College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

In some ways, it is miraculous that college basketball's regular season has almost been completed. There has been a bevy of cancellations; the sheer number of programs made this a Herculean task.  Still, with March lurking around the corner, it appears most programs will have enough of a resume to warrant legitimate discussions on inclusion or exclusion in the NCAA Tournament.

The participants and seeding, though, may look different than what college hoops fans are used to.  Baylor is poised to win the regular season title in the Big 12; the Bears have never won the conference's regular season crown.  Michigan State will not have even a share of the Big Ten regular season crown for the first time since 2017; in fact, the Spartans may not make the big dance at all.  Surprisingly, Duke has not won a regular season championship in the ACC since 2010; the Blue Devils will be lucky to even make the tournament at this rate.  USC could come away with the regular season title in the Pac-12; the Trojans have not won even a share of the conference crown since the 1984-1985 campaign.  Barring an epic collapse down the stretch, Alabama is going to win its first SEC regular season championship since 2002.  Meanwhile, unless Kentucky wins its conference tournament, the Wildcats will likely miss March Madness for the first time since 2013.

Regular season championships do not necessarily have a correlation to how the team plays in the NCAA Tournament, or even in

In some ways, it is miraculous that college basketball's regular season has almost been completed. There has been a bevy of cancellations; the sheer number of programs made this a Herculean task.  Still, with March lurking around the corner, it appears most programs will have enough of a resume to warrant legitimate discussions on inclusion or exclusion in the NCAA Tournament.

The participants and seeding, though, may look different than what college hoops fans are used to.  Baylor is poised to win the regular season title in the Big 12; the Bears have never won the conference's regular season crown.  Michigan State will not have even a share of the Big Ten regular season crown for the first time since 2017; in fact, the Spartans may not make the big dance at all.  Surprisingly, Duke has not won a regular season championship in the ACC since 2010; the Blue Devils will be lucky to even make the tournament at this rate.  USC could come away with the regular season title in the Pac-12; the Trojans have not won even a share of the conference crown since the 1984-1985 campaign.  Barring an epic collapse down the stretch, Alabama is going to win its first SEC regular season championship since 2002.  Meanwhile, unless Kentucky wins its conference tournament, the Wildcats will likely miss March Madness for the first time since 2013.

Regular season championships do not necessarily have a correlation to how the team plays in the NCAA Tournament, or even in its own conference tournament.  Nevertheless, they are a feather in the program's cap, an achievement that (usually) cannot be taken away.  Whether the unique results this season are just an aberration due to the virus or a sign of things to come, only time will tell.  That being said, we could be on the precipice of a March Madness unlike anything we have ever seen before.

Let's take a glance at some players in the news in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Justice Sueing, F, Ohio State

The Buckeyes have reeled off six-straight victories, and stretching out farther, have won nine of their last 10 contests.  Sueing has been an integral part of the recent winning streak.  The Cal transfer has registered double-doubles in three of the last five games for the Buckeyes.  By contrast, he recorded just one double-double in the first 16 games of the season.  Sueing dished out five assists in a triumph over Iowa two weeks ago.  He also stole five passes and swatted two shots in a late January win versus Penn State.  Perhaps it is no surprise that Sueing's recent inspired play has coincided with some of the best basketball Ohio State has played this year.

Devontae Shuler, G, Ole Miss

Shuler has been on fire for the Rebels, who have won four-straight contests to place themselves back in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament bid.  In a thrilling overtime win at Auburn earlier this month, Shuler poured in a season-high 26 points, to go along with six rebounds, four assists and two steals, to catapult the Rebels to an upset 86-84 victory over the Tigers.  After piloting a surprise shellacking of a ranked Mizzou squad in the next game, he followed that up with a career-high 31 points in an 81-74 victory at South Carolina.  Shuler is certainly no one-trick pony either, as he accumulated seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in that contest as well.  As Shuler goes, so go the Rebels.  A rather favorable schedule down the stretch will also help their tournament chances.

Joe Wieskamp, G/F, Iowa

It is easy to get lost in the shuffle when National Player of the Year candidate Luka Garza is on your team, but Wieskamp has been surging of late for the Hawkeyes.  In the last four games, Wieskamp is averaging 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.  That includes two double-doubles, both coming against ranked opponents.  He racked up a season-high 26 points in the win over Rutgers last week.  Playing second fiddle to the aforementioned Garza is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but Wieskamp should be getting much more notoriety as the Robin to Garza's Batman.  This squad has an excellent chance to become Iowa's first Sweet 16 squad since 1999, and is looking to become the first Iowa Final Four team in over 40 years.  Wieskamp's continued contributions are crucial to the success of the Hawkeyes. 

Moses Moody, G, Arkansas

Arkansas managed four recruits from the Top 100 this past class, but Moody was the most highly touted of the bunch.  He has paid immediate dividends for the Razorbacks, leading the team in scoring while placing second in rebounding.  Moody has scored at least 20 points in five games as a freshman.  After a rough start to SEC conference play, the Hogs have won seven of their last eight outings, with Moody being one of the chief catalysts.  He is also an above-average rebounder for his size, tallying at least four boards in 10 of his last 11 outings.  The Hogs appear tourney bound, with two freshmen, two seniors and a 7-foot-3 shot blocker from Cal named Connor Vanover rounding out their starting lineup.

