No. 2 Duke's 76-65 win over Virginia Tech to begin ACC play on Wednesday turned into a freshman party as a trio of underclassmen combined for 35 of Duke's 44 second half points in an impressive victory over one of the team's top challengers in the conference. Setting the pace for the Blue Devils was Paolo Banchero, who scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half to lead Duke in scoring to earn CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week honors for the second time this season.
The 6-foot-10 former five-star prospect finished 9 of 20 from the floor but was 6 of 11 in the second half as the Blue Devils turned a four-point halftime deficit into a double-digit victory. Banchero's second half performance was especially noteworthy since he'd struggled in the second halves of Duke's other big games early this season. Cramps were his issue in wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga, and in the Blue Devils' only loss to date against Ohio State on Nov. 30, Banchero was simply ineffective as he went 0 for 7 from the floor in the second half.
But after a standout effort against the Hokies to jumpstart league play for the Blue Devils, it appears those issues may finally be behind him. Banchero and fellow standout freshmen Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin took over the game and showed why Duke is the overwhelming favorite to win the ACC despite its reliance on youth.
CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to present this every-Tuesday feature. Each week we'll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.
Previous FOTW winners
- Nov. 30: Paolo Banchero, Duke
Dec. 7: Reyne Smith, Charleston
Dec. 14: Aminu Mohammed, Georgetown
Dec. 21: Kendall Brown, Baylor
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball this season.
1. Paolo Banchero | Duke
Stats: 17.1 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.2 APG
Banchero reclaims the top spot in the season-long ranking after a stellar 23-point performance in Duke's 76-65 win over Virginia Tech to begin ACC play. The 6-foot-10 forward is on his way to being one of the top selections in the 2022 NBA Draft, and he is proving to be an excellent college player in the mean time. The Blue Devils can deploy him at power forward or center depending on their opponent, and Banchero is versatile enough to be a matchup problem for everyone in the ACC in either slot.
2. Jabari Smith | Auburn
Stats: 16.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 45.2% 3PT
Smith is a 6-10 forward with positional versatility who is hitting 45.2% of his 3-pointers and leading the way for a No. 11 Auburn team that begins league play as the SEC's highest-ranked squad. He ceded the No. 1 spot in the season-long rankings to Banchero this week, but Smith is absolutely meeting the hype of his No. 7 overall prospect ranking. Thanks largely to his standout play, the Tigers are 11-1 and looking like one of the nation's top bounce-back teams.
3. Chet Holmgren | Gonzaga
Stats: 13.3 PPG, 38.5 RPG, 3.6 BPG, 37.1% 3PT
Holmgren is fifth nationally in blocked shots per game, is leading Gonzaga in rebounding and his 3-point shot is coming along. The 7-footer's best basketball is still ahead of him this season, and as he continues to improve, Gonzaga will start to look more and more like a national title contender. The sky is the limit for Holmgren, and he should wreak havoc on the Bulldogs' WCC opponents.
4. Kendall Brown | Baylor
Stats: 13.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 71.4% FG
Brown's ability to seamlessly fit in with the nation's No. 1 team is reminiscent of how Jalen Suggs slotted in with Gonzaga last season. They play different positions but are both human highlight reels unbothered by the unselfishness required to thrive on a Final Four-caliber team that features other stars. The high-energy, savvy plays Brown makes are helping the Bears compete for back-to-back national titles.
5. Aminu Mohammed | Georgetown
Stats: 14.6 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.5 SPG, 39.1% 3PT%
Mohammed is incredibly physical for a freshman wing, and that shows up in his rebounding numbers. The former five-star prospect's shooting mechanics are a work in progress, but he's been effective from deep on 2.1 attempts per game. He's at his best off the dribble and can use either hand to attack and finish with an arsenal of crafty moves.
Stats: 14.0 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.0 SPG, 37.2% FG
Chandler struggled offensively in Tennessee's big 77-73 win over Arizona on Wednesday as he finished just 2 of 14 from the floor. But he did have three steals in the game, and he's been great overall this season for the No. 14 Volunteers. The former five-star prospect is adept at reaching the paint and forcing defenses to collapse, and when defenders sag off Chandler, he can knock down 3-pointers.
7. Ryan Nembhard | Creighton
Stats: 12.7 PPG, 4.8 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 41% 3PT
Nembhard has been thrust into a key role for a program that lost a ton of talent after a Sweet 16 appearance. So far, he's handled it quite well. The former four-star prospect is facilitating the offense for a Creighton team in position to make a run at another NCAA Tournament appearance.
8. TyTy Washington | Kentucky
Stats: 13.9 PPG, 3.6 APG, 4.2 RPG, 37.8% 3PT
Washington reached 20 points for the third time this season in No. 18 Kentucky's 95-60 win over Western Kentucky on Wednesday His best games have come against middling opposition, but Washington's shown enough promise to suggest that he'll break out in a big game soon.
9. Terquavion Smith | NC State
Stats: 13.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.8 PPG
It's been a frustrating season for the Wolfpack, who are coming off back-to-back losses against Richmond and Wright State. But Smith has been a bright spot. The 6-3 shooting guard has been on a tear recently, averaging 19.4 points over NC State's last five games.
10. Jalen Duren | Memphis
Stats: 10.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 67.2% FG
Duren's 7-for-9 shooting performance and presence as a lob threat helped lift Memphis to a critical win over Alabama in the Tigers' last game on Dec. 14. The 6-11 center's overall offensive game is a work in progress. But he's proving to be a great rim protector and rebounder.