Kansas lost six of its top eight scorers from last season's title-winning team. Then its offseason was mired in controversy, leading to a brief suspension of head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend related to the FBI scandal. Not many thought KU could repeat as national champs; KU wasn't even picked to win the conference it has dominated for decades under Self.
KU is proving everyone wrong, though, with a cast of characters Self has remade on the fly led by one of the best freshman in the country in Gradey Dick, who is this week's CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week. Dick has been a mainstay in our freshman rankings, but he left no doubt this week as the clear best freshman in America with three monstrous performances in three wins.
The Jayhawks are more than just Dick -- they have a Player of the Year contender in Jalen Wilson, a defensive monster in Kevin McCullar, a do-it-all guard in Dajuan Harris and a Swiss Army Knife in KJ Adams. But Dick's gradual rise into one of the best sharpshooting wings and a multi-faceted scoring threat has made Kansas a true threat to repeat as title winners. This week he edged out a loaded list of contenders to take home his first FOTW honors.
Let's dive into the rankings this week with a brief detour on Dick.
Freshman of the Week: Gradey Dick, Kansas
Welcome back to the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the five 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 weekly feature. Each week we'll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.
With a win Monday over No. 24 TCU, Kansas grabbed a half-game lead in the Big 12 over Texas with the Longhorns set to play Tuesday night. Dick punctuated his big week 19 points and six rebounds in a 63-58 road win, scoring 14 of his 19 in the first half to set the tone early for the Jayhawks.
After falling behind by as many as 17 points earlier in the week at home to Baylor, Dick's tone-setting early on the road vs. TCU was the difference in the game. KU grabbed the lead for good late in the first half and never relinquished it in the second half to hold off the Horned Frogs on their own court.
Gradey Dick led No. 3 Kansas to a win over a tough TCU team🔥 @gradey_dick— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) February 21, 2023
- 19 PTS (game-high)
- 6 REB pic.twitter.com/z8IWDq5fRz
After falling to TCU at home by 23 earlier in the season and starting sluggishly vs. Baylor over the weekend, Dick was the catalyst to make sure KU got a good head start Monday. His big week -- in which he averaged more than 20 points per game in three wins -- helped KU take the leade in the Big 12 race, too.
Now, without further ado, let's jump in to this week's rookie rankings -- with a brief pit stop highlighting the previous Freshman of the Week winners this season:
- Nov. 22: Anthony Black, Arkansas
- Nov. 29: Fletcher Loyer, Purdue
- Dec. 6: GG Jackson, South Carolina
- Dec. 13: Nick Smith Jr., Arkansas
- Dec. 20: Brandon Miller, Alabama
- Dec. 27: Cason Wallace, Kentucky
- Jan. 3: GG Jackson, South Carolina
- Jan. 10: Jarace Walker, Houston
- Jan. 17: Brandon Miller, Alabama
- Jan. 24: Brice Sensabaugh, Ohio State
- Jan. 31: Jarace Walker, Houston
- Feb. 7: Aidan Mahaney, Saint Mary's
- Feb. 14: Taylor Hendricks, UCF
Frosh Watch: Top five freshmen rankings
Miller has reached double figures in 26 of 27 games this season for the No. 2 Crimson Tide and continues to shine as one of the best 3-point shooters in the nation. He made 6-of-13 attempts from beyond the arc in two games last week and recorded his sixth double-double in a loss at Tennessee. At 6-foot-9, Miller is a versatile defender and capable of beating defenders off the dribble or taking smaller opponents into the post. His size and all-around game make him a lock to be selected in lottery of the upcoming NBA Draft, and those traits are also helping make Alabama one of college basketball's top teams.
Dick set a new career-high with 26 points in a win at Oklahoma State last Tuesday on 10 of 17 shooting and followed up with 16 and 19 in wins over Baylor and TCU on Saturday and Monday as the Jayhawks continued surging. The 6-8 wing keeps cementing his reputation as an elite outside shooter but is doing much more than that for KU. He uses his athleticism to pick up steals, and he combats close outs by stepping in for mid-range jumpers and can also attack the rim. On Monday against the Horned Frogs, he carried Kansas with 14 points in the first half.
After failing to score in a controversial overtime loss at Virginia on Feb. 11, Filipowski bounced back with a vengeance during three Duke victories over the past week. First, he finished with 22 points and six rebounds against Notre Dame, then posted 14 points and 11 boards in a win at Syracuse on Saturday. Finally, on Monday, the versatile 7-footer finished with 13 points and seven rebounds on efficient 5-of-7 shooting against Louisville. Some of Duke's other heralded freshmen have started improving as of late, but Filipowski remains a steady source of offense for the Blue Devils
George played a big role in helping Baylor take a 13-point halftime lead at Kansas on Saturday before the Jayhawks roared back. Ultimately, he finished with 20 points on 7-of-15 shooting for his 11th game of 20 or more points this season. The former five-star prospect is an offensive stalwart and one of the reasons why the Bears' backcourt is regarded as the nation's best. He and Gradey Dick of Kansas are in a tight race for Big 12 Freshman of the Year
Mahaney scored 13 in a win over San Diego and 16 in a win over Saint Mary's as the Gaels maintained their edge on Gonzaga in the WCC title race. The 6-3 guard hit 5-of-11 attempts from 3-point range over those two games and committed just two turnovers while continuing to stand out as best player for a team projected to be a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, according to Jerry Palm's Bracketology. Mahaney's offensive numbers are especially impressive considering that Saint Mary's is one of the slowest-paced teams in the nation.