Freshman of the Week: What Texas' Mo Bamba did to edge Oklahoma's Trae Young

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.

What?! No Trae Young?! That's right. If this surprises you, you're in need of a reminder. The Freshman of the Week award is normally handed out to a player who played at least two games since the previous week's Frosh Watch update. It's not an exclusive rule, but the goal is to honor a player who showed out in multiple games -- because that's harder to do than just have one incredible game.

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Mohamed Bamba, Texas                

That said, if Bamba hadn't helped his team to a win at Iowa State on Monday night -- if Texas had only had one game in the past week, the way Oklahoma, Duke and Arizona did -- then Young's probably taking FOTW for the third time this season.

Instead, it's the 7-foot Bamba who not only gets Freshman of the Week, but he's making his debut Frosh Watch appearance below as well. Texas split the week, going 1-1. On Friday the Longhorns lost 92-86 at Kansas. On Monday, a 74-70 overtime win. In the two games Bamba averaged 16.0 points, 15.5 rebounds, 6.0 blocks, shot 13-of-24 from the field including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. 

He looked tremendous vs. Kansas, and was pivotal to Texas pulling out the win at Iowa State. Bamba's a player still finding his way, but he's a natural-born defender. His ability to guard all three levels -- and almost any player -- in college basketball has helped Texas to a 10-4 start. One more win and the Longhorns will match their total from last season.    

Bamba is not just a tall player with a limited skillset offensively and a guy who is asked to keep it simple around the rim. He can face up and his shooting 57 percent from 2-point range while spreading out his shot selection. Against Kansas he was 9 for 16 from the field and had eight blocks. The Harlem native is altering shots and altering Texas' season. 

NCAA Basketball: Texas at Iowa State
Bamba is second in the nation in blocked shots.  USATSI

Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball from the start of the season until now. 

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1. Trae Young, Oklahoma

Key stats: 29.6 ppg, 10.7 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 spg

Last week: No. 1

Went from 28.7 to 29.6 points per game since last week's update. Jumped from 10.4 to 10.7 assists. Abnormally good. He's also helped Oklahoma turn into an offensive juggernaut. You saw on Monday night just how dangerous that Oklahoma football team is. Its basketball counterpart is keeping up its reputation by putting the "O" in OU. The Sooners now average 94.7 points, tops in college basketball. 

For as good as Young was in the TCU win, sophomore Kameron McGusty had a season-high 22 points, including 11 in the final six minutes. In that game, freshman Brady Manek had a career-high 13 rebounds. Khadeem Lattin had five blocks. Oklahoma's made 10 or more 3s in seven straight games. That's not all Young. The pieces around him are growing into something very good.  

But still, he's accounting for outrageous amounts of offense. This is quarterback-level involvement. 

Next game: Wednesday vs. Oklahoma State. 


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2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona

Key stats: 19.7 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 31.0% D-rebound rate

Last week: No. 2

Because of how dominant he looks, Ayton's not getting enough recognition for how efficient he is. Here's a recent look, courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology, which tracks advanced statistics at the NBA and college level. 

Ayton ranks top-10 nationally in these categories:

  • First in defensive rebounds (127)
  • Fourth in total rebounds (167)
  • Fourth in defensive rebound percentage (31.0)
  • Fourth in 2-point field goals (104)
  • Fifth in rebound percentage (21.6)
  • Eighth in player efficiency rating (32.4)
  • Ninth in win shares (3.0)

Next game: Thursday at Utah. 


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3. Marvin Bagley III, Duke

Key stats: 21.9 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 67.7 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 3

Duke gets a good tussle at home vs. Florida State, yet the Blue Devils stave off an upset thanks to Bagley tossing up 32 points and 21 rebounds on 13-of-17 shooting. Bagley's now getting Trae'd, which is insane, because Bagley's at three games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. He also did this in the FSU game. It might be the wackiest/most impressive shot of the season so far. 

The difference between Ayton and Bagley at this point is hair-thin. They could flip positions weekly going forward. Bagley's got Ayton beat in PER at the moment, 33.0 to 32.4, but with the stats so close, I'm going with what I've seen from Ayton. Either way, both need Trae Young to lower himself to mere mortal status in order to have a shot at Freshman of the Year. 

Separate note: Former four-star recruit Jordan Tucker is transferring out of Duke.. Used to be that nobody ever left Mike Krzyzewski's program. Now, in the past half-decade, there's been at least one player a year to transfer out.         

Next game: Saturday at NC State.


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4. Brandon McCoy, UNLV

Key stats: 18.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 61.1 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 4

McCoy is in no immediate danger of losing his stranglehold on the No. 4 spot. He had 16 points and 10 boards on Saturday vs. Boise State. He's at 10 double-doubles on the season. The Runnin' Rebels loss to the Broncos was UNLV's first defeat of the season that didn't involve overtime. 

Next game: Wednesday at San Jose State.


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5. Tremont Waters, LSU

Key stats: 17.1 ppg, 6.4 apg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 spg

Last week: No. 6

The Connecticut native makes his debut in the Frosh Watch top five after putting up 18 points, eight assists and four steals in LSU's 71-61 win at Memphis on Thursday. Waters logged 38 minutes and was 50 percent from the field and 3-point range. My colleague, Gary Parrish, was on hand for that LSU-Memphis tilt. Parrish, who is 5-foot-7 on his best day (love ya, GP) reports that Waters can't be taller than 5-9 and a half-inch. Small guy with a big game. Might wind up being the best freshmen this season who doesn't win Freshman of the Week.

Next game: Wednesday vs. Kentucky.


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6. Collin Sexton, Alabama

Key stats: 20.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.3 apg 

Last week: No. 5

Sexton had a poor shooting performance but was able to get 16 points on 12 shots in Alabama's huge home win over Texas A&M on Saturday. Sexton is drawing 8.7 fouls per 40 minutes, which ranks fifth in America. This kid does not play with a passive attitude, and that stat proves it. Sexton's shooting 79 percent from the foul line, so his aggressiveness is being rewarded at the charity stripe, and that's helping make up his good-not-great 47.3 percent 2-point shooting. 

Next game: Tuesday at Vanderbilt. 


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7. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Key stats: 14.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 apg

Last week: No. 7

Kentucky ran away from Louisville on Friday and in doing so, put up its best performance of the season. The Wildcats followed that up with an uninspiring 66-61 home win over Georgia on New Year's Eve. Knox had seven points on 2-of-10 shooting. In the U of L game, Knox fouled out after scoring eight points on 2-of-8 shooting. Knox is a talent, but he's too inconsistent at this point to consider Kentucky a real threat to win the SEC. The Wildcats can grow into the SEC's best team, but they're not there right now. That's uncommon for Kentucky at this point on the calendar. It's also uncommon for Kentucky to lack a dynamic duo or trio, but Why Kentucky freshman Kevin Knox is the key to how high the Wildcats will climb

Next game: Wednesday at LSU.            


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8. R.J. Cole, Howard

Key stats: 21.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.7 spg

Last week: No. 9

Cole put up 22 points on Hawaii in a loss on Friday. Cole's non-conference season is over. He put up the averages you can see above while playing 13 of his first 16 college games away from Howard's home arena. Teams on the schedule included Indiana, Gonzaga, and Georgetown. With MEAC play beginning this week, expect Cole to keep up the consistency. The question becomes: Will he be good enough to improve Howard's 5-11 mark in league play from a year ago?

Next game: Wednesday at Florida A&M.


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9. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky

Key stats: 14.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.8 apg

Last week: No. 10

Because Lindell Wigginton played his way off the Frosh Watch (for now), Diallo bumps up after going for a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) against Georgia. Diallo had 14 points in the Louisville game. His stats are OK at this point, but if you're watching Kentucky play you're seeing that he's providing bursts of necessary athleticism, effort and opportunistic plays. It's like he's constantly on the cusp of bringing his game to a new level but hasn't found that level yet.         

Next game: Wednesday at LSU.         


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10. Mohamed Bamba, Texas

Key stats: 11.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.5 bpg

Last week: N/R                         

Bamba debuts on this list after clinching Texas' overtime road win at Iowa State on Monday night with a late block to prevent the Cyclones from extending the game. Bamba, who is second in the country in blocks, had 10 points, 16 boards and four swats. Texas' defense ranks sixth in the country in points per possession, according to KenPom.com. Bamba's had at least four blocks in every game of his career with one exception, the overtime loss to Duke in Portland on Nov. 24.        

Next game: Saturday at Baylor.

Previous Freshman of the Week winners:

Dec. 5: Trae Young
Dec. 12: Deandre Ayton
Dec. 19: David Jenkins Jr. 
Dec. 26: Trae Young 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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