Welcome back to the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the 10 most impressive freshmen in college basketball. 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
Freshman of the Week: Vernon Carey Jr., Duke
There is some solid competition for the honor in this the second week of the Frosh Watch, but Carey gets the nod thanks to his performance in two road games against two power-conference teams.
No other freshman in America can match the stats he put up against the competition he faced. Duke went 2-0 last week, got to No. 7 in the AP Top 25 and improved to 9-1 overall. Against Michigan State and Virginia Tech, Carey averaged 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and shot better than 50% (12-of-23) from the field. What's more, he did that in 40 total minutes. That's highly efficient. Carey was also a solid 13 for 16 from the foul line.
He only averaged two fouls in the pair of road games as well, which is an overlooked but important factor in Carey's value and development. He's fouled out once (vs. Colorado State) and reached four fouls in only one other game (vs. Georgetown). And yet, he's a magnet for the hack on the other end. Carey is drawing 8.9 fouls per 40 minutes, which is the highest rate in college basketball. Carey's averaging 7.6 free throws, which is a great rate for a college player only playing 23.8 minutes per game.
And we know those minutes will increase.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the first five weeks of the season.
Key stats: 20.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.0 spg | Last week: No. 2
Anthony Edwards takes over the top spot in week two, leapfrogging UNC's Cole Anthony. The Georgia Bulldog leads all freshmen in scoring and has an intriguing road test against a fun team Saturday: UGA plays at Arizona State. That game is highly likely to be decided in the 80s, if not 90s, and so Edwards will have an opportunity to flirt with 30. There is an interesting dichotomy at play with the Dawgs right now: the team ranks No. 8 in college hoops in 2-point percentage (57.0%), yet Edwards is sub-par from inside the 3-point line, hitting at only a 43.8% clip.
2. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 18.5 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 37.2 PER | Last week: No. 4
Vernon Carey's FOTW award helped him climb two spots, and he's not that far off from taking top ranks a week from now. The thing that may get in his way is the development of the freshmen around him. Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore have been good if not a little inconsistent, while Cassius Stanley's been terrific -- and he's already back after a hamstring injury initially looked like it could sideline him until around Christmas. Carey's second among all qualifying players in PER, his 37.2 only six-tenths of a point behind UTEP's Bryson William, who's at 37.8.
3. COLE ANTHONY, UNC
Key stats: 19.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.4 apg | Last week: No. 1
Cole Anthony is still the most valuable freshman on this list, but he's no longer the most impressive, consistent or efficient. In fact, his lack of efficiency is hurting him as much as his team. Anthony's a volume player by necessity, but his 37.8% 2-point shooting is an issue. He's sub-par in offensive rating at KenPom: just 94.1, which is concerning. On the whole, UNC has grander issues, even while taking into account the two Ls came to teams ranking No. 1 (Virginia) and 2 (OSU) in defensive efficiency. As The Athletic's Sam Vecenie pointed out, Tar Heels not named Cole Anthony are collective shooting 24.2% from beyond the arc. Things have to change soon, or this will be a season of big ups and downs for Roy Williams.
4. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 15.3 ppg, 5.7 apg, 119.0 ORtg | Last week: No. 3
A 33.4% assist rate puts Nico Mannion among the tops in the sport. He just happens to be a savvy playmaker and responsible shooter all in one, which is why he's a no-brainer to stay in the top half of the Watch. He is coming off consecutive sub-par showings -- vs. Wake Forest and Baylor -- but something tells me the home test against Gonzaga on Saturday night will provide Mannion the kind of stage where he'll thrive. We can't wait to see it.
5. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 71.8 eFG% | Last week: No. 7
No, this is not the first time in Frosh Watch history that a team has had two players in the top five (Duke and Kentucky have pulled it off, of course). But for Arizona, it's obviously significant. Zeke Nnaji is tied for second in the sport in effective field goal percentage, right there with FIU's Osasumwen Osaghae and only trailing Kansas' Udoka Azubuike and his outrageous 80.3% clip. Nnaji is far and away the breakout freshman in America through the first six weeks. Every other freshman listed here was expected or hoped to be good, while Nnaji's trajectory was nowhere near top-10 status back in October. (At least outside Arizona.)
6. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 18.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 43.2 3p% | Last week: No. 6
After starting this season on supernova mode, Landers Nolley finally crashed back to earth this past week with his first single-digit outing of the year against No. 10 Duke. Still, Nolley's holding steady at No. 6 because of how important he's been to the Hokies in their better-than-expected start. He's second among all ACC players in usage rate (33.8%), and he's doing it efficiently by knocking down 49.1% of his 3s -- third-best among all ACC freshmen this season.
Key stats: 14.8 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 33.1 PER | Last week: No. 10
A year ago, much-hyped Hoosiers freshman Romeo Langford was the talk of college basketball. This year, the same hype that should be surrounding Hoosiers freshman Trayce Jackson-Davis is absent (but not for long). He has a whopping 33.1 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and is one of only six freshmen this season averaging at least 14.5 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Key stats: 17.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.1 BPG | Last week: No. 9
It was a big week for Isiah Stewart, who more than held his own against Gonzaga's terrorizing frontcourt, scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 boards in a close loss. He's starting to separate himself as the Huskies' best player, and the production as a scorer and rebounder has been tops on the team despite playing fewer minutes than fellow UW stars Jaden McDaniels and Nahziah Carter.
Key stats: 15.4 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG | Last week: No. 8
Foul trouble followed Kofi Cockburn in the Illini's loss to No. 3 Maryland over the weekend, but he still managed nine points and eight boards in 21 minutes of play. It was clear Maryland's bigs caused him some trouble defensively. Still, he's been impressive as a freshman overall; he's one of only two newbies in the country averaging a double-double, and the other (James Wiseman) hasn't played a game in nearly a month.
10. JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis
Key stats: 19.7 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 3.0 BPG | Last week: No. 5
James Wiseman's last game was on Nov. 12, but this is a freshman rankings list, and we'd be remiss to not mention him. When he was on the court, he was averaging 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 (!) blocks. Now serving an NCAA suspension, Wiseman is slated to return to the court Jan. 12.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3: