If Michigan is going to turn its season around and reach the NCAA Tournament, it’s been obvious for a while that it will need its heralded group of freshmen to grow up in a hurry and figure out how to win in the Big Ten. The Wolverines made some serious progress in that regard last week as Caleb Houstan, the top-ranked freshman of the bunch, enjoyed the best week of his college career in the Wolverines’ victories over Maryland and Indiana.
The 6-foot-8 small forward scored 16 points in an 83-64 win over Maryland and reached a new career-high with 19 in Michigan’s 80-62 win at Indiana on Sunday to earn CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week honors. The win over the Hoosiers stands as the Wolverines’ only Quad 1 victory, and it bumped them up 16 spots to No. 38 in Tuesday’s NET ranking.
It’s no coincidence that the big victories coincided with Houstan’s breakout week, as the former No. 11 overall prospect from the 2021 Class made 13 of 19 shots from the field in the victories, including 8 of 11 from 3-point range. The Wolverines have a long way to go before they sniff the hype they enjoyed as the No. 6 team in the AP Top 25’s preseason poll. But Houstan’s play last week helped offer a roadmap for how they can get there.
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.
Previous FOTW winnersFrosh Watch
These are the top 10 freshman performers in college basketball this season.
1. Paolo Banchero | Duke
Stats: 17.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 33.3% 3PT
Banchero posted back-to-back double-doubles for the first time this season in Duke’s overtime loss at Florida State and in Saturday’s easy home win over Syracuse. Unfortunately, his efforts on the glass were not enough against the Seminoles as Duke got out-toughed. But Banchero remains a remarkably consistent all-around presence for the Blue Devils.
2. Jabari Smith | Auburn
Stats: 15.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 42.3% 3PT
Smith made several clutch plays in the second half of Auburn’s win over Kentucky on Saturday to help the Tigers reach No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history. His contested fadeaway jumper at the 2:28 mark to put the Tigers back ahead by six stood out, as did his rejection of an Oscar Tshiebwe layup attempt a couple minutes before.
3. Chet Holmgren | Gonzaga
Stats: 13.6 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 39.6% 3PT
Holmgren played his best all-around game to date Thursday as Gonzaga knocked off a good San Francisco team 78-62. The 7-footer scored a career-high 22 points while pulling down nine rebounds and swatting four shots. The standout performance performance was a sign of progress for Holmgren, who is keeping pace with Smith and Banchero in the national freshman of the year race.
4. TyTy Washington | Kentucky
Stats: 13.6 PPG, 4.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 39.7% 3PT
Washington had rough week as he was limited to just 23 minutes due to foul trouble in UK’s win at Texas A&M. Then, he left the Wildcats’ loss at Auburn midway through the first half with an apparent ankle injury. It was clear amid his absence how critical the freshman guard is to Kentucky’s offense, and thankfully there is nothing to indicate it’s a serious injury.
5. Blake Wesley | Notre Dame
Stats: 15.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG
Wesley is the focal point of Notre Dame’s offense these days, and the results are wonderful. He’s averaged 16.9 points per game during a stretch of eight wins in nine games. The 6-5 wing was phenomenal in a win over Louisville on Saturday, scoring 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
6. Terquavion Smith | NC State
Stats: 14.9 PPG, 36 RPG, 1.6 APG, 36.2% 3PT
Smith scored 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting in NC State’s win Saturday over a Virginia team that is typically stout defensively. It’s been a rough season for the Wolfpack, but Smith continues to offer hope for the future with big-time offensive performances.
7. Kennedy Chandler | Tennessee
Stats: 13.3 PPG, 4.9 APG, 2.3 SPG
Chandler’s 3-point shooting percentage has slipped to just 32.3%, but he made clutch plays in Tennessee’s wins over Vanderbilt and LSU this past week. He had an eye-catching five steals against the Commodores. His ability to reach the paint at will makes you wonder what he could do in an offensive system that didn’t clog the interior with two traditional bigs.
8. AJ Griffin | Duke
Stats: 8.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 53.5% FG, 46.6% 3PT
Griffin is averaging 11.9 points per game on just 7.6 shots in ACC play. He’s improved steadily over the season, and that’s earned him a spot in the starting lineup over the last four games. His efficient 3-point shooting has provided a considerable lift to Duke’s offense.
9. Kendall Brown | Baylor
Stats: 10.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Brown reached double figures for the first time this month with a 10-point, 8-rebound outing in Baylor’s win over Oklahoma on Saturday. The ultra-athletic wing also contributed three assists and two steals. His production has dipped recently, but he’s still a key player for a national title contender.
10. Caleb Houstan | Michigan
Stats: 10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 35.4% 3PT
Houstan hit 13 of 19 shots, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range in Michigan victories over Maryland and Indiana. It was far and away the best week of an up and down freshman campaign, and it helped the Wolverines get some sorely needed momentum. The race for Big Ten Freshman of the Year is a good one between Michigan State’s Max Christie, Ohio State’s Malaki Branham, Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens and Houstan.