Freshman rankings: Duke's Vernon Carey Jr. is Freshman of the Week and frontrunner for freshman of the year
CBS Sports' weekly ranking of the best freshmen in college hoops has some shifting in the top five
Welcome 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 open with the national Freshman of the Week honoree.
CBS Sports / USBWA Freshman of the Week
VERNON CAREY JR., DUKE: The clear-cut best freshman in college basketball has taken his second Freshman of the Week honor this season. Duke (18-3, 8-2) is riding a three-game winning streak after beating Pittsburgh by 12 and Syracuse, on the road, by nine last week. The Blue Devils got gargantuan play out of Carey, who averaged 26.0 points, 15.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and was 20-of-31 shooting in those victories.
If you watched the games, you watched Duke again deploy one of the best centers in college hoops. Carey is cruising along to an All-American season, provided he can keep up his impressive numbers. On the season, the 18-year-old is averaging 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Carey's 17-rebound showing in the win at SU was a personal best. According to the ACC, Carey's 17 carom captures tied the record for more rebounds by an opposing player in Syracuse history, matching former Colgate Raider Adonal Foyle and former Georgetown Hoya Patrick Ewing.
The two men combined to play for 30 season in the NBA. Not bad, Mr. Carey. Duke's now had Carey go for at least 20 points and 10 rebounds eight times. And, per the ACC: "Carey leads the ACC in field goal percentage and is the league's only player ranked in the top five in scoring (third, 17.8), rebounding (fourth, 8.9) and field goal percentage (first, .597)."
These are the top 10 freshman performers through 14 weeks of play.
1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 17.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 34.7 PER | Last week: No. 1
Vernon Carey was on the verge of dropping in our Frosh Watch, but there he goes totally redeeming himself with a wondrous week again. Duke's freshman tank put up matching 26 point performances in two wins this week, all while pulling down 30 combined boards and adding five assists, a block and a steal. Only once this season has Duke lost when he puts up a double-double -- proof that his activity level directly influences Duke's success. He's coming on at just the right time for the Blue Devils, too. They're 1.5 games back of Louisville in the ACC standings with only one ranked opponent -- Feb. 10 vs. Florida State -- left on the regular season schedule.
2. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 120.2 KenPom Ortg | Last week: No. 2
Arizona posted two wins the past week, and springy Zeke Nnaji struggled, going a combined 8 of 21 from the floor. Nonetheless, Nnaji made his mark elsewhere by pitching in 18 rebounds, a pair of blocks and a steal. More importantly: Zona strung together consecutive road wins for the first time all season. The Wildcats -- a game out of first place in the Pac-12 -- need Nnaji to return to form quick with USC and UCLA on deck this week.
Key stats: 17.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg | Last week: No. 3
For the fourth time in the last five years, Washington's toiling away in mediocrity while a first-round talent -- Isaiah Stewart -- puts up big numbers. The Huskies have lost five straight and seven of their last eight and now find themselves in sole possession of last place in the Pac-12 with eight regular season games left. Stewart continues to produce -- he averaged 11.5 points, eight boards and 1.5 blocks per game the past week -- but his statistically gaudy season seems squandered as Washington floats out of relevance.
Key stats: 19.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.3 spg | Last week: No. 5
Jumping one spot this week is Anthony Edwards, who finished runner-up in FOTW honors after an impressive two-game stretch in which Georgia went 1-1 (and nearly 2-0). Edwards averaged 26 points and 12.5 boards in a win over Texas A&M and a close loss to Mizzou while displaying the high-level shot-making that'll eventually earn him a spot in the NBA Draft lottery this summer. Oh, and -- why not? -- he mixed in a casual windmill dunk amidst it all for good measure.
5. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: 16.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 3.0 bpg | Last week: No. 4
USC's best offense this season has been dumping it down in the post to Onyeka Okongwu and letting him cook. Teams have finally snuffed that out and are making USC get more creative, thus limiting Okongwu's opportunities. Still, he's been able to be efficient in the opportunities he's getting; this past week he averaged 11 points and 10.5 boards while posting a monstrous four-block performance against Utah in a win. He leads the Pac-12 in rebounds and ranks top-four in the league in field goal percentage and blocks.
Key stats: 13.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 125.1 KenPom Ortg | Last week: No. 7
Indiana's floundering, having lost its last three. Its once-promising NCAA Tournament hopes have now fallen on to the dreadful bubble of Jerry Palm. A bounceback of Jackson-Davis could be the remedy that cures the Hoosiers in their inside-out offense, considering how efficient he's been this season. He's top-5 among all Big Ten freshmen in field goal percentage but second on his own team in field goal attempts, with a combined 15 in his last two outings. Look for him to get more involved this next week or two with two big home games -- Purdue and Iowa -- on the docket.
Key stats: 15.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 1.9 bpg | Last week: No. 8
Can't write Memphis off just yet in the AAC -- not with the way its best player, Precious Achiuwa, is chugging along. He's got the Tigers on a two-game winning streak after scoring 18 points and 16 points in wins over UCF and UConn this week, respectively. The only other freshmen in college basketball to average a double-double this season besides Achiuwa is his now-former teammate: James Wiseman. And Wiseman did it in a three-game sample against mostly lackluster competition.
Key stats: 14.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.4 bpg | Last week: No. 6
The Fighting Illini's winning streak finally came to an end at seven this week, with Kofi Cockburn struggling to generate production against Iowa star Luka Garza. Still, Illinois may hold the upper hand in the Big Ten race moving forward with Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa and Indiana all set to come to Champaign before conference play closes. Cockburn -- the freshman Big Ten leader in points and rebounds -- will play a central role in helping them get off the mat and back into contention. It's a two-way tie for first in the league standings between Sparty and the Illini.
9. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 14.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.7 apg | Last week: No. 9
It's been hot and cold for Mannion offensively the last month, but it was more hot the last week as he averaged 15 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 36% from 3-point range in Arizona's two wins. A much-needed surge from Arizona's offensive ignition. The Wildcats return home for a two-game stretch this week -- where Mannion has really thrived -- before heading back on the road.
10. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 17.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.6 apg | Last week: No. 10
Virginia Tech's 4-3 ACC start has crumbled to a 5-6 mark as the Hokies continue to struggle to find success offensively. Outside Landers Nolley, that is. Nolley continues to be their most reliable offensive weapon, evidence being his 10 consecutive double-digit scoring performances. He's one of only eight freshmen this season averaging 17.5 points on the season -- and he's doing so while shooting 36.1% from 3-point range and 40.2% from the field.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
- Dec. 17:
- Dec. 24:
- Dec. 31:
- Jan. 7:
- Jan. 14:
- Jan. 21:
- Jan. 28:
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