Frosh Watch: If you think Trae Young is overrated, here's why you're wrong

CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Every Tuesday throughout the regular season we post a Freshman of the Week winner in addition to our Frosh Watch, which is a ranking of the top 10 most statistically impressive freshmen in men's Division I college basketball. The feature works hand in hand with the Tisdale committee and the USBWA. The winner of the award will be announced in March, and a ceremony for all USBWA honors will take place in early April. The cycle for Freshman of the Week consideration starts on Tuesdays and ends Monday nights.

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Trae Young, Oklahoma            

Today's edition of the Frosh Watch is the 10th this season. We've been running the Frosh Watch for five seasons here at CBSSports.com. Young has now tied the record for Freshman of the Week awards in a season with four, and with another month's worth of Frosh Watches to come, he's likely to set a new mark. 

Young was a default winner of sorts for Jan. 30-Feb. 5, and yet, that is still selling him short. For those who might be dropping in on the Frosh Watch, a reminder that team winning doesn't outright determine Freshman of the Week. In fact, even if it did, there were few candidates that would apply over the past seven days because almost every player on the Watch, and beyond, lost at least once. 

Oklahoma played three times since the previous Frosh Watch, going 1-2. Yet Young averaged 31.6 points, 8.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 5.6 turnovers. This includes his 44-point outburst in last Tuesday's win over Baylor and yeah, his 32-point, one-assist performance against WVU on Monday night. All told, that's a good week! We are, all of us, grading Young on the steepest curve in college basketball. The guy already owns Oklahoma freshman records for assists (215), 3-pointers (96) and made foul shots (181). If he keeps his scoring average pace, he'll break Wayman Tisdale's freshman scoring record of 810 at Kansas on Feb. 19. Young currently sits at 687 points.

It's all fine and good to remain critical, but let's keep it in context. Young was statistically the most impressive freshman from the past week, as has been the case almost 50 percent of the time this season. Remarkable.


Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through Feb. 6.                                       

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1. Trae Young, Oklahoma

Key stats: 29.9 ppg, 9.3 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.8 spg

Last week: No. 1

Young, who has no shortage of highlights this season, ironically provided arguably his most impressive basket on a layup. You catch this Monday night? Beyond the stats, these are the images that build up to a memorable season. 

Young is closing in on other Big 12 records, as you might expect. He's hit the 30-point threshold nine times, which means he's two behind Kevin Durant, three behind Buddy Hield and four behind Michael Beasley for most 30-point games in a season. 

Obviously, even though Young got 32 points on Monday night, he and Oklahoma are hoping to never see West Virginia again this season. The Mountaineers swept OU in the regular season with a winning average of 7.5 points. Young averaged only 3.0 assists against the Mountaineers and, even worse, 7.0 turnovers. A lot of that is due to the presence of Jevon Carter, whose on-ball instincts and defense can't be replicated. 

Next game: Saturday at Iowa State.


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2. Marvin Bagley III, Duke

Key stats: 21.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, 64.3 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 2

Bagley's season averages in points and rebounds continue to lead the ACC, as they've done for almost the entire season. The ACC was founded in 1953, and as you might expect, no freshman has ever finished a season tops in scoring and rebounding. Bagley is likely to pull this off. He's nearly two points ahead (21.4 to 19.7) of Syracuse's Tyus Battle for the scoring title and is up on Luke Maye (10.3 rpg) by almost one board per game. Bagley's hit 30 points or more six times, which is a league record. 

Next game: Thursday at North Carolina.    


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3. Deandre Ayton, Arizona

Key stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 65.6 2-pt FG%
Last week: No. 3

Arizona went 1-1 last week because of Washington's buzzer-beating victory late Saturday night. It was in fact because of Ayton that Washington was able to win in such thrilling fashion. Check the way he plays this possession so well. But his deflection winds up keeping the rhythm of the play in sync. A well-timed swat is sent right into the lap of Dominic Green, who hits the biggest bucket of the Huskies' season.

Ayton averaged 23.0 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks last week. He was a terrific 20-of-28 from the field against Washington and Washington State.

Next game: Thursday vs. UCLA.                


