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 in March, while a ceremony for all USBWA honors will take place in early April.
CBS Sports Freshman of the Week for Dec. 1-7: Duke’s Brandon Ingram.
Ingram is the pick after he went for 23.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals in Duke’s victories over Indiana and Buffalo in the past week.
Ingram was Duke’s most coveted recruit in a very strong, top-ranked 2015 class. So far this season, he’s not been a complete difference-maker, but because of his ranginess and opportunistic feel in the halfcourt, Ingram has been pretty important for Mike Krzyzewkski’s team. Duke is 8-1, and with a 120.2 offensive rating on KenPom.com, owner of the most efficient offense in the country.
Ingram, who’s shooting 52 percent from the field, will likely become more of a focal point as the season goes on. He’s unlikely to be Duke’s MVP (Grayson Allen has that role locked up, seemingly), but he could wind up being the most important player to the Devils this season.
Now, let’s take a first look at the overall race for Freshman of the Year.
Right now, I have two immediate takeaways.
1) It is not a great year for freshmen. It’s a good year, sure. Definitely not a “bad” year. But this group on the whole will not have as much impact or collective upside at the next level as the 2014-15 crop. It’s not an all-time class by any means. I’d be shocked if more than three guys comprised the 15 total that make up First, Second and Third team All-Americans.
2) You’ll notice some big names missing from the initial top 10. Look at our preseason list of the top 25 freshmen in the game. I promise you at least — at least — five of the players on that list who aren’t named today will wind up making an appearance in the top 10 at some point over the next six weeks.
(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.)
Here they are, the top five (and following five) freshmen in college basketball.
|RANK||PLAYER||WAYMAN TISDALE AWARD WATCH|
|1||BEN SIMMONS | LSU Tigers
Stats:19.9 ppg, 14.9 rpg, 6.0 apg, 35.37 PER, 123.9 ORtg
Though his team is in danger (yes, already) of not making the NCAA Tournament, Simmons is far and away the choice for No. 1 at this point of the season. He’s already had a triple-double, and he’s putting up rebounding stats in such a casual way, it’s alarming in its ease. Simmons is also posting stat lines that haven’t been achieved by any college hoops player in two decades. So, yeah, No. 1 with a bullet here.
|2||HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles
Stats: 16.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 22.44 PER, 104.1 ORtg Ellenson is the only real “challenger” to Simmons right now, because he’s the only other freshman capable of being so vital to his team and putting up huge numbers. The five-star newcomer to the Golden Eagles has been consistent, though in his game vs. Simmons and LSU, he did foul out. Otherwise, he’s been pretty reliable. Marquette is letting him step out and shoot 3s, too, but he’s 8 for 28 from deep this season. If that part of his game arrives, then maybe the No. 1 spot gets interesting.
|3||MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles
Stats:18.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 57.5 FG%, 30.14 PER, 135.0 ORtgAmong freshmen, only Simmons is averaging more points than Beasley, who is competing with teammate Dwayne Bacon for the right to be in the top five here. The surprising thing is, FSU has two of the top 10 frosh in college hoops right now, yet the Noles are 5-2 and not a top-five ACC teams as of now. Beasley beats out Bacon in almost every major traditional and modern statistical category. That 135 offensive rating is outrageously efficient and absolutely due to regress to the mean in the coming weeks, but still! His 71.1 true shooting percentage is also hilariously good, considering how often he has the ball in his hands.
|4||TYLER LYDON | Syracuse Orange
Stats:10.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 22.11 PER, 124.4 ORtgLydon was a big reason why Syracuse got into last weekend’s rankings … then Cuse went out and dropped two straight, so we’ll see how the team recovers without Jim Boeheim able to coach until January. Lydon makes the top four because he’s a combo forward who’s shooting 48 percent from 3-point range and is as likely to go off for 20 points as anyone else on the list. A breakout newcomer, for sure. Will he keep pace, or will fellow SU frosh Malachi Richardson make a push in the coming weeks?
|5||DEDRIC LAWSON | Memphis Tigers
Stats:15.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 23.07 PER, 96.0 ORtg
Memphis will have a hope in the American Athletic Conference race this season because Lawson has been as good as advertised. The only freshman inside a multi-bid conference putting up more total points and rebounds than Lawson? Yep, Simmons. The ORating is scary low, but his PER is better than Ellenson’s at this point. If you’ve watched Memphis play, you’ve seen Lawson contribute in ways that match what Austin Nichols did for the Tigers last season, and what a boon that is for Josh Pastner.
Next five up: Dwayne Bacon, Florida State; Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV; JaQuan Lyle, Ohio State; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; Brandon Ingram, Duke.
Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:
Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (19.9)
Rebounds: Simmons (14.9)
Assists: Tra-Deon Hollins, Nebraska Omaha (6.6)
Blocks: Yankuba Sima, St. John’s (3.75)
Steals: Hollins (4.25)
PER: Simmons (35.37)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Mike Daum, South Dakota State (110.9)
Previous winners this season of the CBS Sports Freshman of the Week:
Week 1: Ben Simmons, LSU
Week 2: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse