CBS Sports college hoops Freshman of the Week: LSU phenom Ben Simmons

Simmons has certainly matched his hype through four games this season. (USATSI)

Every Tuesday throughout the regular season, CBS Sports will name its Freshman of the Week in men’s basketball. Starting in December, we’ll again be tracking the national Freshman of the Year race, too. Feel free to submit notes, stories and stats to matt.norlander@cbsinteractive.com.

Freshman of the Week for Nov. 17-23: LSU’s Ben Simmons

OK, first thing: Of course it had to be Simmons. But more on that in a minute. As we begin another season, and in seeing the presence Simmons has on the floor, I am wondering how often he’ll be the guy this season. In a relatively weak freshman class, it looks like Simmons is a cut above. Let’s do some guesswork here on how many times No. 25 is going to win this award. We have 16 weeks ahead of us. Over/under on Simmons taking home the honors is set at 8.5. You dare take the under?

I don’t.

Simmons is neither a perfect player nor a perfect freshman, and comparisons to LeBron James needed to stop last week. Also, I’ll note his team lost a fairly important game on Monday night against just-OK Marquette.

Before the loss, before passing up taking the final shot, let’s remember he did do this.

From an individual standpoint, Simmons has been great. This is in part because of his spacing, passing ability and the fact teams can’t keep him from getting to the rim. There isn’t a video readily available for this, but during one play against Marquette Monday night, a bizarre sequence played out where Simmons slowly dribbled in practically a strut from the 3-point line to the foul line. Marquette’s defense, unsure what he would decide to do, simply kept the space there.

Why?

Simmons can’t regularly hit shots beyond 10 feet. So it’s a smart play from that standpoint, and also because Simmons can create with the dribble. Playing off him is oddly the right thing in a lot of situations. In his past two games, Simmons is averaging 22 points, 18 (!) rebounds and five dimes. On the season he’s at 19.3/14.5/5.3. It’s a stellar start.

Consider:

Against Marquette, those seven assists were big, yet it was his decisions to make two passes on LSU’s final possession that had people scratching their heads. Simmons’ biggest flaw could be his unselfishness, so the belief goes.

LSU is 3-1 and facing as much of gotta-have-it kind of game in mid-November as you could expect when it goes up against NC State on Tuesday. Why so desperate? Just peek at the Tigers’ schedule. It’s bad. This program won’t play another legitimate team until 2016. Beating the Wolfpack could wind up being vital down the road.

Until then, enjoy plays like this. Simmons is going to provide a variety of highlights in every game he plays this season.

Here he just blows by the entire Marquette transition defense to get a bucket at the rim with his off hand, showing off impressive speed and burst:

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