Frosh Watch: Jalen Pickett's 46-point performance vaults him into top 10 of best freshmen in college basketball

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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 we announce a national 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.

Freshman of the Week: Jalen Pickett, Siena

When Duke's RJ Barrett nabbed a triple-double vs. NC State on Saturday, we figured our Freshman of the Week would be an easy call. After all, it was only the fourth triple-double in program history.

And then Sunday afternoon came along, and a game in Albany, New York, went historic. Quinnipiac beat Siena 107-100 in a classic MAACtion tussle that rates as one of the best games in the history of the conference. In that game, junior Cameron Young became just the third player in the past 20 seasons to score at least 55 points in a game for Quinnipiac.

And Siena freshman Jalen Pickett dropped 46 points, offering up one of the best scoring displays by a freshman in college basketball in recent memory. Pickett was 14 for 26 from the field, 14 for 17 from the line, had 13 assists, four rebounds and four steals. So not only did he score 46 points, he accounted for approximately 70 percent of Siena's scoring when you factor in the buckets created off his assists.

On the week, Pickett averaged 28.0 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 2.0 blocks. A strong mid-February turn for the Saints freshman who's been floating just outside the Frosh Watch over the past month. And guess what? Now, he's cracked our top 10. Pickett leads all freshmen in assists and is building a resurgence in Jamion Christian's first season coaching the Saints. Turns out Siena has a long-term NBA prospect on its roster. 

FROSH WATCH 

These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball.

1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Key stats: 22.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 42.3 PER

Even by the lofty expectations for Zion Williamson, he's seemingly taken his game to another level. In two games this week for the now-No. 1 Blue Devils, he averaged 29.5 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals, all while powering Duke to two impressive wins. He remains stunningly efficient in his efforts, too. Williamson leads the ACC in field goal percentage and steals per game, and is second in the conference in points per game. His 42.3 PER is validation that, too, a mark that leads all of Division I by a handsome margin. He's already the heavy favorite to go No. 1 in the 2019 NBA Draft.

2. RJ BARRETT, Duke

Key stats: 22.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.0 apg

Barrett bounced back from an inefficient outing against Louisville last Tuesday with one of his most impressive showings of the season on Saturday against NC State. In that game, he scored 23, grabbed 11 rebounds and dropped 10 assists, recording the first triple-double by a Duke player since Shelden Williams in 2006.

3. ANTOINE DAVIS, Detroit

Key stats: 26.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.3 apg

To put into perspective just how productive Davis has been this season: He scored 49 points and grabbed five rebounds in two games this week for Detroit, a two-game running average that is, amazingly, below his season averages. He's now up to 26.5 points per game on the year, which leads the Horizon by a healthy margin, and 3.3 assists per game.

4. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky

Key stats: 14.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 118.5 ORtg

Johnson is up to 41.4 percent from 3-point range, providing a crucial element to Kentucky's good-not-great offense. On Saturday night, Kentucky was able to establish its authority over Tennessee for a number of reasons, but one of the most important was Johnson taking advantage of his openness with the 3-point shot in the first half. Rupp Arena was bursting with joy as he hit 3 after 3 to give Kentucky a cushion over the then-No. 1 Volunteers. Johnson is only attempting 3.5 treys per game. Expect that number to rise as the stakes get higher. 

5. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana

Key stats: 17.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.4 apg

Langford continues to play well on an Indiana squad that is spoiling away what once looked like a promising season. But at 13-12, the Hoosiers can probably barely remember when they were 12-2 -- all of six weeks ago. Part of why Langford remains a top-five freshman despite IU having lost 10 of its last 11: Archie Miller's recruiting promise to him has stayed true. Langford was told he would have the ball in his hands and be a dominant facet for IU this season, and he has been. He's not only the highest-usage player for Indiana, he's also played 82.4 percent of minutes available, which is nearly 10 percent more than the next closest player, senior Juwan Morgan. 

6. LAMINE DIANE, Cal State Northridge  

Key stats: 24.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 38.4 percent usage rate

Cal State Northridge's frosh star Lamine Diane remains the most utilized player in all of college basketball with a Division I-leading 38.4 percent usage rate, and he's making good on it by pouring in 24.1 points per night. He leads the Big West in scoring, blocks and rebounding on the year, and ranks inside the top 5 in steals. In two games this week for the Matadors, he scored 20 and 25 points, respectively, while grabbing a combined 26 rebounds.

7. COBY WHITE, North Carolina 

Key stats: 15.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.3 apg

White's stock is soaring. In a league where Tre Jones, Ty Jerome and Justin Robinson get all the love, White is quietly emerging as one of the top all-around point guards. He's fourth among all freshmen this season in the ACC in points per game, and third in that same scope in assists per game. He scored 27 points and dished out eight dimes for the Tar Heels in their two games this week. Up Wednesday: His toughest matchup yet against Duke defensive stalwart Tre Jones.

8. JAYDEN GARDNER, East Carolina

Key stats: 17.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.4 apg

Gardner leads all freshmen in the American Athletic Conference in scoring, and ranks second in rebounding behind USF's Alexis Yetna. ECU has needed/used him, too; according to KenPom.com, he rates in the top 100 among all Division I players with a 28.8 usage rate, and he accounts for 26 percent of ECU's available shots when he's on the court. His efficiency has taken a dip over the last few weeks, but his impact as both a scorer and rebounder for the Pirates has him holding steady in the top 10.

9. JALEN PICKETT, Siena 

Key stats: 15.5 ppg, 6.4 apg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 spg

Pickett's 46-point performance Sunday vs. Quinnipiac marked only the third time in the past 19 seasons that a D-I men's player had at least 45 points and 10 assists in a game. According to Stats, Inc., LIU-Brooklyn's Antawn Dobie is the only other player to do it -- and he did it twice, back in the early 2000s. Pickett's run this past week had to bump him into the Watch. There's also this, which is quite the stat. 

Siena is the second-slowest team in America (to Virginia). That makes Picket's averages all the more impressive. He's not just efficient, he almost always seems to distribute the right way. 

10. CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky

Key stats: 14.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 2.4 bpg

Bassey remains on our Frosh Watch at No. 10 because he remains one of the most reliable producers we're tracking. He's not likely to blow up for 40+ like some other guards on this list, but his 14.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per night is almost a guarantee night-in and night-out. In two games this week he averaged 18 points and 8.5 boards, including 7 total blocks. He's second among all players in CUSA in field goal percentage, rebounds and blocks.

Previous Freshman of the Week winners:

CBS Sports Senior Writer

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

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