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4. Brandon McCoy, UNLV

Key stats: 18.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg

Last week: No. 4

For the first two months of the season, I thought the Frosh Watch would have a top three (OK, with Trae, I thought a top one and then a next two), but McCoy has been consistent enough to make a case that he, Young, Bagley and Ayton have separated themselves from the rest of college basketball freshmen. He averaged 23.0 points and 12.5 rebounds last week, when UNLV went 1-1 in the process. The thing I keep going back to with McCoy's impact: UNLV was an abysmal 43.5 percent from 2-point range last season. In 2017-18, the Runnin' Rebels are 57.1 -- top-10 in the country. Most of that is McCoy's involvement. He nearly won FOTW, for what it's worth.

Next game: Wednesday at Nevada.


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5. Tremont Waters, LSU

Key stats: 15.3 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 spg

Last week: No. 5

LSU won 94-86 on Saturday to capture a season sweep of Arkansas. The game was witness to Waters' best performance in a month. He had 27 points and 11 assists. It was just the second time in six games that Waters scored in double digits. Despite this, he holds firm at No. 5, thanks in part to his steals average. He's got a tough challenge coming up on Wednesday, though. That Gator backcourt will be a new look.

Next game: Wednesday at Florida


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6. Mohamed Bamba, Texas

Key stats: 13.0 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.4 bpg, 62.2 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 6                                                                                                                                                                                   

Want to know why Texas has got to feel confident about the future? Check out what's gotten into Bamba over the past six weeks. On Dec. 18, Bamba was 1-of-8 from the field and finished with a season-low four points. Since that game, Shaka Smart has found a way to work Bamba into the offense with amazing efficiency. Bamba has been 50 percent or better in 12 straight games and has shot 61.1 percent (69 for 113) in that span. His draft stock has only become more valuable in this time, and it's more likely than not that Bamba's February will best his January. 

Next game: Wednesday vs. Kansas State.


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7. Collin Sexton, Alabama

Key stats: 18.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.4 apg 

Last week: No. 7

Sexton was one of five freshmen named to the 20-person Late Season Wooden Award watch list, which was revealed Monday. (Young, Ayton, Bagley and Bamba are the others.) At this point, Sexton's still got a good shot at being a Third Team AP All-America selection. You think you can remember the last time Alabama had an All-America? You think it's happened this century? In fact, it has. Head on back to the 2001-02 season, when the Tide went 27-8 under Mark Gottfried and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAAs. Erwin Dudley was a Third Team honoree that season. 

Next game: Tuesday at Mississippi State.


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8. R.J. Cole, Howard

Key stats: 23.8 ppg, 5.9 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.7 spg

Last week: No. 8

As I've maintained for the past month, Cole is not going anywhere. He averaged 27.0 points, 6.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals in the past two games, including 10-of-23 shooting from beyond the arc. He's similar to Trae Young not only with his scoring and volume shooting, but turnovers, too. Cole's averaged 4.6 per game in his past five games. 

Next game: Thursday vs. Hampton


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9. Jaylen NowellWashington   

Key stats: 16.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.6 apg

Last week: No. 9

With a crunch continuing for spots 9 and 10, I am keeping Nowell here after he played a big role in getting Washington home wins over the Arizona schools last week. Nowell averaged 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists. One the season, he's shooting 48.3 percent from the field and 80 percent from the line. Given the queue behind him, it will be tough to hold this spot going forward, though. 

Next game: Thursday at Oregon


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10. Wendell Carter, Duke    

Key stats: 14.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 63.7 2-pt FG%

Last week: N/R

A new player enters the Watch for the third straight week. Carter has been overshadowed by Bagley for much of the season, but in th past two weeks it does feel like he's gotten his due. Carter who, when he doesn't get boxed into bad fouls for my money plays smarter than any other Blue Devil, ranks in the top 20 in six notable statistical categories (Bagley is in 11). Here's where he's best.

  • Plus-minus: 13.9 (sixth)
  • PER: 30.4 (eighth)
  • Win shares per 40 minutes: .257 (14th)
  • Offensive rating: 131.5 (t-15th)
  • Field goal percentage: 61.8 (t-17th)
  • Effective field goal percentage 64.6 (t-17th)

Next game: Thursday at North Carolina.      

Previous Freshman of the Week winners:

Dec. 5: Trae Young
Dec. 12: Deandre Ayton
Dec. 19: David Jenkins Jr. 
Dec. 26: Trae Young 
Jan. 2: Mohamed Bamba
Jan. 9: McKinley Wright IV
Jan. 16: Trae Young
Jan. 23: R.J. Cole
Jan. 30: Kevin Knox

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his eighth season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics,... Full Bio

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