Freshman Watch: Ben Simmons is still No. 1, and again Frosh of the Week

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. 2-8: LSU’s Ben Simmons.

LSU is back on track to reach the NCAA Tournament, and if you can believe it, this marks just the second time this season its stud newcomer has won the Freshman of the Week award here at CBS Sports. In fact, Simmons hasn’t won it since the first week.

But his 18.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.5 steals and 1.5 blocks across the Bayou Bengals’ wins over Auburn and Mississippi State have certainly earned him recognition. Simmons beat out two other contenders who had nice weeks. Kentucky’s Jamal Murray (35 points against Florida) came close, as did Diamond Stone (Maryland), who nearly had a triple-double by way of points, board and blocks against Nebraska last Wednesday.

Simmons had a better line across the board in both games, so he takes the crown this week. In doing so, he extends his lead in our Freshman of the Year race. Simmons is threatening to go wire to wire atop the Watch. He leads all freshmen in points, rebounds and player efficiency rating. He’s also becoming a better mid-range shooter. Simmons, who still gets plenty of his points at the rim, is starting to make defenses respect his 16-footer.

On the year, he’s shooting 56.9 percent from 2-point range. He was 16 for 26 in his most recent two games. He’s only getting better, and it’s no surprise LSU is tracking at the same projection as well. It’s about time his defense got more respect and recognition, too.

Simmons is getting it done with defense plenty, too. He’s a solid shot-blocker. (Cornell Athletics)

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:

19.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg, 4.9 apg, 32.71 PER, 117.8 ORtg

LSU is now 15-8, but it has two critical games this week. It has to go on the road Wednesday and face 20-3 South Carolina. Tough ask. Then, Texas A&M will come to town this weekend, and the Aggies are in a spot of needing to not slip any further if they’re to remain a 3 seed or better going forward. Also, the SEC standings are on the line. LSU is atop the conference standing. Simmons has been atop the Frosh Watch all year, but just to be clear: If he posts his average in the three major categories in both games this week — and LSU wins both — the Tisdale Award is basically locked up.

2 BRANDON INGRAM | Duke Blue Devils

Stats:

17.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 26.24 PER, 120.0 ORtg

Ingram’s newbie teammate, Luke Kennard, took home the ACC Freshman of the Week because he scored 26 against NC State. But Kennard’s three-game average since last Tuesday comes out to 15 points, less than three rebounds, and one assist per game. Not gonna cut it here! As for Ingram, he had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and the impressive part of it is just how casual it came off. That is the sign of a really good player. Ingram will be the most crucial player for Duke’s tough next three: vs. Virginia, at North Carolina, at Louisville.

3 HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles

Stats: 16.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 21.28 PER, 101.1 ORtg Ellenson is still just a tad behind Ingram, who had the benefit of playing three games since the most recent Frosh Watch update, and in that team put up such stout numbers. Ellenson averaged 16.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in MU’s road losses last week at Seton Hall and Xavier. The Golden Eagles get Providence and Creighton at home this week. They’re both tough but winnable games. If Ellenson’s going to appear in this year’s NCAAs, you’d have to think winning both of these is mandatory.
4 MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles

Stats:

17.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 51.5FG%, 24.46 PER, 121.1 ORtgThere’s Florida State, now winners of four straight and all of the sudden in a comfortable position toward being in the Big Dance. And, man, Beasley is such an important aspect to this. He’s played himself into the top 30 of some draft boards. He averaged 15.5 points in wins over NC State and Wake last week, meaning it was a below-average pair of games.

5 DWAYNE BACON | Florida State Seminoles

Stats:

16.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 19.94 PER, 102.0 ORtg

Much like Ingram barely beating out Ellenson for the 2 spot, Bacon is only nudging past Jamal Murray for the top five here. And if Murray keeps going, he’ll be in the top half of the top 10 a week from now. Just like his teammate, Bacon averaged 15.5 in the past two. He’s got to either stop taking 3s or drastically improve his long ball soon (19 for 73 on the season; yikes).

Next five up: ; Jamal Murray, Kentucky; Dedric Lawson, Memphis; Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State; James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan; Diamond Stone, Maryland.

Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:

Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (19.4)
Rebounds: Simmons (12.3)
Assists: Joseph Chartouny, Fordham (5.2)
Blocks: Kassoum Yakwe, St. John’s (2.79)
Steals: Laquincy Rideau, Gardner-Webb (2.44)
PER: Simmons (31.40)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Mike Daum, South Dakota State (119.1)

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

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