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. 26-Feb. 1: Cornell’s Matt Morgan.
Well, what a surprise we have here!
Cornell, a 9-9 Ivy League team that has yet to put together a streak of any kind longer than two games this season, is the producer of the latest CBS Sports Freshman of the Week. Marquette’s Henry Ellenson and Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon — two players who help comprise the top five of the national Freshman Watch, which you can view below — had strong outputs over the previous seven days.
But Morgan did this.
He is the right choice here. Morgan’s team won both games, and won them on the road, no less. The Big Red defeated Harvard and Dartmouth behind record-setting performances from their first-year sensation. He averaged 32.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in the weekend road swing, which marked the first time in three seasons that Cornell won consecutive road games and the first time since 2010 that the Big Red won two roadies in one weekend.
Morgan looks like the best freshman in the league, too.
His 33 points at Harvard (a 77-65 win) set a school record for a first-year player. No turnovers for him in that game either. His 3-pointer with less than four minutes remaining gave Cornell a lead it did not relinquish. Against Dartmouth, Morgan scored nine points in the final three minutes and 43 seconds to help the Big Red slip by with a 77-73 win.
No Cornell freshman has ever scored 30 points in a game twice in one season. Until now.
And with his 18.5 points average, he’s No. 4 in the nation among freshmen. He’s not in the top 10 of the national Frosh Watch yet, but he’s officially on the radar.
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 blew its latest, biggest and best opportunity to notch a critical victory for its NCAA Tournament resume. The 77-75 home loss to No. 1 Oklahoma saw the Tigers hold a 57-44 lead on the Sooners in the second half, but because OU is an elite offense, of course it came back. Simmons went 6 for 7 from the field, but he managed only one touch down the stretch; a turn of events that vexed viewers and led many to criticize Johnny Jones’ coaching yet again. Simmons’ team is now 13-8 and facing a road game against slippery Auburn on Tuesday night. A loss there and the laments against LSU’s March prospects will be as loud as they’ve been all season. But, yeah, in spite of the team’s record, he’s still the clear-cut No. 1 person in the Watch.
|2||BRANDON INGRAM | Duke Blue Devils
Stats:17.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 26.24 PER, 120.0 ORtg
Duke has not played since last week’s Frosh Watch, meaning Ingram does not lose his spot at No. 2 despite Ellenson having another really good week. It’s essentially a Clinton/Sanders Iowa thing going on here. The two are tied, for all intents and purposes. Duke — unranked for the first time since 2007 — has a road game against Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. Then NC State on Saturday at Cameron Indoor.
|3||HENRY ELLENSON | Marquette Golden Eagles
Stats: 16.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 21.54 PER, 100.9 ORtg Ellenson has been the Big East’s freshman of the week five times this season, including last week, when he averaged 22.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in wins over Stetson and Butler. His 32 points vs. the Bulldogs was a career–best effort. It was the most points scored by an MU frosh since some guy named Dwyane did it in the 2001-02 season. Ellenson is going to be a top-10 pick. Bank on it. Marquette is now 15-7 with season-defining road games this week against Seton Hall and Xavier. If the Golden Eagles can manage to win both of those games — it is too tough an ask, honestly — then they’ll be in bracket projections come Monday. Exciting week ahead.
|4||MALIK BEASLEY | Florida State Seminoles
Stats:17.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 51.84FG%, 24.77 PER, 120.1 ORtgBeasley continues to have a strong grip on the 4 spot here. He averaged 19.5 points last week in FSU’s wins over Boston College and Clemson (the Clemson win being fairly vital to keeping FSU’s tournament hopes in reality). And in both those games, Beasley was 7-of-13 from the field. On the whole, he’s still having a better season than his freshman colleague, but ….
|5||DWAYNE BACON | Florida State Seminoles
Stats:16.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.5 apg, 20.13 PER, 102.3 ORtg
After sitting at the 6 spot for weeks and weeks, Dwayne Bacon has finally broken through into the top five. Which means we now have to ask how Florida State is only 15-7 with these two performing at this level. (In short, this is fast-playing team that’s gone up against a tough schedule, and it’s still relatively young.) Bacon was the ACC freshman of the week after he had 12 points and 14 boards against Boston College, then scored 21 against Clemson, and on Monday night had 20 in FSU’s win over NC State.
Next five up: Dedric Lawson, Memphis; Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State; Jamal Murray, Kentucky; James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan; Ivan Rabb, California.
Freshman statistical leaders in major categories:
Points: Ben Simmons, LSU (19.5)
Rebounds: Simmons (12.5)
Assists: Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State (5.1)
Blocks: Yankuba Sima, St. John’s (3.06)
Steals: Laquincy Rideau, Gardner-Webb (2.52)
PER: Simmons (31.76)
ORtg (In highest usage block; min. 28 percent of possessions used): Mike Daum, South Dakota State (118.5)
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