Freshman rankings: Pitt's Justin Champagnie is Freshman of the Week; teams slumping with Frosh Watch stars
The Freshman of the Week goes to a player who put up just the fourth 30-point game for a frosh in program history
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
JUSTIN CHAMPAGNIE, PITTSBURGH: A tough call this week, as four players were in contention for the award. But credit to you, Justin Champagnie, for putting up the most statistically impressive multi-game performance across the previous seven days. The 6-foot-6 wing from Brooklyn averaged 25.0 points, 10.0 boards and 1.5 steals in a 1-1 week for Pitt.
His shooting is what put him over the top. Champagnie was 5-of-9 from 3 in both games and 54.1% overall from the field on 37 shots. In the loss to Notre Dame, he managed a 20-and-10 game, which is not rare for a freshman but still impressive any time you see it happen. Pitt's win against Georgia Tech on Saturday was witness to Champagnie poppin' bottles with a 30-point showing, which marked only the fourth time in school history a frosh hit 30 in a game. He also had nine rebounds and two swipes in that 73-64 win.
Champagnie's averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds. He's not yet a threat to crack the Frosh Watch, but safe to say he's definitely drifted onto the radar here in mid-February.
These are the top 10 freshman performers through 15 weeks of play.
1. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke
Key stats: 17.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 33.5 PER | Last week: No. 1
Here's how good Carey is: he played three games since last Tuesday's Frosh Watch, all Duke wins over Boston College, UNC and Florida State. Forget the nature of those wins (Duke could have easily lost any of them). Carey averaged 15.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and shot 50% from 2-point range. For him, that's sub-par. For most other freshmen, that's one of the better three-game stretches they could ask for. Carey is the only ACC player to register in the top five in scoring, rebound, field goal percentage and 2-point percentage.
2. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona
Key stats: 16.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 60.8 eFG% | Last week: No. 2
In Arizona's fairly surprising 65-52 home loss to UCLA on Saturday night, Nnaji was the only real bright spot. He went 10 for 10 from the foul line, had 10 boards and a pair of blocks. Just 2 for 8 from the field, though. The Wildcats are a nut I'm incapable of cracking. Nnaji continues to impress, though, rating second in the Pac-12 in free throw rate and defensive rebound rate. He's No. 3 in offensive boards. His slippage has come in 2-point shooting: in conference play, Nnaji shot 72.6% from 2. In Pac-12 competition, he's merely at 49.5%. That needs to go back up to give Arizona a chance at winning the league.
Key stats: 19.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.0 apg | Last week: No. 4
This sums up the Anthony Edwards experience this season:
- Last Wednesday at Florida: 32 points, six rebounds, four turnovers, three steals, two blocks, one foul, 6-of-9 3-point shooting
- Saturday vs. Alabama: 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four fouls, three steals, 0-of-6 3-point shooting
Both losses. The latter in overtime.
Key stats: 17.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.0 bpg | Last week: No. 3
Thank goodness for Stewart that individual performance has no weight on the Frosh Watch, because the Huskies are just dreadful. There's a story to be uncovered about what's going on in Seattle. Losing Quade Green to academic ineligibility does not alone explain how a No. 9 seed in 2019 brings in more overall talent the next season, including two five-star freshmen, and sits at 12-12 with a 2-9 league record. Stewart was irregular UW's two most recent games, averaging 12.5 points and 6.0 rebounds.
5. ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Key stats: 16.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.0 bpg | Last week: No. 5
USC is an example of the unreliability of most teams outside the top 10 this season. The Trojans were a 17-4 squad when the calendar flipped to February, and have proceeded to drop three straight and put their NCAA Tournament projections into the camouflage. Okongwu is coming off his second-worst game of the season. At Arizona State on Saturday, he managed just five points on three shots in 27 minutes and had as many fouls as blocks (four). The 6-9 positionless big still ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in offensive rebound percentage (13.7) and true shooting percentage (63.8).
Key stats: 13.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg | Last week: No. 6
While Okongwu and USC have lost three straight, Jackson-Davis and Indiana have dropped four in a row. Jackson-Davis won the Big Ten's freshman of the week honor despite playing just one game in the previous seven days. But he did post 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks in IU's underwhelming performance against Purdue, a 74-62 home loss that was rightfully overshadowed by Bob Knight's return to Assembly Hall.
Key stats: 14.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.9 bpg | Last week: No. 7
No, I don't think it's coincidence that many of the freshmen featured in the Watch are on teams that are slumping. These are good first-year players, but it goes to show you how the overall talent pool in college basketball this season is down. Some of the best first-year players are both incapable of carrying their teams (nor should they be expected to) and don't have a lot around them to maintain consistency. With Memphis, Achiuwa continues to be solid, but if you watch the Tigers play, you don't see a team now that looks reliable to win a game in the NCAA Tournament ... if it can get there.
Key stats: 13.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg | Last week: No. 8
The hits keep coming. Illinois is going to strut into the NCAA Tournament in six weeks, but for now, the Fighting Illini are licking their wounds following back-to-back losses against Iowa and Maryland. Cockburn isn't for sure a lock for top-10 status by year's end. He's been held to single digits in scoring in three of his past four games, including 15 points on 3-of-11 shooting in Illinois' two Ls last week. Cockburn remains a bonus for Illinois in this respect: he shoots 72.7% from the foul line and ranks No. 5 in the Big Ten in fouls drawn.
9. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech
Key stats: 17.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.5 apg | Last week: No. 10
Credit to Nolley, who continues to put up good numbers on a team that will struggle to make the NIT. The Hokies have gone from 13-4 to 14-10 in less than a month, but Nolley has been fairly consistent throughout (nine games with 20 or more points). If he stays the course and returns for his redshirt sophomore season, the Hokies could be the sleeper in the ACC next season. Mike Young knows he inherited a really good one from Buzz Williams.
10. NICO MANNION, Arizona
Key stats: 14.0 ppg, 5.5 apg, 2.7 rpg | Last week: No. 9
Mannion has been slowly sliding down the Watch for the past two months. He was in the top three of these rankings back in early December, but his impact has been muted a bit, that a reflection of Arizona's inconsistency. The Wildcats have road games against Cal and Stanford this week. Anything short of 2-0 will bring Sean Miller's team into question. Would love to see Mannion have a pair of takeover games. He's capable of it, but Stanford's defense (top-10 nationally) offers an intriguing challenge.
Previous FOTW winners:
- Dec. 3:
- Dec. 10:
- Dec. 17:
- Dec. 24:
- Dec. 31:
- Jan. 7:
- Jan. 14:
- Jan. 21:
- Jan. 28:
- Feb. 4:
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