Freshman rankings: UNC’s Coby White is Freshman of the Week; Zion’s lead on RJ Barrett narrowing in Frosh Watch

CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award. Every Tuesday we announce a national Freshman of the Week winner in addition to our Frosh Watch, which is a ranking of the top 10 most statistically impressive freshmen in men’s Division I college basketball. This is the penultimate edition of the Frosh Watch; next Tuesday’s will be the finale. 

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UNC guard Coby White is the CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week USATSI

Freshman of the Week: Coby White, North Carolina

The North Carolina Tar Heels still have a chance at a No. 1 seed and the ACC regular-season title.

Freshman point guard Coby White is the biggest reason why.

The scoring blur from Goldsboro, North Carolina, averaged 31.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals in the Heels’ wins over Syracuse and Clemson in the previous seven days. UNC is now 24-5 with a 14-2 mark in the ACC. White was effective and efficient, shooting 60 percent from the field and making 12 of his 22 3-pointers in those games (54.5 percent). He also made 14 of his 16 attempts from the free throw line. 

White is setting UNC records almost by the week, which is amazing in and of itself, but has been overshadowed by the other two notable frosh in the ACC this season. White’s back-to-back games with at least six made threes is a school record. He’s the only Carolina player to put up three 30-point games in his first season. Per UNC, “White now owns the third-, fourth- and fifth-highest scoring games ever by a Tar Heel freshman.”

That’s flatly astounding, given the uniform he wears. 

White has been climbing up our Frosh Watch the past month and is as high this week in our rankings as he’s been all season. Carolina got a close-shave win at Clemson, the victory coming in no small part to White, who made a big three and hit key foul shots in the final 90 seconds of that game. College basketball fans are well aware of his ability at this point, but with UNC set to be, probably, a two seed at worst in the NCAAs, the big-haired kid with the big game is going to have his big moment(s) later this month. 

FROSH WATCH 

These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball.

1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Key stats: 21.6 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 130.2 KenPom ORtg

Despite missing the last three games for Duke recovering from a knee sprain, Zion Williamson’s domination throughout the rest of the season has earned him some injury leeway, and he remains firmly atop our Frosh Watch. He’s still listed as day-to-day in his recovery, and coach Mike Krzyzewski says he’s in the final phase of his get-right program. “It is still day-to-day,” he said via the News & Observer. “But he’s in phase four of the four-phase program. It’s just a matter of how long he stays in it. We feel comfortable. He had a good day of therapy and band work and conditioning (on Sunday).”

2. RJ BARRETT, Duke

Key stats: 23.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 4.2 apg

In the absence of Zion Williamson, Barrett has more than picked up the slack, scoring 33, 30, 21 and 19 points — a killer 25.75 points per game average — in games since his fellow frosh star went down. And it’s not just his scoring that’s picked up, either: Barrett’s rebound and assist numbers are up across the board as well, displayed this week with a 19 point, 10 rebound, seven assist outing against Miami in a 30-point win. Just this week he surpassed Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker for the second-most points scored by a Duke freshman with 670. He’s only 24 points away from clipping Marvin Bagley III and becoming the highest-scoring Duke freshman ever.

3. ANTOINE DAVIS, Detroit

Key stats: 26.0 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.0 rpg

Davis is now the most prolific freshman 3-point shooter in NCAA history. The Detroit Mercy guard passed Steph Curry’s mark of 122 last Thursday when he finished with 20 points in the Titans’ 87-85 win over IUPUI. Davis sank three more triples in Detroit’s season-finale loss on Saturday, falling 80-71 to UIC. Davis is now 128-of-384 from deep this season (38.3 percent) and living the dream. As the son of coach Mike Davis, he’s been afforded the greenest of lights. Davis shoots 11.5 3s per game, second in the country only to Campbell’s Chris Clemons (11.6).

4. LAMINE DIANE, Cal State Northridge  

Key stats: 24.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 2.2 bpg

Last season, a freshman named Deandre Ayton put up 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game en route to becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. This season, a freshman named Lamine Diane out of Cal State Northridge is putting up similarly gaudy numbers: 24.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.2 bpg. Diane’s doing his damage with a significantly higher usage rate — second among all Division I players — but what he’s accomplished this season is truly remarkable. He became CSun’s new all-time leader in points and field goals made in a season two weeks ago, when CSun still had four games remaining on its schedule.

5. COBY WHITE, North Carolina 

Key stats: 16.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.2 apg

North Carolina is peaking at just the right time of the season, and so too is wily frosh guard Coby White. This week he earned Frosh of the Week honors, averaging 31 points, five rebounds and four assists in two UNC’s wins, busting out of a killer slump in spectacular fashion. With three 30-plus point outings this season, White now holds a new UNC freshman record.

6. ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana

Key stats: 16.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.2 apg

Langford totaled 31 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two assists in Indiana’s season-saving double dip of wins last week. The Hoosiers won 75-73 in double overtime at home vs. Wisconsin, then took out Michigan State on Saturday, 63-62, to enter back into the bubble picture. Strangely, Langford was solid in those games but not MVP-ish. And for much of the season, he’s been the MVP. He’s still in good standing in the Watch, but let’s keep an eye on the 15-14 Hoosiers this week (at Illinois on Thursday, home vs. Rutgers on Sunday) to see if Langford not being the focal point of the offense becomes the trend. 

7. KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky

Key stats: 13.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.6 apg

Kentucky split the week down the middle, going 1-1 with a win over Arkansas and a loss to No. 7 Tennessee. Johnson’s week was also split; he put up a 13 point, six rebound and three assist stat line against the Razorbacks, and was a huge part of its comeback win. Against Tennessee, however, he shot just 2-for-9 from the floor and had three turnovers to only one assist. Johnson is still holding steady in our Watch, though. He’s third on the Wildcats in scoring, rebounding and 3-point percentage, and inarguably one of the biggest impact players for a team in prime position to make a deep run in March.

8. JALEN PICKETT, Siena 

Key stats: 15.7 ppg, 6.7 apg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 spg

Siena went 1-1 last week to close out the MAAC slate at 11-7. Not bad for a team picked last in the preseason in the league. Pickett has been a huge reason why, and he was great yet again last week. He averaged 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists. Pickett put up a game-high 27 points, plus eight dimes, six boards and three steals in Siena’s overtime win at Niagara. With one more steal, Pickett will have 65 swipes, a Siena freshman record. He’s the best MAAC freshman in a generation. The Saints will play in the MAAC tournament quarterfinals on Saturday at home vs. Rider. 

9. JAYDEN GARDNEREast Carolina

Key stats: 16.9 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.3 apg

East Carolina’s 3-13 in the American, nearly locking up the second-worst placement in the league’s regular season standings. The bright spots have been few and far between in Greenville; it’s safe to count freshman Jayden Gardner among them. He leads the AAC in scoring among non-upperclassmen (juniors or seniors), and has undoubtedly been the biggest impact newcomer in the league this season. ECU wraps its season this week with a road tilt against Wichita State followed by a home finale against UConn.

10. NICK MUSYZNSKI, Belmont

Key stats: 15.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.2 bpg

Accounting for overall impact, Nick Musyznski is absolutely deserving of a spot in our Frosh Watch. The 6-11 center is efficiently hitting 62.3 percent of his field goals and 41.2 percent of his 3s for a Belmont team that is tops in the OVC. The Bruins have the No. 1 seed in the OVC Tournament, and play Friday against the winner of Austin Peay, and whoever emerges between Morehead State and SIUE.

Previous Freshman of the Week winners:

Categories: National Sports

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