Frosh Watch: Take it from LeBron, Trae Young is basketball's must-see player

We here at CBS Sports have 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'll be posting 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. This weekly feature will work 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.

You might have heard about this guy who last week tied the NCAA single-game record for assists. Yeah, Trae Young is not only in the midst of producing an unprecedented freshman season in the modern era of college basketball, he's also a legitimate threat to win national Freshman of the Week every time from here on out. The Frosh Watch has been going for a half-decade on CBSSports.com, and nobody has been as lethal, offensively, as Young. What a joy. 

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Trae Young, Oklahoma                

Young's 22-assist game vs. Northwestern State will go down as one of the signature moments of his college career -- if he doesn't break that record. And we know that it's possible. Young is the runaway choice for FOTW following Oklahoma's improvement to 10-1 and a jump to No. 12 in the polls. Young averaged 28.5 points, 17.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds last week. He was 9-of-16 (56 percent) from the field combined vs. Northwestern and Northwestern State. (As an aside: Has any team played Northwestern and Northwestern State in consecutive games, and in the same week?)

I've been telling you for a month that Young is must-see college hoops TV. Now I think we've arrived at the point where he's the one player in basketball -- yes, including the NBA -- that you have to make the time to see over all others. Sure the pros are awesome and physical wonders, but Young is fresh, dynamic and doing something at the college level we have not seen. He's Hamilton on the hardwood, and he's got reporters asking NBA stars about him

And he's got LeBron James dedicating Instagram posts to him -- on Christmas Day. 


Here are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball from the start of the season until now. 

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1. Trae Young, Oklahoma

Key stats: 28.7 ppg, 10.4 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1.8 spg

Last week: No. 1

Let's look at what Young is doing to Oklahoma's offense. Young had 31 points as the Sooners defeated Northwestern 104-78 Friday night, this coming after they scored 68 in the first half. No "major conference" team in the past decade had allowed 68 or more points, according to ESPN's research. It's not that Young is creating all this offense (he is responsible for 38.3 percent of Oklahoma's scoring, which is tops of any player in the nation), it's that Oklahoma's gotten gargantuan with the ball thanks to how smart the players around Young area. OU's averaging 95.1 points, tops in the country. 

Young's also become the first Sooner since Stacey King in 1988-89 to score 20 or more points in 10 straight games. Honestly, I find it hard to see how he doesn't score 20 in every game the rest of the way. It will get interesting now, even more so, as Big 12 play begins. TCU is a borderline top-10 offense. Their game this weekend should swoop into the 90s. 

Next game: Saturday at TCU. 


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2. Deandre Ayton, Arizona

Key stats: 19.5 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 30.6% D-rebound rate

Last week: No. 2

Arizona had only one game since last week's Frosh Watch. He was held to only nine points and seven rebounds in the Wildcats' 73-58 win vs. UConn on Thursday. Ayton played 27 minutes and took eight shots. A good sign for Arizona that it was able to roll around in the mud with UConn a bit (the game was closer than the final score) and yet Ayton wasn't called upon for takeover duty. He stays firm at No. 2. 

Next game: Saturday vs. Arizona State


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3. Marvin Bagley III, Duke

Key stats: 21.1 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 66.4 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 3

I'm not sure if any team can match the stretch Duke is in the midst of. The Blue Devils turns Evansville into dust on Wednesday, winning 104-40, and that's their only game in a 20-day stretch. To be fair, the team needed the rest after playing nine games in 20 days to start the season. Bagley had a casual 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes vs. Evansville. He'll soon have his big moments again. It is wild to know that, two weeks into the season, Bagley was considered the favorite for NPOY. Now it seems borderline impossible that he can catch Young for FOTY. 

Next game: Saturday vs. Florida State


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4. Brandon McCoy, UNLV

Key stats: 18.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 60.1 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 5

McCoy's consistency has elevated UNLV to an 11-2 record and made the Mountain West more viable in the process. He averaged 11.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in UNLV's two wins last week -- well below his season mark -- but it should be noted he played 43 minutes total between both games. Per 40 minutes, McCoy is at 27.9 points and 16.1 rebounds. Given the totality of the season so far, he's been the fourth best freshman in the game. 

