Ranking college basketball's best freshmen: Arkansas' Anthony Black is first Freshman of the Week for 2022-23

Ranking college basketball’s best freshmen: Arkansas’ Anthony Black is first Freshman of the Week for 2022-23

The college basketball season is still young and so, too, is our first annual Frosh Watch rankings, our weekly scan across the sport wherein we rank the top freshmen based upon their statistical profiles and impact on their new teams.

The debut of our column was one of our tougher assignments in recent memory given how many freshmen have fared well this season — and that doesn’t include five-stars Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively, Cam Whitmore and Nick Smith Jr., who have all been injured — but David Cobb and I each submitted separate ballots and took the aggregate of our rankings to deliver a top five fresh out of the oven.

You’ll see below that this week in particular is SEC-heavy with not only the top Freshman of the Week coming from the conference, but also the top two in our rankings being represented by No. 18 Alabama and No. 15 Kentucky, respectively . But the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC all had talents that earned spots on the rankings, including a pair of five-stars and the son of a Fab Five legend who is looking one-and-done good.

Without further ado, let’s jump into our first rankings and get to our first CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week.

Welcome back to the Frosh Watch, our weekly ranking of the five most impressive freshmen in college basketball. CBS Sports has once again teamed up with the United States Basketball Writers Association and its Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award to present this every-Tuesday feature. Each week we’ll start by announcing the national Freshman of the Week honoree. The cycle for FOTW runs Tuesday-Monday.

This was a toss-up all week until Monday when Anthony Black went out and took the award running away. Black was the catalyst to No. 9 Arkansas’ smackdown of Louisville in its 80-54 win in the Maui Invitational, posting a career-high 26 points and six assists to go with a pair of steals and a team-high plus-minus of +27.

Black was the second-highest ranked recruit in Arkansas’ No. 2 incoming class behind No. 1 prospect Nick Smith Jr., but with Smith Jr. out nursing a minor injury, Black has emerged as the go-to playmaker for the Hogs on both ends of the floor. His 2.5 steals per game rank second among all major conference freshmen and his assist rate of 19.8% ranks fifth among major conference freshmen who have played at least 75 minutes on the season.

Frosh Watch: Top five freshman rankings

1. Brandon Miller, Alabama

Stats: 20.3PPG | 9.3 RPGs | 2.3 APG | 51.7% 3PT

Watching Miller against high-quality opposition in the Phil Knight Invitational this week is going to be fun, because he’s absolutely crushed it in four games against low and mid-major opposition to begin his career. After going 0 for 6 from 3-point range in the opener, Miller is 15 for 23 from deep in Alabama’s three games since. He’s great on the boards, an excellent passer and rangy enough to guard almost anyone defensively.

2. Cason Wallace, Kentucky

Stats: 12.6 PPG | 4.6 APG | 3.4 GSP | 53.3% 3PT

Wallace has been the bright spot of Kentucky’s underwhelming 3-2 start with offensive efficiency and vicious perimeter defense. NBA scouts must be drooling over the two-way chops he showed against Michigan State and Gonzaga. Wallace totaled an absurd 12 steals in those two games and made 6 of 11 attempts from 3-point range. Wallace’s immediate effectiveness on both sides of the ball against high-level opposition suggests his NBA Draft stock will soar in the weeks to come.

3. Gradey Dick, Kansas

Stats: 16.8 PPG | 3.8 RPGs | 50% 3PT

Dick came through late for No. 3 Kansas during the Jayhawks’ 69-64 win over Duke in the Champions Classic by scoring three clutch buckets in the final two and a half minutes. The rangy wing has been billed as an elite shooter and is 50% from deep so far. But he’s also looked great in transition and attacking the basket while more than holding his own defensively for the reigning national champions.

4. Jett Howard, Michigan

Stats: 14.4 PPG | 2.8 APG | 41.2% 3PT

After Hunter Dickinson, Howard has been Michigan’s best player through five games. He does a little bit of everything for the Wolverines, including passing. Howard has four or more assists in three games, had four blocks in Michigan’s OT win over Ohio on Sunday and has better than a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio thus far. With his size and advanced skill set, Howard is looking like a one-and-done prospect.

5. Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Stats: 15.6 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 36.4% 3PT

Filipowski entered with slightly less fanfare than Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead in No. 8 Duke’s top-ranked recruiting class. But with those guys working their way back from injury to begin the season, Filipowski is the one standing out. He’s reached double figure in every game thus far and had an impressive 17 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas. With the dual ability to step out and hit 3-pointers and take defenders on the block, Filipowski is proving to be a tough matchup for opposing defenses.

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