CBS Sports is once again teaming up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Every Tuesday we announce a national 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.
Freshman of the Week: Tyler Herro, Kentucky
Kentucky's outlook has drastically changed in less than two weeks. The Wildcats were an 8-2 team on the morning of Dec. 22 and staring down a huge game against North Carolina. A loss would've been detrimental. But instead, Kentucky rolled -- then followed up the UNC triumph one week later with an impressive and convincing win at Louisville. Now the Wildcats are 10-2 and creeping back toward top-10 status.
One reason: Tyler Herro. The UK newbie's light might have flicked on for good, as he's our Freshman of the Week in light of his breakout showing in Kentucky's 71-58 win at Louisville on Saturday. Herro put up a career-best 24 points, making 10 of his 13 shots, in addition to four rebounds, two steals and a block. He ebbed away Louisville with timely 3s (four of them) and brought an expansion to Kentucky's offense that has been missing much of the season.
Herro's play vs. Louisville was so good, it marked the third straight week a UK player has won the SEC's Freshman of the Week honor as well. Had he managed one more 3-pointer, getting to 27 would have set the Kentucky school record for most points by a first-year player against the rival Cards.
Through 12 games, Herro's averaging 13.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.4 steals. He's not quite knocking on the Frosh Watch door, but a few more games like the Louisville one and he'll be in our top 10 before January wraps.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the season so far.
1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
Key stats: 19.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.1 spg, 40.7 PER
Zion Williamson is holding steady at No. 1 in the Frosh Watch by a good margin. The Duke star may even wind up finishing in the same spot in the National Player of the Year race by season's end with the way he's played. Williamson leads the country with a 40.7 PER (Player Efficiency Rating), comfortably ahead of Brandon Clarke and Cameron Jackson, and sits inside the top-20 in field goal percentage nationally, too. Everything he does -- rim protecting, dunking, attacking -- he does at a high level. The Blue Devils (11-1) have been off since Dec. 20, but play Jan. 5 in their ACC opener against Clemson. It should be plenty enjoyable considering the Tigers were considered the favorite to land him in recruiting before he stunned the college hoops world by picking Duke. Grab the popcorn.
2. RJ BARRETT, Duke
Key stats: 23.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 3.8 apg
RJ Barrett's efficiency remains somewhat of a knock, but he's still putting up phenomenal stats for the No. 1 team in the country. His shot-creation and play-making talents open up Duke's offense in ways that wouldn't be available if not for him. And he's making strides and improving incrementally, too. Barrett's going to continue putting up big numbers in this system that is centered around his skill set.
3. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana
Key stats: 17.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.6 apg
Romeo Langford and IU seem to have a formula that's working really, really well. With a heavy dosage of Langford and Juwan Morgan, the Hoosiers are winners of six straight and remain relevant on the strength of Romeo's return. He's scored double digits in each game this season and only gone once without assisting on a basket. He is a threat every time he touches the ball. Barring a breakdown in production, he's almost certainly going to be inside the top five for much of the season.
4. IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan
Key stats: 16.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 25.9 PER
Accounting for overall impact, there's a not-so-crazy case to be made that Ignas Brazdeikis, the 6-7 frosh from Ontario, could be No. 1 on this list. He's been a godsend for Michigan. Brazdeikis leads the Wolverines in scoring at 16.5 points per game, and is pulling down 5.1 rebounds, all while protecting the rim, thieving balls on defense and creating plays for others. Oh, and Michigan is 13-0. It wouldn't be where it is without his breakout as one of the top players in the Big Ten and beyond.
5. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
Key stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 61.4 eFG%, 123.8 ORtg
Keldon Johnson's been a staple to Kentucky's attack all season, but he's been particularly effective over the last few games, finishing with 15, 21 and 24 points in three consecutive wins. He did a little of everything in UK's most recent takedown, this time over Louisville, grabbing seven rebounds and finishing with 15 points. He makes the big jump this week to No. 5, his highest ranking yet in Frosh Watch.
6. LUGUENTZ DORT, Arizona State
Key stats: 18.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.7 spg
Luguentz Dort has come back to earth after a scorching start to his season, but his body of work this season keeps him comfortably inside the top 10. He leads the Sun Devils in scoring at 18.1 points per game and remains Arizona State's most effective all-around player this season. He struggled to get going this week against Princeton, finishing with only six points in an ASU loss. Opportunity awaits this week as the Sun Devils open league play against Utah and Colorado, two teams they should win against. Dort could use that as a confidence builder after regressing of late.
7. ANTOINE DAVIS, Detroit
Key stats: 26.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.2 apg
Antoine Davis' numbers dipped a bit after a down game against Cleveland State in which he only scored 17 points and dropped 6 dimes. That's how good he's been. He leads all freshman in scoring at 25.4 points per game and has Detroit Mercy on a two-game winning streak after a six-game losing skid that stretched for nearly a month of the calendar.
8. BOL BOL, Oregon
Key stats: 21.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 35.3 PER
Bol Bol is sliding on our list. His fall isn't due to his production, but simply a lack of availability. An injury has kept him out since Dec. 12, and his return doesn't appear imminent. He's now missed more than 30 percent of Oregon's season.
9. TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State
Key stats: 14.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.1 apg
Iowa State's been a pleasant surprise in nonconference play thanks in large part to the unlikely rise of Talen Horton-Tucker. And now super sophomore Lindell Wigginton is back and healthy. This Cyclones team has gobs of potential as a disruptive Big 12 force. They start league play on Wednesday with a road trip to Oklahoma State.
10. LAMINE DIANE, Cal State Northridge
Key stats: 23.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 2.1 apg
Lamine Diane's been exceptional this season for former NC State coach Mark Gottfried, now coaching Cal State Northridge, but the Matadors have been anything but with a 6-8 record. But the Frosh Watch doesn't discriminate against lesser teams, nor against players in non-Power conferences. Diane is averaging 23.6 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, and remains the most-ridden freshman in the country in usage percentage, according to KenPom.com.
Previous Freshman of the Week winners: