Duke’s Brandon Ingram Freshman of the Week, No. 2 in Freshman Rankings

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 Jan. 5-11: Duke’s Brandon Ingram.

Due to Duke’s back-to-back wins by an average of 20 points last week, wherein he averaged 16.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 blocks (!) and 2.0 steals, Brandon Ingram is again CBS Sports’ Freshman of the Week. The lanky wonder took home the honor in early December as well, and he’s the clear-cut No. 2 guy in the overall chase for Freshman of the Year.

Ingram’s shooting 48 percent this season, including a 39-percent rate from 3-point range. His skillset continues to develop; truth be told, he’s farther along this season than many thought he’d be, even though he was expected to perform as a one-and-done guy. You could easily make the case he’s a top-three projected 2016 NBA pick.

Yet he’s not getting quite as much run right now the way Jahlil Okafor did last season or Jabari Parker received the season before. You could even argue guys like Austin Rivers and Kyrie Irving had more publicity, yet Rivers wasn’t anywhere near as efficient as Ingram’s become, and Irving got his headlines, mostly, for missing 75 percent of Duke’s 2010-11 season.

Duke has a real wing option in Ingram, a guy who seldom finds himself in foul trouble and is becoming as good a two-way player as there is in the freshman class. (Yep, I said it.)

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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:

20.6 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 5.1 apg, 35.71 PER, 123.3 ORtg

It was a net positive for Simmons and his team last week, as LSU went 1-1, but the one win came on a big stage at home against Kentucky. The loss was on the road against Florida, and all told, LSU went 2-1 in a three-game stretch against those two teams and Vandy, so the outlook is improving — but the Tigers are still not an at-large team as of now. Because his numbers are so gaudy, and because he’s such a blatant talent, Simmons is one of six players with any realistic shot at winning any of the seven major national player of the year awards. He’s alongside Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Brice Johnson and Melo Trimble. It’s almost definite at this point that the POY honors will go to guys in that crop.

2 BRANDON INGRAM | Duke Blue Devils

Stats:

16.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 26.53 PER, 119.8 ORtg

Duke’s national player of the year candidate is Grayson Allen, but he’s only barely ahead of Ingram, really, and the two could flip-flop in the grand scheme of that chase within a week. Duke moved to 14-2 with pedestrian-like wins against Wake Forest and Virginia Tech last week. Ingram will likely hit that PR boost in the coming two weeks, with more national coverage shifting toward Durham.

3 HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles

Stats: 15.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 21.03 PER, 100.1 ORtg Another pair of double-doubles for Ellenson last week, with 13/10 (and four blocks) in a great win at Providence, then 15/10 with Marquette’s six-point home win against St. John’s on Saturday. Keep an eye out next week at here at CBSSports.com, as I plan on writing something a bit longer on Ellenson. He’s got an enjoyable skillset, and if he were playing on a team that was ranked in the preseason, he’d be getting more love/pub.
4 MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles

Stats:

16.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 48.3 FG%, 24.99 PER, 120.2 ORtgThe gulf between the top three guys and the rest of the class becomes wider by the week. Beasley stays at No. 4 by default. He had a 14.0-point, 8.5-rebound showing last week in two games — two games that Florida State lost. The thing that’s not helping Beasley and fellow FSU freshman Dwayne Bacon’s case: The Seminoles can’t put together big winning streaks and/or beat the really good teams.

5 DEDRIC LAWSON | Memphis Tigers

Stats:

14.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 20.68 PER, 93.7 ORtg

Memphis can only lose so much before Lawson’s standing in the top five falls victim. The Tigers had a ugly-but-good effort at UConn over the weekend, but still lost. Lawson went for 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and four fouls. The Huskies have legit size up front, even without Amida Brimah for the time being, so it was an OK performance. The next two games for the Tigers are must-win in order to keep their season afloat: Temple at home on Wednesday, then South Florida at home on Saturday.

Next five up: Dwayne Bacon, Florida State; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue; Tra-Deon Hollins, Nebraska Omaha; Diamond Stone, Maryland; James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan.

Dropped out: Allonzo Trier, Arizona

Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:

Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (20.6)
Rebounds: Simmons (13.1)
Assists: Tra-Deon Hollins, Nebraska Omaha (5.6)
Blocks: Yankuba Sima, St. John’s (3.06)
Steals: Hollins (4.06)
PER: Simmons (35.71)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Simmons (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

Brandon Ingram is on Ben Simmons’ heels in both mock drafts and the Freshman Watch. (USATSI)

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