Gonzaga is deep in the thick of its winter hibernation, an annual rite of passage during which the Bulldogs toil outside the national spotlight amid late-night tips against overmatched WCC foes. Long gone are the days of the nonconference spotlight provided by opponents such as Texas, UCLA, Duke, Alabama and Texas Tech. Still weeks away is the spectacle of the NCAA Tournament and the stage of another run at the program's first national title.
It's against this backdrop of temporarily-reduced relevance that star freshman Chet Holmgren is blossoming for the No. 2 Bulldogs. The 7-footer showed glimpses of greatness early in the season, but he is hitting his stride now and is the CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week for games played Feb. 1-7.
Holmgren scored a career-high 23 points last Thursday in Gonzaga's 92-62 win over San Diego while adding 12 rebounds and four blocks. He followed it up with an equally ridiculous 20 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and five blocks in a 90-57 win over BYU on Saturday. Adding to it all, Holmgren is 18 of 30 from 3-point range since the calendar flipped to 2022.
Gonzaga's present competition is weak, but it would be unwise to discount Holmgren because of it. The improvements in his game are obvious, and the gains in confidence they will bring are destined to be on display as the Zags re-emerge on the national stage in the coming weeks.
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
Dec. 28: Paolo Banchero, Duke
Jan. 4: Malaki Branham, Ohio State
Jan. 11: Blake Wesley, Notre Dame
Jan. 18: TyTy Washington, Kentucky
Jan. 25: Caleb Houstan, Michigan
Feb. 1: Tyrese Hunter, Iowa State
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball this season.
1. Paolo Banchero | Duke
Stats: 17.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 2.6 APG
This was arguably the worst week of Banchero's standout freshman season. The 6-10 forward finished just 5 of 14 from the floor in Duke's blowout win at North Carolina, and then failed to reach double figures for the first time in the Blue Devils' loss to Virginia on Monday. Despite those performances, Banchero remains No. 1 in the season-long rankings because his body of work, which includes big games in wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga, is worthy.
2. Jabari Smith | Auburn
Stats: 15.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 40.4% 3PT
Georgia did a good job of limiting Smith's impact on Saturday as No. 1 Auburn narrowly avoided an upset. The 6-10 forward finished with just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting. Smith was great against Alabama on Tuesday, though, as he finished with 17 points on just 10 attempts from the floor as Auburn picked up a 100-81 victory against its rival.
3. Chet Holmgren | Gonzaga
Stats: 14.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 46.3% 3PT
Holmgren enjoyed his best week yet with consecutive double-doubles in Gonzaga's victories over San Diego and BYU. The 7-footer combined for nine blocked shots, hit 5 of 10 from 3-point range in the two games and corralled 29 rebounds. The competition is weak, but Holmgren's production is still remarkable. With another dominant week, he'll challenge Smith, and maybe even Banchero, in the season-long rankings.
4. TyTy Washington | Kentucky
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 4.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 34.8% 3PT
Washington led Kentucky with 15 points in the Wildcats' win at Alabama on Saturday. The 6-3 guard has been inefficient recently, but he's established himself as arguably the second-most important player in Kentucky's lineup behind star big man Oscar Tshiebwe. With a strong close to the season, Washington could even challenge Smith for SEC Freshman of the Year.
5. AJ Griffin | Duke
Stats: 9.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 48.6% 3PT
Griffin played out of his mind in Duke's win at North Carolina on Saturday as he recorded a career-high 27 points on 11-of-17 shooting. But the 6-6 wing proved he is mortal with a 1-for-7 outing in a loss to Virginia on Monday. Griffin's emergence as an outside threat during ACC play has solidified the Blue Devils as a national title contender.
6. Blake Wesley | Notre Dame
Stats: 14.1 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG
Wesley snapped out of a slump with an efficient 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting in Notre Dame's win at NC State on Saturday. The 6-5 guard is 0 for 12 from 3-point range over the Fighting Irish's last three games, and if he can find his outside shot, it may go a long way toward helping Notre Dame reach the NCAA Tournament.
7. Terquavion Smith | NC State
Stats: 15.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 36.9% 3PT
Smith has established himself as one of the ACC's top bucket-getters, regardless of age. The 6-4 guard scored 25 at Syracuse on Wednesday and dropped 19 against Notre Dame on Saturday. Smith is averaging 19.9 points over his last eight games, though his NC State team is just 2-6 over that span.
Stats: 13.2 PPG, 5.0 APG, 2.3 SPG
Chandler turned in his second double-double of the season with an 11-point, 10-assist outing in Tennessee's win over South Carolina on Saturday. The 6-foot point guard also had a solid 16-point outing in the Volunteers' win over Texas A&M on Tuesday, and continues to play a key role in his team's stifling defensive attack.
9. Kendall Brown | Baylor
Stats: 10.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.0 APG, 62.7% FG
Brown's 5-of-12 shooting performance in Baylor's blowout loss at Kansas on Saturday marked just the second time this season he's attempted 10 or more shots from the floor. That showcases just how efficient the 6-8 wing has been for the Bears while playing a utilitarian role.
10. Bryce McGowens | Nebraska
Stats: 16.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 APG
McGowens is third nationally behind Paolo Banchero of Duke and Ray'Sean Taylor of SIU-Edwardsville in scoring among true freshmen. Other Big Ten freshmen have graced this ranking more frequently, though, due to McGowens' obvious inefficiencies. But the 6-7 wing deserves a shoutout for averaging 19.2 points on 43.2% shooting over his last six games. He is carrying a huge offensive load for an awful Nebraska team, and the fact that he's found ways to be more efficient recently should help his draft stock.