Next game: Saturday vs. Boise State


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5. Collin Sexton, Alabama

Key stats: 20.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 42.1 3-pt FG%

Last week: No. 4

Sexton was kept in check on Friday against Texas. The Georgia native had eight points, five rebounds and four assists in the Crimson Tide's disappointing 66-50 loss. Alabama's now 8-4, all of those games coming outside the conference, with its only non-league tilt left coming against Oklahoma, at home, on Jan. 27. If Avery Johnson's team is going to make the NCAAs, it should take advantage of home court and win that game vs. Trae Young and Co. As for Sexton, he's a point guard who hasn't had a game with more than five assists yet, and he's not had a five-assist game since November. Hmmm. 

Next game: Saturday vs. Texas A&M    


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6. Tremont Waters, LSU

Key stats: 17.0 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.1 rpg, 2.5 spg

Last week: No. 6

This is where Trae Young hurts other freshmen. Waters' numbers would be stellar in most seasons. But now? He's merely good. If you can step into D-I in a Major 7 conference, and put up 17 and 6 per game? You're real good. Waters holds steady at No. 6 after averaging 11.0 points, 5.5 assists and 2.5 steals in LSU's wins over Sam Houston State and North Florida last week. 

Next game: Thursday at Memphis


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7. Kevin Knox, Kentucky

Key stats: 15.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 apg 53.7 2-pt FG%

Last week: No. 7

Knox was serviceable in Kentucky's loss on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic, scoring 15 points, grabbing five rebounds and dishing three assists. He also had four turnovers and four fouls. Knox shows promise, but he can also disappear at times. He's Kentucky's most talented player but hasn't proven himself as a kill-all-others alpha at this point. I wonder if he'll get there. Friday could be his moment.       

Next game: Friday vs. Louisville          


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8. Lindell Wigginton, Iowa State

Key stats: 15.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.5 apg, 45.1 3-pt FG%

Last week: No. 8                          

Iowa State beat Maryland Eastern Shore 55-49 Wednesday, a bizarre low-scoring game that saw Wigginton only manage five points and three rebounds. Wigginton was 2-of-10 from the field. It was the poorest game of his young career. More importantly, Iowa State's won nine straight and gets to start league play with two home games.      

Next game: Friday vs. Kansas State


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9. R.J. Cole, Howard

Key stats: 21.6 ppg, 6.0 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.7 spg

Last week: No. 10

Trae Young overshadows AGAIN. You probably didn't realize that Cole, who's the second-most prolific scorer in D-I, dropped 42 on UNC Wilmington on Friday night. The Howard freshman continues to dazzle in the darkness, as the Bison's games are not broadcast on TV most of the time. That 42-point outing vs. the Seahawks gave Howard its first win over a D-I team this season, too. Cole also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals. If not for Trae Young being insane, Cole would have easily taken the honors this week. He played more than well enough to get it. The night before, in a roadie vs. UTEP, he had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists. The fact he's put up the numbers he has against a top-75 schedule suggests that he'll wind up averaging north of 20 points this season -- meaning he probably won't fall out of the Frosh Watch. 

Next game: Friday at Hawaii


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10. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky

Key stats: 15.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.2 apg

Last week: No. 9

Diallo is best in open space, where his speed and attack-mode personality are able to flourish. He is scoring 7.1 points per game in transition, which is second in the country among players in power conferences, according to Synergy Sports Technology. The only player ahead of him? Trae Young, who else? But get this: Diallo's 7.1 points in transition per game is better than nine power-league teams. Whatever John Calipari can do to get Diallo on the outlet, he needs to. 

Next game: Friday vs. Louisville          

Previous Freshman of the Week winners:

Dec. 5: Trae Young
Dec. 12: Deandre Ayton
Dec. 19: David Jenkins Jr. 

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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