College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

Trust me – I had no desire to write anything about COVID-19 when filling in for Jesse this week, but it's simply inescapable. It seems we can't write any fantasy sports column these days without leading off with how the ongoing pandemic is affecting the current landscape. Major sporting leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL have all had to deal with rampant cancelations, and the NCAA is no different – both in football with bowl season, and in basketball. Leadership in the major leagues has at least adjusted protocol to account for the latest data. Take the NFL, for example. An asymptomatic player must now only quarantine for five days before they are eligible to return, given multiple negative tests, of course. Many other leagues are beginning to follow suit.

But where's the leadership at the college level? Adjustments have at least been made at the conference level to help affected teams, making it so they can postpone games without the penalty of an automatic forfeit. But this is at the conference level. After watching so many bowl games fall apart, with billions of dollars lost, one would think a policy adjustment in basketball might be on tap. One would think. Only time will tell if we can get a bit of normalcy to the schedule by the time the clock strikes 2022.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at the risers and fallers in the sport, many of which will make impactful fantasy contributions

Trust me – I had no desire to write anything about COVID-19 when filling in for Jesse this week, but it's simply inescapable. It seems we can't write any fantasy sports column these days without leading off with how the ongoing pandemic is affecting the current landscape. Major sporting leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL have all had to deal with rampant cancelations, and the NCAA is no different – both in football with bowl season, and in basketball. Leadership in the major leagues has at least adjusted protocol to account for the latest data. Take the NFL, for example. An asymptomatic player must now only quarantine for five days before they are eligible to return, given multiple negative tests, of course. Many other leagues are beginning to follow suit.

But where's the leadership at the college level? Adjustments have at least been made at the conference level to help affected teams, making it so they can postpone games without the penalty of an automatic forfeit. But this is at the conference level. After watching so many bowl games fall apart, with billions of dollars lost, one would think a policy adjustment in basketball might be on tap. One would think. Only time will tell if we can get a bit of normalcy to the schedule by the time the clock strikes 2022.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at the risers and fallers in the sport, many of which will make impactful fantasy contributions as conference play begins.

UPGRADE

Izaiah Brockington, G, Iowa State

Brockington has caught absolute fire since the calendar turned to December, as he's putting up 18.3 points and an impressive 9.7 rebounds through six games while seeing 35 or more minutes in each of those contests. Iowa State has been able to overcome a lack of frontcourt depth this season and stay undefeated due largely to the presence of the 6-foot-4 Penn State transfer. He was barely a top-50 guard in power-conference drafts heading into the season, but this type of production now warrants an early-round pick in midseason redrafts.

Oscar Tshiebwe, F, Kentucky

How could I fill in for Jesse this week and not write about one of my long-time favorite DFS studs? It's been a week since Tshiebwe pulled down an astonishing 28 boards against Western Kentucky, bringing him up to a nation-leading 15.5 rpg. Kentucky is one of the few programs not majorly affected by COVID just yet (at least by its own doing), and coach John Calipari boasted to to media recently that "we're definitely the best team in the country when it comes to COVID protocols," further adding that 100 percent of the team is now vaccine boosted. While what happens with other teams is out of Big Blue's hands, that's about as safe as you're going to get internally. For that reason, along with his play, Tshiebwe is arguably the No. 1 overall pick in midseason drafts, even besting the likes of Kofi Cockburn and Trayce Jackson-Davis. The Wildcats are also busy this week with games against Missouri (Dec. 29) and High Point (Dec. 31), so Tshiebwe will be able to contribute immediately.

Javan Johnson, F, DePaul

Johnson started his career back in 2017-18 with Troy, where he spent two seasons before transferring to Iowa State. He was a breakout player for the Cyclones last season, making all-around contributions of 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists. A late transfer meant he wasn't eligible for DePaul until the second semester, but he's gained clearance to suit up Wednesday against Butler. While the Blue Demons have been able to make due with a depleted roster, Johnson gives them another scoring and ball-handling option to take the pressure off Javon Freeman-Liberty. He should be an immediate contributor and impactful fantasy presence.

Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame

Wesley got a nod in this week's waiver wire column, but he deserves one here as well. He's recently entered the starting five, and over six games as a starter, is putting up 13.7 points, 3.5 assists and 3.2 rebounds. Wesley even stayed in the starting lineup Tuesday with Trey Wertz (ankle) back, but he still extended his streak of double-digit field goal attempts to seven. It looks like the freshman is here to stay, and he's an excellent asset in dynasty formats if he hasn't already been scooped up.

CHECK STATUS

Emoni Bates, G, Memphis

Bates and the Tigers recently had a COVID-related shutdown, but it seems the highly-touted freshman wouldn't have been able to suit up anyway due to a finger injury. That injury appears as if it will keep him out of the AAC opener as well, with no sure-fire return date in sight. This is a player who came with a high price tag on draft day, but is now barely a mid-round pick in midseason drafts, as he's had rough shooting days and had to share the ball plenty with a loaded roster. Bates is too talented to not get it together sooner or later, but banking on that happening any time soon would be a mistake.

Garrison Brooks, F, Mississippi State

Brooks will remain a fine fantasy producer throughout the rest of the year, but he stands to lose opportunity to Tolu Smith, who is back from a foot injury and in the starting five Wednesday night. Brooks still produced 20.4 DK points/game during the last four contests when Smith was in the lineup, due to a slight decrease in scoring and blocks. While DFS scoring isn't the end-all, be-all of fantasy production, it's worth noting that his best total of that span – 25.5 points – has been surpassed four times with Smith out of the lineup. The Bulldogs are also getting Rocket Watts (hip) back, which is just another mouth to feed, albeit in the backcourt. Brooks is still a startable asset, but the ceiling just won't be the same with MSU at full strength.

Bo Hodges, G, Butler

Hodges has yet to appear in a game this season due to a knee fracture suffered in August. He seems to be getting closer considering he was a game-time call for Wednesday's matchup against Butler, but it turns out he'll end up sitting due to a non-COVID illness. Hodges can no doubt contribute on a team that's had trouble finding consistent scorers, due largely to injury. He was effective in short bursts last season, putting up 8.2 ppg following back-to-back seasons with double-digit scoring at East Tennessee. Look for him to get up a steady shot volume following what's likely to be a brief re-adjustment period.

DOWNGRADE

Marcus Sasser, G, Houston

The hits keep on coming for the Cougars, as both Sasser (toe) and Tramon Mark (shoulder) have been ruled out for the season. Sasser's injury stings in particular, as he was one of the top scorers in the conference at 17.7 ppg. With Kyler Edwards dealing with a sprained ankle himself, the Cougars could find themselves severely short-handed when they take on Temple next Sunday. Look for Jamal Shead and Ramon Walker to have to carry much of the load.

Marcus Carr, G, Texas

Originally projected as one of the top guards in the country heading into the season (yeah – that's my bad), Carr has largely underwhelmed on a deep and talented Texas team. His scoring average from last year has been more than cut in half to a meager 8.6 ppg, and it's not like he's been a beacon of efficiency – all his shooting percentages are currently at or below what they were in 2020-21 with Minnesota. Carr even lost his starting job to Devin Askew a few weeks back, and while he's since regained it, his performances have been almost pure scoring with little to boot in the ancillary categories. Could this be a buy-low in midseason drafts? Possibly, but I wouldn't bank on it. He's no longer the focal point of his team and should be treated as such.

Harlond Beverly, G, Miami FL

Once a 7.2 ppg scorer for the Canes, Beverly appeared for just 12 minutes or less the first four times he took the court for Miami in 2021-22. He's sat out the seven games since, and it was revealed Monday that he'll miss the rest of the season due to back surgery. It's a wise decision for his basketball future, as both Charlie Moore and Kameron McGusty will presumably be departed from the program in advance of the 2022-23 season.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jake Letarski
RotoWire Editor for College Basketball and MMA. Frequent podcaster, plus radio and video guest. Follow Jake on Twitter at @RotoJake.
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