BYU’s Emery clear-cut Frosh of the Week; Kentucky’s Murray in top 5

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, meaning our weekly feature on the best freshman in the country will work hand in hand with the Tisdale committee and the USBWA. The winner of the award will be announced in March, while a ceremony for all USBWA honors will take place in early April.

CBS Sports Freshman of the Week for Feb. 9-15: BYU’s Nick Emery.

BYU is not likely to reach the NCAAs via at-large, but if the Cougars do break through and take the auto bid out of the WCC, look out. Dave Rose’s team can really run, and it’s got a freshman guard that’s liable to go off. All told, BYU has a pretty solid roster, meaning some of its losses this season are a bit mystifying.

Nevertheless, it’s time to give a shout-out to Cougar newbie Nick Emery, who helped BYU blow out San Francisco (114-89) and Santa Clara (96-62) last week. He averaged 34.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists, all the while shooting 69.4 percent (25-of-36). And he was 65 percent from 3-point range. He is the clear-cut choice for Freshman of the Week.

In the San Fran game, Emery was 10 for 12 from beyond the arc. It amounts to one of the best shooting performances in a single game from 3-point range this season. He finished with 37 points in that game, which is the second highest total for any WCC player this season. He’s the first freshman in program history to have consecutive 30-point games. He’s averaging 16.1 points. BYU trails Gonzaga by two games in the WCC standings.

Nick Emery is exactly the kind of player who could wind up being All-WCC by his junior season. (USATSI)

Below, the top 10 in our Freshman of the Year Watch.

(Quick key for two critical stats listed below: PER = player efficiency rating. ORtg = offensive rating. Explanations for both are in those links. Anything above 30 in PER is exceedingly good; topping 35 is elite. And anything above 120 in ORtg is undeniably great, while cracking 130 is absolutely remarkable.)

RANK PLAYER WAYMAN TISDALE AWARD WATCH
1 BEN SIMMONS | LSU Tigers

Stats:

19.3 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 4.9 apg, 31.46 PER, 118.1 ORtg

LSU is stll projected to make the NCAA Tournament after getting a split last week against fellow SEC programs likely to be dancing a month from now. The Tigers couldn’t keep up at South Carolina, then bounced back with a five-point home win over Texas A&M, which is just spiraling. Simmons averaged 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in those games. The A&M game was the fourth time this season Simmons played all 40 minutes. LSU has a tricky week ahead, hosting Alabama on Wednesday. The Tide is sitting on the 10 line of Jerry Palm’s latest bracket. Then a road game against Tennessee comes this weekend.

2 BRANDON INGRAM | Duke Blue Devils

Stats:

17.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 25.13 PER, 117.4 ORtg

Before Grayson Allen hit that buzzer-beater — which should not have counted — Ingram was the story. He had 25 points and continued to show why he’s challening Ben Simmons for the No. 1 draft pick. Ingram truly continues to get better each week. His ceiling is not viewable. Guy has like an eight-foot wingspan and is shooting 41 percent from 3. LOL OK. Ingram averaged 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as Duke took care of business at home. Now comes two tough roadies: at UNC on Wednesday, at Louisville on Saturday.

3 HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles

Stats: 16.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 21.22 PER, 101.5 ORtg Ellenson won Big East Freshman of the Week yet again. Here’s the thing: It’s not been a great year for freshman on the whole, but even still, I can’t help but think this is where we’re headed: Marquette’s going to miss the NCAAs, Ellenson’s going to declare for the draft, he’s going to turn into a nice pro within a few years and everyone’s going to forget just how productive he was in his one-and-done year with MU. He put up 21 points and 12 rebounds on average in the Golden Eagles’ games against Providence (a win) and Creighton (a loss). MU has DePaul on the road this week.
4 MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles

Stats:

16.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 49.0FG%, 23.08 PER, 118.2 ORtgBeasley’s lead on Jamal Murray is pretty thin. FSU did not have a good week, losing by 13 at Syracuse and then failing to win a critical home game against a really good Miami team. FSU’s resume really is something strange. Go check it out. As for Malik, he had his least productive two-game stretch this season, average 10 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals on 7 for 28 shooting. Which isn’t terrible! But he needs help, and Dwayne Bacon couldn’t provide it last week.

5 JAMAL MURRAY | Kentucky Wildcats

Stats:

18.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, 20.86 PER, 112.8 ORtg

Murray is almost definitely here to stay. He’s been playing so well as of late, and some of that has been overshadowed by his backcourt teammate. Tyler Ulis is putting up a strong candidacy for First Team All-American. Meanwhile, Murray is averaging 26.5 points in his last four games. In his last five games he’s shooting 50.3 percent, which is quite impressive considering he’s taken 50 3s in that stretch. Murray has played himself into being a sure-fire top-10 pick come June, I think.

Next five up: Dwayne Bacon, Florida State; Dedric Lawson, Memphis; James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan; Diamond Stone, Maryland; Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State.

Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:

Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (19.3)
Rebounds: Simmons (12.0)
Assists: Joseph Chartouny, Fordham (5.4)
Blocks: Kassoum Yakwe, St. John’s (2.70)
Steals: Laquincy Rideau, Gardner-Webb (2.30)
PER: Mike Daum, South Dakota State (32.04)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Mike Daum, South Dakota State (123.3)

Previous winners this season of the CBS Sports Freshman of the Week:

Week 1: Ben Simmons, LSU
Week 2: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse
Week 3: Brandon Ingram, Duke
Week 4: Henry Ellenson, Marquette
Week 5: Dwayne Bacon, Florida State
Week 6: Edmond Sumner, Xavier
Week 7: Diamond Stone, Maryland
Week 8: Brandon Ingram, Duke
Week 9: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State
Week 10: Henry Ellenson, Marquette
Week 11: Matt Morgan, Cornell
Week 12: Ben Simmons, LSU

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