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. 8-14: Marquette’s Henry Ellenson.
This was an easy one. Marquette went 2-0, and Ellenson’s showing in the wins against rival Wisconsin, and San Jose State, saw him put up 17.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists. The game at Wisco was huge, Ellenson nabbing the fifth double-double of the campaign in the process.
Ellenson is one of those prospects whose skillset has only been enhanced and improved by the college game. He was a McDonald’s All-American, but those guys don’t immediately take to the next level in many cases. For Ellenson, his sundry skills have only gotten better. And now Marquette is 8-2 and playing better in year No. 2 for Steve Wojciechowski than most outside of Wisconsin expected.
It also helps that, despite his size, Ellenson doesn’t get into foul trouble and doesn’t force the issue too much. If you’ve not yet seen him play, Marquette needs to be on your checklist going forward.
Below, the top 10 in our Freshman of the Year Watch. Ellenson is holding firm at No. 2.
(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:19.0 ppg, 14.8 rpg, 5.9 apg, 34.31 PER, 122.6 ORtg
Simmons fouled out in regulation of his team’s overtime loss at Houston on Sunday night. Since then, the talk of LSU missing the NCAAs — and Simmons not getting a chance to show his skills on college hoops’ biggest stage — has become prominent. As it should. It’s good that we’re “concerned,” or at least talking about, college basketball in this manner. It doesn’t always have to be positive. Simmons has been great but his team has been mediocre. If this continues, I wonder if some will eventually try to pin it on him as much as they will on his coach.
|2||HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles
Stats: 16.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 22.91 PER, 105.7 ORtg Ellenson is Marquette’s highest usage-rate player and has gotten to the foul line more than any Golden Eagle, too. He’s going to challenge Simmons for No. 1 in the short-term because Marquette’s next two games are against Chicago State and Presbyterian, teams that rank 339 and 331 in KenPom, respectively.
|3||MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles
Stats:18.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 53.7 FG%, 28.93 PER, 128.9 ORtgThe FSU newcomer is still a solid choice at No. 3. He had 16 points and eight boards in FSU’s 75-58 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday. Interesting matchup forthcoming, as FSU will play Mississippi State on Wednesday. MSU has the other really talented freshman named Malik — Newman. But Newman hasn’t been near consistent enough to sniff the top 10 just yet. A big performance from him against Beasley and Dwayne Bacon could go a long way.
|4||DEDRIC LAWSON | Memphis Tigers
Stats:16.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg, 24.77 PER, 99.7 ORtg
The points, PER and offensive rating are all up from a week ago. Given his numbers, Lawson is playing like one of the most overlooked guys in the country, though that’s in part because Memphis is 6-2 with a very bad nonconference schedule. That schedule also means Lawson should stay put in the top five over the next couple of weeks.
|5||BRANDON INGRAM | Duke Blue Devils
Stats:13.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.3 bpg, 23.03 PER, 110.4 ORtg
Duke has a player crack the top five for the third straight season in the Freshman of the Year Watch. Jahlil Okafor commanded the top spot in this space last season, while Jabari Parker was in the mix constantly in 2013-14. Now Ingram finds himself fifth thanks to a role that allows him to freelance while still being a constantly shifting player in the offense. Sometimes he’s a focal point, other times he’s a role player. It’s just what he needs for now. He’s also nabbing 1.2 steals per game. His 45-percent shooting needs to take a rise, though. Ingram still very much raw.
Next five up: Tyler Lydon, Syracuse; Dwayne Bacon, Florida State; Stephen Zimmerman, UNLV; Isaiah Briscoe, Kentucky; Caleb Swanigan, Purdue.
Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:
Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (19.0)
Rebounds: Simmons (14.8)
Assists: Tra-Deon Hollins, Nebraska Omaha (6.1)
Blocks: Yankuba Sima, St. John’s (3.60)
Steals: Hollins (4.20)
PER: Raymond Spalding, Louisville (34.44)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Mike Daum, South Dakota State (110.3)
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