CHECK STATUS

Matthew Hurt, F, Duke

A lot has been made about Jalen Johnson's decision to opt out of the remainder of the season and prepare for the NBA Draft.  The issue is complex and nuanced.  In terms of on-court impact, Hurt will be asked to shoulder even more of the scoring load for the mediocre Blue Devils; he's already the second-leading scorer in the ACC.  DJ Steward will also be tasked with additional playmaking duties.  Hurt scored 24 points, including six treys, in Saturday's 69-53 thrashing of NC State.  The Blue Devils will need to reel off several high-profile wins to have a chance of making the NCAA Tournament, a matter made all the more difficult by Johnson's decision to leave the program.  The Blue Devils have made the big dance 24-straight times, and have missed the NCAA Tournament just once (1995) since 1984.  This story will certainly be worth monitoring as we roll towards Selection Sunday.

CJ Felder, F, Boston College

It has been a turbulent season for the Eagles.  First, COVID ravaged their ranks.  Then second-leading scorer Wynston Tabbs was deemed sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a violation of COVID-19 protocols.  It is unknown whether Tabbs has played his final game for Boston College.  Then finally head coach Jim Christian was fired midway through an abysmal 3-13 season.  Finding a silver lining in this mess, Felder has played in all 16 games for the Eagles and has seen marked improvement as a sophomore.  He is averaging almost five more points per game than his freshman campaign, and 2.5 more rebounds per contest.  He notched his first double-double of the season last week in a narrow loss to Wake Forest with 17 points and 14 rebounds.  He has added a three-point shot to his repertoire, including a career-best four treys in a 24-point effort versus Duke back in January.  Felder is also third in the ACC in blocks at 2.1 swats per tilt.  Despite the rough season for the program, Felder has been a bright spot.

Isaac Likekele, G, Oklahoma State

Cade Cunningham's partner in crime has missed the last two games due to a foot injury.  Likekele's absence could have been more cautionary than anything else, especially given the nature of the opponents (Kansas State and Iowa State are the two worst teams in the Big 12).  Nevertheless, the Cowboys find themselves in the middle of the pack of a ferociously competitive conference, where the six teams in front of them in the standings are all ranked.  That makes Likekele's return to the starting lineup even more vital.  The versatile junior is averaging 10.2 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest.  He leads the Cowboys in rebounding and dishing, and is second on the team in scoring behind the aforementioned Cunningham.  The Cowboys will need Likekele's services to make a run down the stretch, as their final four games of the regular season are against ranked opponents, including a road clash with undefeated Baylor this weekend.

Jermaine Couisnard, G, South Carolina

The starting point guard for the Gamecocks was limited to just eight minutes during Saturday's loss to Ole Miss.  Apparently Couisnard suffered a foot injury, which hampered the sophomore as he failed to record a single point or assist.  Couisnard has been a key contributor for the Gamecocks overall this season, averaging 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per outing.  More of a facilitator than a scorer, Couisnard is shooting an abysmal 29-percent from the floor this season.  His job has always been more to get players like AJ Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant the ball in favorable positions.  Former Tar Heel Seventh Woods along with sophomore Trae Hannibal would see extra run if Couisnard is forced to miss any game action.

DOWNGRADE

Quade Green, G, Washington

Green missed Monday's win at Washington State due to an undisclosed illness.  It is unclear whether the absence is related to COVID-19, and we will not speculate on same.  The senior has done almost everything for the Huskies, leading the team in scoring and assists.  Unfortunately, Green has not received much help, as the Huskies are currently just 4-16 on the season.  Surprisingly, the Huskies pulled out the victory versus the rival Cougars without Green, as sophomore Marcus Tsohonis poured in a career-high 29 points, including the game-winning floater.  Tsohonis lacks consistency but can score in bunches; he has scored at least 20 points in five outings, but has been held in single digits in 10 contests.  Still Tsohonis is the chief beneficiary if Green misses any more time.

Charlie Moore, G, DePaul

The leading scorer for the Blue Demons has been banged up of late.  At the end of January, he missed a loss to Creighton due to an elbow injury.  Moore returned to the starting lineup for one game, only to be sidelined again this past Saturday against Providence due to a knee issue.  The severity of the injury is unknown.  DePaul has battled COVID issues this season en route to a dismal 1-9 record in the Big East.  Still, it is clear the Blue Demons are better with a healthy Moore.  Over the last three contests, DePaul has averaged a putrid 56.7 points per contest as a team.  Freshman Kobe Elvis (yes, you read that correctly) has been seeing increased minutes with Moore on the shelf.

Yuri Collins, G, Saint Louis

Collins has been sidelined for the past two games due to an ankle ailment.  Collins leads the Atlantic 10 in assists, averaging 6.4 dimes per contest.  In fact, the sophomore is eighth in all of college basketball in dishing.  While scoring is not his forte, Collins contributes in a vast array of categories when on the court.  He is also managing 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per outing.  Collins was close to returning to the court last game for the Billikens, though was ultimately held out.  With just four games remaining in the regular season, and Saint Louis already having a bevy of cancellations due to COVID-19, every win will be crucial if the Billikens want to make a case for inclusion in the big dance.  And Collins being on the court gives them their best shot.

Rylan Jones, G, Utah

Jones has missed the last two games for the Utes due to an arm injury.  The starting point guard was struggling even before the injury, though, especially with his shot.  Jones is averaging almost half as many points as a sophomore than he did as a freshman.  Jones is managing just 4.9 points per game for the Utes.  His shooting percentages are down across the board, including an especially curious 15-percent decreased from the foul line.  It appears as though Jones either has been playing with a nagging ailment, or he has lost confidence in his shot, or both.  Jones has been affecting the game in other ways, including dishing out 4.1 assists per game.  Still, even that figure is down from his solid freshman campaign.  A return to health would go a long way towards getting Jones back on the right track.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesse Siegel
Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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