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. 29-Jan. 4 Maryland’s Diamond Stone.
Mark Turgeon nabbed one of the greatest recruiting victories of his career on when Diamond Stone sent out this tweet last March 27.
I Am Committing To The University Of Maryland #Terps
— All Eyes On Me (@Diamond_Stone33) March 28, 2015
The five-star big man out of Milwaukee picked the Terrapins over the likes of Wisconsin and UConn. It signaled a legitimate power play by a power program in search of a triumphant return to national prominence. Stone wouldn’t necessarily be a program-changer, but his Maryland commitment showed that Turgeon was finally paying dividends and establishing a Final Four-caliber roster for 2015-16.
Stone took some time to find his groove, but last week, he came off the bench to score 39 points — and proved to be the pivotal deciding factor — in Maryland’s come-from-behind win against Penn State. Stone also had 12 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
In Maryland’s win at Northwestern’s place on Saturday, Stone wasn’t as needed. He finished with 10 points, three boards and two blocks. But still, it was just enough to warrant him taking this week’s Freshman of the Week honor. Stone also nudged past five other candidates for No. 10 in the latest Freshman of the Year Watch, which is listed below. He’s averaging 13.1 points and 5.2 rebounds while playing just 20 minutes per game. If his PT goes up to 26 or 27 minutes, Stone will be a threat to bring in a double-double almost every game.
Saturday should be interesting. Maryland goes on the road and plays against the program Stone bypassed in order to live in College Park: Wisconsin. Wonder how the fans will treat the big man, and I wonder when Turgeon will give Stone the nod in the starting lineup.
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:20.5 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 5.8 apg, 36.14 PER, 125.0 ORtg
Currently is first in points, first in rebounds, first in PER, second in assists and first in ORating among all freshman. His PER is actually tops in the country, and so his rebounding. LSU earned a nice road win at Vanderbilt on Saturday, but in reality it showed more about Vandy’s inabilitly to beat the best teams on its schedule. The real showcase for Simmons comes tonight, on Tuesday, as the Bayou Bengals host Kentucky. This is a massive opportunity for Simmons’ Player of the Year campaign, but more importantly, LSU’s chance to get back into the NCAA Tournament discussion.
|2||BRANDON INGRAM | Duke Blue Devils
Stats:16.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.5 spg, 26.36 PER, 119.8 ORtg
Ingram moves up to No. 2, but he’s a mere shade ahead of Ellenson at this point. In the big picture, Ingram’s abilities and how he’s shown himself to become more and more valuable as the weeks go on here, well it’s led to him being the No. 2 projected pick in this June’s draft. This has been quite a leap for Ingram, who was seen as anywhere from 10-20th overall just a few months ago. In my opinion, Simmons has already shown so much that it’s nearly impossible to see a situation wherein Ingram gets picked ahead of him, but if his 3-point shooting can climb from 37 to 41 or 42 percent, then the conversation will really get interesting.
|3||HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles
Stats: 16.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.4 apg, 21.31 PER, 101.8 ORtg Ellenson is turning into this interesting case wherein the numbers aren’t gaudy, but if you watch him play, you absolutely see an eclectic force with a skillset that works so well at the college level — and you know it’s going to translate. Ellenson’s not NBA-ready in the moment the way Ingram and Simmons are, but he could get some burn at the next level right now, certainly. If only his team was better. Marquette ranks 113th in KenPom and is 10-4 after dropping its first two Big East games by an average of 15 points.
|4||MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles
Stats:17.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 50.0 FG%, 26.60 PER, 124.5 ORtgBeasley continues to narrowly edge out teammate Dwayne Bacon, but for this week, I had to move Dedric Lawson down, so now we’ve got a cram at 4-6. And it’s not as if Bacon has played so well that two FSU freshman deserve to be in the top five. It’s turning into a very funky Frosh Watch below the top three guys. Beasley averaged 16 points and six boards in the three games since last week’s update, but FSU went 1-2.
|5||DEDRIC LAWSON | Memphis Tigers
Stats:14.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 22.58 PER, 96.1 ORtg
Lawson’s efficiency is really starting to sag, but he’s by far the most important player for Memphis at this point, and his possessions prove it. His usage rating is above 30 percent, while his shooting percentage is at a mere 43.7. For a 6-8 quasi stretch type, he’s going to have to take some better shots in order to keep Memphis in the top four in the AAC. And that’s no guarantee. The Tigers are 9-4, get one more non-conference game (Nicholls State on Tuesday) then have a road game against UConn on Saturday. A biggie.
Next five up: Dwayne Bacon, Florida State; Allonzo Trier, Arizona; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; Tra-Deon Hollins, Nebraska Omaha; Diamond Stone, Maryland.
Dropped out: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse; Edmond Sumner, Xavier.
Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:
Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (20.5)
Rebounds: Simmons (13.1)
Assists: Tra-Deon Hollins, Nebraska Omaha (5.6)
Blocks: Yankuba Sima, St. John’s (3.13)
Steals: Hollins (4.0)
PER: Simmons (36.14)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Simmons (125.0)
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