Updated Freshman of the Year Rankings in College Basketball for 2015-16

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2016

Updated Freshman of the Year Rankings in College Basketball for 2015-16

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    It's a good thing the Freshman of the Year competition isn't treated like a presidential primary, or by this point we'd have already called the race for the winner, and all remaining attention would be on second place. That's how much of a lead LSU's Ben Simmons has on the field as we head into the final weeks of the regular season.

    And with Simmons' Tigers looking more and more like an NCAA tournament team, it doesn't appear that the rest of the top freshmen in the country will have as much of a chance to make ground with big performances in March.

    Still, nothing is set in stone at this point, as several notable first-year players are starting to come on strong as the season reaches the stretch run. Since our last rankings came out two weeks ago there has been plenty of movement behind Simmons.

    Please note, these rankings are just comparing freshmen to each other, not comparing them to the rest of college basketball. Nor is it meant to indicate their draft stock, even in the case of players who are almost sure to be one-and-done guys.

    Check out the latest rankings, then give us your thoughts in the comments section.

10. Tyler Dorsey, Oregon Ducks

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    Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Guard

    Height, weight: 6'4”, 180 lbs

    Stats: 12.7 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 43.5% FG, 41.3% 3-pt FG

     

    Oregon was swept on the road this past weekend, slipping into a tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Arizona. Tyler Dorsey has been on a downward trend for a bit longer than his team, having shot just 31 percent over his last five games and just 39.1 percent in conference play.

    Dorsey has scored in double figures in 18 of 24 games this season, but five of those single-digit games have been since the schedule switched to Pac-12 action. He's been one of the few Oregon players who hasn't thrived in the second half of the season, possibly hitting a wall that's come from six straight games of 30 or more minutes as well as the work he had in the summer with Greece's under-19 national team.

9. James Thompson IV, Eastern Michigan Eagles

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    Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

    Position: Center

    Height, weight: 6'10”, 220 lbs

    Stats: 16.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 67.3% FG

     

    Don't feel bad if you're not familiar with this newcomer to our top newcomers list, since Eastern Michigan is only 13-12 on the season and toward the bottom of the Mid-American. But though the Eagles are off the radar, that doesn't mean James Thompson IV shouldn't be getting accolades for a monster of a freshman year.

    Thompson is ninth nationally in rebounding, only three spots behind heralded LSU freshman Ben Simmons, and his shooting rate is third in Division I. He has 17 double-doubles, and in January he tied what was then the NCAA record for consecutive field goals by making 26 straight.

    A former South Carolina signee in the 2014 recruiting class, Thompson never played for the Gamecocks after his arrest on domestic abuse and aggravated battery charges in his native Louisiana in June 2014. He spent last season at a prep school in Nevada before joining the Eagles, where he's leading them in scoring, rebounding, blocks and shooting.

8. Allonzo Trier, Arizona Wildcats

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Guard

    Height, weight: 6'6”, 210 lbs

    Stats: 14.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 49.1% FG, 32.9% 3-pt FG, 79.2% FT

     

    Allonzo Trier was Arizona's leading scorer before suffering a broken finger in early January, an injury that occurred during the first of four overtimes in a loss at USC. He played every minute of the other three extra periods despite getting hurt, but then he missed seven games before returning Feb. 6.

    The numbers in three games since coming back haven't been as good as before, particularly on jump shots, but he's not shown any fear of getting reinjured. Instead, Trier has returned to his old habits of going aggressively to the basket, resulting in 17 free throw attempts in his last two games (with 15 makes).

    With Trier back in the lineup—he's started the past two games—Arizona has moved into a tie with Oregon for first place in the Pac-12.

7. Diamond Stone, Maryland Terrapins

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    Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Center

    Height, weight: 6'11”, 255 lbs

    Stats: 12.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 56.9% FG

     

    For most of this season, Diamond Stone hadn't played or acted like a freshman. His first-ever Big Ten game produced a 39-point, 12-rebound performance that saw him go to the foul line 25 times, and since then he's added three more double-doubles.

    But then came Saturday, when a moment of immaturity reminded us Stone didn't turn 19 until a few days before that. During Maryland's listless 70-57 home loss to Wisconsin, Stone shoved Badgers forward Vitto Brown's head into the court after falling over him.

    That resulted in a technical foul during the game, and on Monday it led to a one-game suspension that will keep Stone out of Thursday's game against last-place Minnesota.

    Maryland will need Stone to come back focused for the final few weeks, since the Terrapins are now a game back of Iowa in the conference standings.

6. Jaylen Brown, California Golden Bears

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Forward

    Height, weight: 6'7”, 225 lbs

    Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 45.7% FG

     

    Jaylen Brown was the No. 4 overall prospect in the 2015 recruiting class, according to 247Sports, and combined with fellow freshman Ivan Rabb, he was a big reason California was getting plenty of hype to start this season. The Golden Bears were considered a Pac-12 contender and a team that could make a run at the Final Four.

    The latter could still happen, especially after Cal blew out Oregon on Thursday and sits at 17-8 on the season. But until the Bears can show they can win outside of Haas Pavilion, where they're 16-0, it will be hard to for the bigger goals to be achieved.

