College basketball freshman rankings: This has become the strongest mid-major group of frosh in years
Sure, Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett are the best freshmen in college basketball, but two of our top five hail from small schools
Welcome to February! 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 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: Lamine Diane, Cal State Northridge
If you've followed the Frosh Watch this season since the first ranking published in early December, you know that a versatile combo forward playing out in the Big West Conference has been holding strong through most of this season's top 10 of the Frosh Watch.
You might not have seen him play yet, but we can assure you he's one of the best newbies in college hoops. And now, an honor to boost his credentials.
For the first time in Frosh Watch history, a Big West player is the Freshman of the Week. Lamine Diane, a 6-foot-7 stat-stuffer out of Dakar, Senegal, had his best week yet as a Matador.
Diane averaged 30.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 blocks while shooting 53.1 percent as CSUN went 1-1. He scored 39 points in a road game vs. Cal State Fullerton, tying the school's Division I scoring record. Twenty-nine of those points came in the second half. Diane's performances this season have been impressive considering he does not shoot many 3-pointers and he's only a 51.5-percent free-throw shooter.
Yet he's averaging 24.1 points.
Diane is the first freshman in the conference's 50 years of existence to win Big West Player of the Week three times in one season. He'll almost certainly get it at least once more in the coming weeks.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball.
1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
Key stats: 22.3 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 42.6 PER
Zion Williamson is lapping the field here in the Frosh Watch, and it'd take a pretty herculean second half of the season from one of the top-5 players on this list to usurp him. He leads all of college basketball with a 42.9 Player Efficiency Rating -- the highest in at least a decade -- and is impacting the game with his defense, shot-making, and play-making. In one game this week he made it count, tallying 29 points on an efficient 13-of -17 shooting, and grabbing six rebounds and five steals (tied for a season-high) in the process.
2. RJ BARRETT, Duke
Key stats: 23.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.8 apg
RJ Barrett's rounding into shape down the stretch for Duke. Questions about his ball-dominant tendencies will continue to loom as he eventually jumps to the NBA, but you can't question his production. He leads Duke in scoring at 23.1 points per game, and remains an outstanding rebounder from his position. Against St. John's this week he played one of his most complete games of the year, scoring 15, grabbing 13 rebounds, dishing out four assists, and adding two steals and one block to his jumbo stat line.
3. ANTOINE DAVIS, Detroit
Key stats: 27.1 ppg, 3.3 apg, 3.2 rpg
Here's the latest on Antoine Davis' chase for the NCAA record book: he's made 102 3-pointers in 23 games (4.4 per game), putting him 20 treys behind Stephen Curry's freshman record of 122. Barring injury, Davis is going to have the record. At his current pace, he'll break Curry's record on Feb. 23 at Oakland or Feb. 28 at home vs. IUPUI. With postseason play, Davis has a shot to eclipse 140 3-pointers. He's shooting 40.6 percent from deep.
4. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana
Key stats: 17.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg
All Romeo Langford did this week was average 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks for Indiana. IU went 1-1, mind you, but it got the win it desperately needed: An overtime road victory over No. 6 Michigan State. Langford was great against the Spartans with 19 points, five boards and four assists. His aggressive nature helped him take the reins when No. 2 scorer Juwan Morgan went down early in the game.
5. LAMINE DIANE, Cal State Northridge
Key stats: 24.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 26.4 PER
No one was more deserving of Frosh of the Week honors that Cal State Northridge breakout star Lamine Diane. He scored 39 points and brought down 13 rebounds last Wednesday, then followed it up three days later with 22-and-11 in a win over Cal Poly -- in only 27 minutes of action. Diane leads all of college basketball, regardless of classification, with a 38.3 usage rate.
6. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
Key stats: 14.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 117.9 KenPom ORtg
It's not often you see a true freshman from the wing spot shoot greater than 40 percent from distance, but Kentucky's Keldon Johnson is doing it this season -- and at a slightly higher rate, too. He's knocking down 42.5 percent of his 3-pointers, 49.8 percent of his field goals, and bolstering his NBA Draft stock as he leads the surging Wildcats, who have won eight straight. This week in two wins for UK, he went 5-of-9 from 3-point range and averaged 10.5 points in two double-digit victories.
Key stats: 18.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 27.4 PER
We're talking about a freshman at East Carolina who leads the AAC in scoring and is second in rebounding. ECU has struggled again in the AAC-- it's 2-7 in league play and 9-12 overall -- but if Jayden Gardner returns next season, Joe Dooley will have a shot at getting the Pirates into the top half of the conference. One big reason why ECU can't make a move up is because Gardner doesn't shoot 3-pointers s and ECU ranks 351st out of 353 teams in 3-point shooting at 26.1 percent.
8. JAXSON HAYES, Texas
Key stats: 10.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 135.3 ORtg
Jaxson Hayes has some of the most humble per-game stats for scoring of any freshman we consider for the Watch, but his efficiency numbers are outstanding. The only player who's aggregate in effective field goal percentage, win shares, KenPom offensive rating and player efficiency rating come out higher than Hayes among freshman: Williamson. Hayes' 74.6 effective field goal percentage is among the best in college basketball, as is his 135.3 offensive rating. Pretty strong for a guy playing just 57.7 percent of UT's minutes. With Texas seemingly destined to live on the bubble, perhaps we'll see Hayes' playing time increase.
9. COBY WHITE, North Carolina
Key stats: 14.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.2 apg
Don't look now, but North Carolina has quietly emerged as a real threat in the ACC. The Tar Heels are one of only three teams in the league to have been dealt a single loss in league play, and they've won five-straight now after ripping off double digit wins over Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and most recently, Louisville. Coby White has been a huge part of that, as he's averaged 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6 assists over his last three games, which includes two decisive wins over top-15 clubs.
10. IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan
Key stats: 15.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.0 apg
Ignas Brazdeikis and Michigan took their first loss in two weeks on Friday, falling on the road to Iowa. But Brazdeikis is standing firm among the top-10 freshmen in the country, because of his impact for the seventh-ranked Wolverines. In two games last week he averaged 15 points, 4.5 boards and 2.5 steals, all while playing 35 minutes per contest. He's getting a huge work load for a freshman, and UM already trusts him enough to serve as its leading scorer.
Previous Freshman of the Week winners:
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