points on 3-of-17 shooting in two games. The Frosh Watch tries not to be a knee-jerk ranking system, though. Wright's season averages still validate him at No. 9 for this week -- but he's at the top of a logjam with five other players. And unless you're following the Frosh Watch on an every-Tuesday basis, chances are you're not that familiar with Wright. He was ranked 228th in his class and was set to attend Dayton ... then Archie Miller got the Indiana job.
Next game: Thursday vs. Washington State.
10. Kevin Knox, Kentucky
After averaging 16 points last week, Knox is barely holding off Iowa State's Lindell Wigginton here. The Kentucky power wing is tops on the team in minutes played (80.4 percent) and has taken more 3s than any of his teammates. Unfortunately, he's shooting 31.9 percent from deep. Knox has not yet played up to the hype, and it might be time to full move him to the 4 in order to get the most out of him -- and improve Kentucky's rotation in the process. It's been a month since he had 20 points in a game.
Next game: Tuesday at South Carolina
Previous Freshman of the Week winners:
Dec. 5: Trae Young
Dec. 12: Deandre Ayton
Dec. 19: David Jenkins Jr.
Dec. 26: Trae Young
Jan. 1: Mohamed Bamba
Jan. 8: McKinley Wright IV