    Cal should try to tap into the recent play of Brown, who has averaged 17.2 points per game in conference play with four 20-point games. All of those have come on the road, as Brown averages 18.0 points per game away from home.

5. Thomas Bryant, Indiana Hoosiers

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Center

    Height, weight: 6'10”, 245 lbs

    Stats: 11.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 69.9% FG

     

    Though he reached double figures in scoring for the 18th time in 26 games on Sunday, Thomas Bryant had arguably the worst game of his college career because he failed to shoot 50 percent from the field for just the third time. The other two instances were in November and December, when he combined to go 4-of-8 against Wake Forest and IPFW, but this time he was 4-of-11 in the loss at Michigan State.

    Bryant's best attribute is his ability to be as close to automatic as possible when he gets the ball down low, but when that's not working for him there's not much else to his game. The lone defensive post presence, he's starting to struggle with fouls, and that resulted in him playing just 14 minutes in Thursday's win against Iowa.

    Still, it's been an overall strong year for Bryant, who has the nation's fifth-best two-point shooting percentage (71.7), and his 70.8 percent true shooting rate is third in the country.

4. Henry Ellenson, Marquette Golden Eagles

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Forward

    Height, weight: 6'11", 245 lbs

    Stats: 16.6 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 43.6% FG

     

    Henry Ellenson remains Marquette's best weapon, but that might not be enough anymore as the Golden Eagles are playing themselves out of an NCAA tournament appearance.

    Ellenson has attempted 92 more field goals than any other player on his team, 48 more than anyone else in Big East play. He took a career-high 22 shots in the double-overtime win over Providence on Feb. 10, Marquette's only victory in its last four contests. He had 26 points and 16 rebounds in that game, playing 48 minutes, and three days later he played 38 minutes while scoring 16 points in a home loss to Creighton.

    "Lock in Marquette's Henry Ellenson as Big East rookie of the year now," Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv tweeted on Monday, before Ellenson earned his sixth freshman of the week honor from the conference.

    For as much as Ellenson touches the ball, he doesn't get to the line that often. He leads Marquette with 144 foul attempts, but in league play he's averaging only six per game.

3. Jamal Murray, Kentucky Wildcats

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Position: Guard

    Height, weight: 6'4”, 207 lbs

    Stats: 18.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 43.5% FG, 40.0% 3-pt FG

     

    Don't look now, but Kentucky has come back from the dead. Well, it was really only the bottom tier of the Top 25 and the middle of the SEC, but with three straight lopsided wins the Wildcats are back atop the conference standings. And leading that charge as much as anyone else has been the explosive scoring of Jamal Murray.

    With 85 points in his last three games, including a career-high 35 against Florida on Feb. 6, Murray is now averaging 21.3 points per game in conference play. According to Kentucky's Twitter account, if Murray can maintain his season scoring pace, he'll top Brandon Knight (17.3 points per game) for the highest average by a Wildcat during John Calipari's tenure.

    Murray is up to 76 three-pointers on the season, trailing only Campbell's Chris Clemons (80) among freshmen. He's made more than 47 percent of the Wildcats' threes, more than Tyler Ulis and Derek Willis combined.

2. Brandon Ingram, Duke Blue Devils

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Position: Forward

    Height, weight: 6'9”, 190 lbs

    Stats: 17.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 47.5% FG, 40.9% 3-pt FG

     

    If there's anyone who is going to make the Freshman of the Year anything other than a landslide, it's going to be Brandon Ingram. With Duke starting to hit its stride after a midseason lull, Ingram will be integral to anything the defending national champions do from here on out just as he and sophomore Grayson Allen have kept the Blue Devils from falling apart.

    It was Allen who made the controversial basket at the buzzer to give Duke its win Saturday against Virginia, but it was Ingram who was the consistent force throughout the game with 25 points, including 16 in a row at one point. That was his ninth 20-point game of the season, the fourth in ACC play, and during Duke's four-game win streak he's averaged 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds.

    Ingram has had four of his six double-doubles in the Blue Devils' last seven games, his work on the boards and defensively having been on a constant rise since moving to the four in mid-December.

1. Ben Simmons, LSU Tigers

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Position: Forward

    Height, weight: 6'10”, 240 lbs

    Stats: 19.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 5.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 56.3% FG

     

    The debate can continue on—somewhere else—over whether Ben Simmons will make it as a pro, but there's no further need for discussion about his place in this year's freshman class at the college level. He was by far the most-hyped member of the group coming in, and he's done little to change this.

    If anything, Simmons has shown just how much he can impact a game by whether he chooses to be a scorer or a facilitator, of if he is willing to do both.

    And with LSU now sitting tied with Kentucky for the SEC lead with three weeks left, the concerns about whether Simmons would get to show his stuff in the NCAA tournament are starting to go away. The Tigers were the third team out of the field, according to Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller, before splitting games against South Carolina and Texas A&M.

    Simmons had 20 points, six rebounds and six assists against South Carolina and then went for 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against Texas A&M, giving him 17 double-doubles this season to rank in a tie for sixth nationally in that category. He's tops among freshmen, as he is in rebounding, while his scoring rate is the best of any first-year player at the power-conference level.

     

    Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.