Frosh Watch: Ranking the 10 best freshmen in college basketball through the first month of the season

Welcome back 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. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.

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Georgia's Anthony Edwards is the CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week USATSI

Freshman of the Week: Anthony Edwards, Georgia

Edwards wins out over Arizona's Nico Mannion and Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis due to his historic second-half eruption in Maui last week vs. Michigan State. Georgia's powerful, do-it-all guard set a Maui Invitational record for single-half scoring with his 33 second-half points against the Spartans.

It wasn't enough to get Georgia past Michigan State, but it came close -- and also wound up being one of the most impressive performance by any player in college basketball's first month of the season. 

Some of those shots are outrageous. Edwards -- whose been monikered Antman, which is a solid nickname -- got Georgia back into the game after trailing by as many as 28 points. The 37 points Edwards scored on Michigan State was a top-five scoring effort by one player vs. Michigan State in the past 15 years.  

Edwards averaged 30.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.5 steals against Michigan State and Chaminade. He shot 13-of-14 from the foul line and was 10 for 24 from 3-point land. After Georgia, oddly, couldn't pull away from Chaminade, Edwards drained a deep 3-pointer in a tie game with less than a second remaining to clinch UGA's win and dodge a notorious exit from the Maui Invitational. 

His performance in Hawaii was strong enough to vault Edwards into the discussion for potential No. 1 overall pick come June. But that can wait. We've got a lot more of him to enjoy in the next four months in college. 

Frosh Watch

These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball through the first month of the season.

1. COLE ANTHONY, UNC

Key stats: 20.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.0 apg

Consistent brilliance earns Cole Anthony the top nod on our inaugural list of the 2019 season. In five of his seven games this season, he's put up more than 19 points and he's managed to grab at least seven rebounds in five other games. Even if he's not scoring -- although as the leading scorer for a top-10 UNC team, he's definitely doing that -- he's shown himself able to make an impact in other areas of the game.

2. ANTHONY EDWARDS, Georgia

Key stats: 20.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.8 spg

You know that GIF of a man calmly walking while engulfed in flames? That's Anthony Edwards' freshman season in a nutshell. If you take away the six-point duds against Delaware State and Dayton, he's averaging a whopping 26.4 points. As detailed above, his biggest game of the season came in which he hung 37 (33 in one half!) on preseason No. 1 Michigan State. He's the best no-no-no-no-YES shot-maker in college basketball right now.

3. NICO MANNION, Arizona

Key stats: 15.3 ppg, 5.8 apg, 43.2 3P%

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Arizona
Point guard Nico Manion has been a good fit for Arizona.  USATSI

Arizona freshman floor general Nico Mannion can take a lot of credit for the Wildcats' red-hot 9-0 start to the season. In that span, he's managed to lead all Pac-12 players in assists (5.8 per game) while shooting 43.2% from 3-point range and 52.2% from the floor. Out-dueling Illini sophomore Ayo Dosunmu in early November is his crowning achievement to date -- he put up 23 points, nine assists and two steals in a blowout win.

4. VERNON CAREY JR., Duke

Key stats: 18.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 2.5 bpg

Duke's highest-rated signee from the 2019 class has been its most productive. Vernon Carey leads the team in scoring, rebounding and blocks this season all while playing only the third-most minutes among all Blue Devils. He's scored in double figures each game this season and only twice -- Duke's first two games -- has he not reached double figures in rebounds. He's just the latest in a long line of walking double-double Duke big men.

5. JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Key stats: 19.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 49.1 PER

Zion Williamson's 40.8 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) last season was the highest among all college players in a decade. James Wiseman is on pace this season to shatter it. His 49.1 PER would crush the previous record, but that's a hypothetical scenario that, right now, is a ways off from playing out. He only played in three games for Memphis before the NCAA levied a 12-game suspension against him for receiving impermissible benefits from a booster. He won't return to the court until Jan. 12. Slotting him fifth seems fairest for now, and he'll obviously slide down the rankings as the weeks go on and until he returns. 

6. LANDERS NOLLEY, Virginia Tech

Key stats: 20.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 50.9 3P%

One of only three freshmen in college basketball this season averaging at least 20 points, joining No. 1 and No. 2 on this list. That's elite company to keep. Landers Nolley, a redshirt freshman, who was a joy to watch in Maui, has been a revelation for the Hokies this season in their surprise 6-2 start. Despite a new coaching staff and an offseason transfer of Kerry Blackshear, they're better than anticipated due to Nolley's star turn.

7. ZEKE NNAJI, Arizona

Key stats: 17.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.2 apg

If you'd guess blindly on who leads Arizona this season in points per game, you'd probably be wrong. That honor this season goes to Zeke Nnaji -- easily the most under-the-radar freshman on this list who continues to put up gaudy numbers. On the season he's averaging team-highs in points (17.1), rebounds (6.8) and blocks (1.0). He's playing in the shadow of electric teammate Nico Mannion, not to mention Josh Green, but his production has already allowed him to step out from behind it and into the spotlight.

8. KOFI COCKBURN, Illinois

Key stats: 16.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Arizona
Kofi Cockburn has been a big part of Illinois' improvement. USATSI

Illinois has a monster in its midst. Kofi Cockburn as a freshman is averaging a double-double this season and he's doing so while playing along sophomore big man Giorgi Bezhanishvili, who led the team in rebounding last season. He's been a bit turnover prone, committing more turnovers than than blocks and steals combined, but his contributions as a physical post presence and rebounder have him squarely inside our top 10.

9. ISAIAH STEWART, Washington

Key stats: 17.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.0 bpg

Stewart is the only Huskies player to reach double figures in scoring in each of his games this season. So he's been consistent and reliable. He's also been prone to erupt. Against San Diego, he scored 25 points in a win. Against South Dakota, he grabbed 15 rebounds. Against Mount St. Mary's and Maine, he put up a combined nine blocked shots. Stewart is a difference-maker in the paint for Washington capable of taking over the game at any level on any given night.

10. TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, Indiana

Key stats: 15.6 ppb, 9.6 rpg, 2.3 bpg

There was plenty of buzz surrounding IU's highest-rated signee of the 2019 recruiting class, and he's exceeded the hype. Here's why:

Jackson-Davis is coming off consecutive wins over La. Tech and South Dakota State in which he amassed 40 points, 25 rebounds and six blocks. And best of all for IU: the program is enjoying its best start to a season since 2012-13 -- the year it earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. This is his 10th season reporting on college basketball for CBS. He also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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