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'll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree.
CBS Sports / USBWA Freshman of the Week
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, MEMPHIS: Achiuwa not only wins for a second consecutive week, he also becomes the first two-time recipient of the FOTW honor this season. Memphis continues its quest for its first NCAA Tournament bid in six seasons thanks to Achiuwa's reliability every game out. He averaged 22.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks in a 1-1 week for the Tigers. Memphis lost at Wichita State but won at South Florida in its past two games.
On top of that, Achiuwa was efficient, making 17 of his 29 shots across the two games. He's had a double-double in five straight games and has nine overall. Against USF, Achiuwa's and-one play late in the second half gave Memphis a come-from-behind lead and then had a slam and foul shot in the closing minute to salt away the 68-64 win.
Achiuwa might be the most slept-on freshman talent in America right now, but that won't continue if Memphis keeps pace with Wichita State. It's clear that as Achiuwa goes, so go his Tiger teammates. Achiuwa has won the American Athletic Conference Freshman Player of the Week four times this season. It's why, as you'll read below, he easily made it into the Frosh Watch this week.
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the 11 weeks this season.
1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 17.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 36.3 PER | Last week: No. 1
Carey came back to earth over the last week by averaging 11 points and six rebounds in two Duke wins, but he retains his spot atop our Frosh Watch in part because of that: Duke keeps winning. The Blue Devils are 15-1 on the season and boast a nine-game winning streak going in to Tuesday's road contest against Clemson. Carey's impact can't be understated for Duke, especially given his efficiency: he ranks third in scoring and fifth in rebounding despite playing the fewest minutes among players in this week's top 10.
2. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 66.5 eFG% | Last week: No. 3
A nudge up for Nnaji, his highest ranking yet. We split hairs between the big-haired Arizona big man and Anthony Edwards, but ultimately it's Nnaji's efficiency that is pushing him past Ant Eddy. Nnaji's effective field goal percentage is best among all freshmen -- and his 70.5 true shooting percentage is top-five in the sport. Arizona's spiraling -- it's lost four of five and sits at 1-2 in the Pac-12; eek! -- but that's not on Nnaji.
Key stats: 18.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.1 apg | Last week: No. 2
Edwards once again leads all freshmen in scoring, but it's at the expense of volume. Georgia (10-5) is going to swim upstream in the SEC while laying much responsibility on the shoulders of Edwards, whose talent is ever-tempting but still not automatic in terms of a streamlined process. His offensive rating (per KenPom) the past seven games has been wobbly. (Just over 100 is about average.)
- vs. Auburn: 86
- vs. Kentucky: 112
- vs. Memphis: 77
- vs. Austin Peay: 122
- vs. Georgia Southern: 113
- vs. SMU: 91
- vs. Arizona State: 85
Overall average: 98. Not going to be good enough to carry UGA to the NCAAs.
Key stats: 18.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 2.2 bpg | Last week: No. 4
Stewart has been on a mission the entire season and he's a lock lottery pick in June. Here's an interesting split: Stewart is scoring 19.8 points on average in Washington's home games, but is down to 14.4 when UW isn't playing on its floor. Something to track as more road games will come for a Washington team that lost its starting point guard, Quade Green, due to academic ineligibility.
5. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: 16.9 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.9 bpg | Last week: No. 5
USC lost its first game since November last week, falling by 32 to a talented Washington team. Okongwu helped his Trojans get back on track Saturday against UCLA, blocking three shots and adding four points and two boards as he flirted with foul trouble. It was his ninth multi-block game of the season which keeps him at No. 2 in blocked shots among freshmen this season.
Key stats: 14.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg | Last week: No. 6
Following a week in which he led Illinois to two wins by posting 26 combined points and 23 (!) total rebounds, Cockburn was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week -- for the sixth time this season. By season's end the award may bear his name. Rightfully so, too. Cockburn helped Illinois win at Wisconsin for the first time in a decade last week by posting 15-and-6, then followed it up a few days later with an 11-point, 17-board outing against Rutgers, which broke the school record for rebounds in a game by a freshman.
Key stats: 14.6 pg, 8.0 rpg, 128.8 ORtg | Last week: No. 8
There are 18 individual statistic columns at KenPom.com. They show tempo-free production for each player and how those stats rate against the rest of all other D-I players, more than 4,600 total. If you rank in the top 500, that's basically the 90% percentile and up. IU's talented freshman, Jackson-Davis, clears that bar in 10 categories. The Hoosiers will likely be playing through Jackson-Davis more as the season goes along.
8. PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
Key stats: 15.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.0 bpg | Last week: unranked
Achiuwa's been key to Memphis' stay of relevance since James Wiseman's departure, and finally he's getting his due. Over his last six games he's averaging 19.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, and this past week those numbers were even better: 22 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 4.5 bpg. Just absurd. Achiuwa's always been an energizing post presence, but he's turned a corner and emerged as one of the best all-around players in the AAC.
9. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 14.3 ppg, 6.3 apg, 2.0 rpg | Last week: No. 7
Arizona's swoon has dovetailed with Mannion's dip in production. Mannion's 3-point slide is now a certified funk: he's 9 for 41 (22%) in Arizona's last eight games. The Wildcats are 3-5 in that stretch. We expect Mannion to return to form in short order. He's a tough player, a smart player and likely set to climb over the wall he's hit thanks to Pac-12 competition that, mostly, isn't elite defensively. Once that happens, Arizona could again click into being the best team in the league.
10. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 17.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg | Last week: No. 9
Nolley has been up and down as a freshman, but he's been prone to explosive performances like what we saw Saturday when he scored 29 and went 4 of 7 from distance. It's the fourth time this year he's scored 23 or more, two of which have gone for 29 or more. In those games, Virginia Tech is an impressive 4-0. He's not a good-stats-bad-team guy: Nolley's success directly correlates with team success.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
- Dec. 17:
- Dec. 24:
- Dec. 31:
- Jan. 7: