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 runs from every Tuesday through Monday.
We're in Week 2 of the Frosh Watch. There's a new name that has hopped into the rankings. But before we get to that, we have to get to the big man out in the desert who's helping turn around Arizona's season.
Freshman of the Week
Deandre Ayton, Arizona
The 7-foot-1 "power center" (my term) out of the Bahamas is coming into his own. He had a career high of 29 points and 18 rebounds in Arizona's 88-82 home win over Alabama on Saturday. That game was stacked with talent. Rawle Alkins made his Arizona debut, Alabama freshman dynamo Collin Sexton kept his team in it. But Ayton was a force. He showed why he's going to remain in the discussion for the No. 1 pick. He cannot be handle one-on-one. His shooting skill set is such a valuable piece -- and let's not forget that Sean Miller is one season removed from riding another 7-footer, Lauri Markkanen, to a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Ayton's a different player than Markkanen, and much more dangerous all around. On the week Ayton averaged 21 points (on 16-of-27 shooting) and 14 rebounds. Arizona defeated seventh-ranked Texas A&M last Tuesday. That was the deciding factor in favor of Ayton this week. It wasn't just career highs in points and boards, but the fact he was really good in two straight games against teams that should make it into the NCAA Tournament.
Heading into the season it was assumed that Allonzo Trier would be the more likely candidate to be an All-American for the Wildcats. Trier still has a good shot at it, but Ayton could wind up as the team's MVP. If both are playing at such a high level going forward, Miller's team will not fall out of the rankings again this season.
Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball from the start of the season until now.
| 1. Trae Young, Oklahoma|
Key stats: 28.8 ppg, 8.8 apg, 3.5 rpg, 2.3 spg
Last week: No. 1
Comment: If you have not read it, USC. At this point, 1/3 of the way through the season, Young already feels like a lock to finish top five in scoring average. Freshman seldom achieve that. Next game: Saturday at Wichita State.. I sat down with him for an extended interview out in Portland at the PK80, then did follow-ups with him, his father, coaches and teammates afterward. The bird stuff is too funny -- and too real. Young came close to taking back-to-back FOTW titles. The nation's leading scorer averaged 28.5 points, 8.5 assists and 2.0 steals on 18 for 40 shooting in Oklahoma's wins over UTSA and
2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona
Comment: The man looks unfair on a college basketball floor. He's currently No. 4 in KenPom's Player of the Year algorithm. Ayton is top-10 in defensive rebounding percentage, and I'm willing to wager that he's going to have multiple 30-and-20 games this season. He came real close to it vs. Alabama. I lob this question out to you, though, because it's one I've been tossing around my head the past few days. For those who watched Greg Oden at Ohio State, which player would you pick if you had to choose between the two. Oden or Ayton? Next game: Saturday at New Mexico.
Comment: Bagley couldn't command Duke to a full comeback in Chestnut Hill, as Boston College's upset of the Blue Devils was the 1a. to Arizona State's 1b for top headlines of the weekend. Bagley went for 15 points and 12 rebounds -- plus four turnovers and four fouls in 40 minutes. Against St. Francis (Pa.) last Tuesday, he had 21 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. This is clearly a three-man race for FOY. Bagley is at No. 3 because his PER (31.2, per Basketball Reference) is behind Young (36.5) and Ayton (32.7). Not that controversial to have him slotted here. His production's been superb, but Ayton and Young have been better in full to this point. Next game: Wednesday vs. Evansville.
4. Collin Sexton, Alabama
Comment: Alabama's dynamic point guard is establishing himself as a probable top-10 pick come June, but he had an interesting week. Bama got a good home W vs. Rhode Island last Wednesday, yet Sexton had 11 points and no assists. Then, at Arizona, he kept the Tide in the game -- scoring 30 points -- but his team came up short, 88-82. A good sign for the Tide: In six of his nine games this season, Sexton has shot at least 50 percent from 3-point range. That threat combined with his lightning speed make him a matchup problem. Next game: Tuesday vs. Mercer.
Comment: McCoy is going to be overlooked all season -- except here. If he keeps up his current pace, he's a lock to hover in that 4-6 range here at the Frosh Watch. UNLV is 8-2 and McCoy is playing at a high-major level against some good competition. Last week he went for 22 and 10, with three blocks, in the Runnin' Rebel's win over Illinois. His turnovers (3.4 per game) are undeniably way too high for a big man, however. Next game: Saturday at Pacific.
Comment: No one's really quite sure how good LSU is yet, but Waters has been one of the most valuable players in the SEC. Certainly the most valuable freshman to this point. He averaged 14 points, 10 assists and 6.5 rebounds last week vs. UT Martin and UNC Greensboro. Wednesday's home tilt vs. a quality AAC opponent is a nice opportunity for Waters, as he'll go up against Rob Gray and the Houston Cougars. Those back-to-back 10-assist games could be a harbinger of Waters expanding his role, and that would be a boon for LSU. Kid has the goods. Next game: Wednesday vs. Houston.
7. R.J. Cole, Howard
Comment: His team might wind up as one of the five worst in Division I, but it's not Cole's fault. Howard is now 1-10, the one win coming against Central Pennsylvania. Cole's faced Indiana, Gonzaga, Georgetown -- all on the road. He's earned a spot here. He'll need to keep his numbers at where they are to hang with the rest of the frosh class, though. He has 17 points, eight assists and three rebounds vs. undefeated Georgetown last week. Next game: Thursday vs. Washington Adventist (NAIA)
Comment: Knox slips after only playing once in the past week, with that game being his worst in a UK uniform. In 31 minutes he scored four points on 1-of-9 shooting and had four assists, five rebounds and seven (!) turnovers against Monmouth. Afterward, John Calipari said it was "good for the soul to go 1 for 9." It's a great lesson for him. Kentucky is a quiet 8-1, but it will not be a threat to win the SEC if Knox isn't an all-star type of player. Next game: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech.
Comment: Cyclones fans clamored last week to get Wigginton on the Frosh Watch, and in light of what he did vs. Iowa and Alcorn State (40 points) there's no reason to exclude him. The freshman lead guard was the prize of Steve Prohm's 2017 class. It's a year of turnover for Iowa State, but that's not stopping Wigginton from living up to his four-star hype. He's already on his way to becoming one of the best 3-point shooters in college basketball, and it's clear he's better for ISU when he plays off the ball. Fun player, but ISU's schedule gets much tougher in the next 2-3 weeks, so I'm interested to see if he keeps up his recent pace. Next game: Saturday vs. Northern Iowa.
10. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky
Comment: Clinging to the 10 spot; Mohamed Bamba and Jaren Jackson are breathing down Diallo's neck here. Yet while Knox had his worst game at Kentucky vs. Monmouth, Diallo looked to have had his best. The uber-athletic shooting guard had 23 points on 62 percent shooting and grabbed four rebounds and a pair of steals. Because Quade Green left the game with an eye injury and Sacha Killeya-Jones did not play, Diallo let his inner alpha take over. The best is obviously yet to come with him. Next game: Saturday vs. Virginia Tech.
Correction: The original version of this story accidentally noted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander missing the Monmouth game for Kentucky, instead of Sacha Killeya-Jones.