College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

Remember how the Baylor Bears were supposed to struggle after winning the National Championship and losing Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA and Mark Vital to the NFL?  And yes, you read that correctly.  Vital was a ferocious rebounder and defensive stalwart on last year's title-winning squad but had more of the build of a football player instead of a hooper.  Vital is now attempting to take the Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham path of professional sports and is currently a tight end on the practice squad for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Back to the current iteration of coach Scott Drew's team.  The transfer portal has done wonders for filling immediate holes for primetime programs, and Baylor found its floor general in the form of James Akinjo, formerly of the Arizona Wildcats.  Akinjo is averaging six assists per game to lead the Big 12.  But perhaps the performance of complementary players from a season ago who have been thrust into larger roles in 2021 shows not only the impeccable recruiting that Drew continues to do, but also his success in developing that talent as well.  Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan have stepped right in as a freshmen and contributed, but LJ Cryer, Matthew Mayer and Adam Flagler were with the program last year and have simply taken on greater responsibilities and fit seamlessly into their new, more integral roles.

The Bears have not played any conference games yet, so all the gushing needs to be taken

Remember how the Baylor Bears were supposed to struggle after winning the National Championship and losing Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA and Mark Vital to the NFL?  And yes, you read that correctly.  Vital was a ferocious rebounder and defensive stalwart on last year's title-winning squad but had more of the build of a football player instead of a hooper.  Vital is now attempting to take the Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham path of professional sports and is currently a tight end on the practice squad for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Back to the current iteration of coach Scott Drew's team.  The transfer portal has done wonders for filling immediate holes for primetime programs, and Baylor found its floor general in the form of James Akinjo, formerly of the Arizona Wildcats.  Akinjo is averaging six assists per game to lead the Big 12.  But perhaps the performance of complementary players from a season ago who have been thrust into larger roles in 2021 shows not only the impeccable recruiting that Drew continues to do, but also his success in developing that talent as well.  Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan have stepped right in as a freshmen and contributed, but LJ Cryer, Matthew Mayer and Adam Flagler were with the program last year and have simply taken on greater responsibilities and fit seamlessly into their new, more integral roles.

The Bears have not played any conference games yet, so all the gushing needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  That being said, Baylor remains undefeated and sits atop the polls this week.  Ironically, the Bears never ascended to No. 1 at any time during the season last year despite ultimately cutting down the nets in triumph.

Here are tidbits on some notable players in this week's edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

 Obinna Anochili-Killen, C, Marshall – Anochili-Killen is attempting to become the first Division I player to average five or more blocks per game since the 2009-2010 campaign.  Ironically, the last rejector to accomplish this feat was another member of the Thundering Herd, Hassan Whiteside, who averaged 5.35 swats per contest during that campaign.  Anochili-Killen is right at 5.0 rejections per tilt, so he will have to keep his defense at peak level for the remainder of the campaign.  He has been a shot-blocking machine of late, though, swatting 17 shots in his last three games.  The sophomore from Nigeria nearly had an uncommon triple-double earlier this season with 15 points, nine rebounds and 10 rejections versus Jackson State.  With senior Taevion Kinsey leading the charge in the backcourt, the tandem form a potent inside-outside duo that could make some noise in Conference USA this season.

 Chuba Ohams, F, Fordham – The story for Ohams is one of perseverance and resilience, as he graduated high school in 2015 but missed more than two seasons combined due to injury.  Now a graduate student who will turn 25 years of age next week, Ohams is enjoying a superb final season in the Bronx.  Ohams is averaging a double-double with 14.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.  Ohams currently leads the Atlantic-10 in rebounding.  He had an outstanding 20-point, 22-rebound performance in a thrashing of Saint Francis earlier this month.  Ohams is also dishing out 1.8 dimes per tilt while swatting two shots per contest.  The reward of success this season must be truly gratifying after his trials and tribulations.

 Aminu Mohammed, G/F, Georgetown – Mohammed has been surging of late, registering double-doubles in three of his last four games for Patrick Ewing's Hoyas.  Mohammed was instrumental in Saturday's upset victory over Syracuse, stuffing the stat sheet with 23 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks in the 79-75 triumph.  On the season, Mohammed is averaging 15.1 points and 8.7 rebounds.  He is shooting s crisp 40 percent from three-point land.  Mohammed's ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways has certainly elevated his stock.

 Colby Jones, G, Xavier – Jones leads the Big East in rebounding, but he is really a guard.  In fact, the 6-6 sophomore shares ballhandling duties with senior Paul Scruggs, and the tandem is also averaging double figures in points along with Nate Johnson and Jack Nunge.  Jones is yet another versatile player that can flow between a variety of positions, averaging 12.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.3 dimes and 1.8 steals.  Jones has become more aggressive on the glass a sophomore, and his efficiency in shooting the ball has also improved.  The Musketeers have just one loss thus far this season, and to a ranked Iowa State squad no less, so Jones and company could be a team to watch.

CHECK STATUS

 Jared Rhoden, G, Seton Hall – Rhoden is a scorer at heart, though more of a volume scorer if we are being honest.  That being said, he has shown a penchant for getting to the foul line, which certainly aids his cause.  Rhoden takes nearly seven free-throws per contest, and hits 84.7 percent of the time.  Unfortunately, the remainder of Rhoden's shooting numbers leave something to be desired, as he is hitting just 41.9 percent from the floor, including a rather ugly 26.5 percent from three-point territory.  Fortunately, Rhoden is an aggressive rebounder for his size, and the senior is pulling down 7.3 bounds per tilt.  Rhoden also steals 1.6 balls per game as well.  Rhoden's shooting inefficiencies may hurt a bit, though he does make up for it in other areas and has already led the Pirates to two big wins over Michigan and Texas.

 Tanner Groves, C, Oklahoma – The Eastern Washington transfer has not shown any difficulties in adjusting to the move to Oklahoma, as he is averaging 15.0 points and 5.9 rebounds through the first 10 games of the season for the Sooners.  He has come up particularly big against better competition as well.  In a matchup with impressive Florida center Colin Castleton, Groves tallied 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block in the 74-67 win over the Gators.  He notched 16 points, three boards, two dimes and one block in Oklahoma's most recent win over the weekend, a rousing 20-point victory over a ranked Arkansas squad.  The counting statistics for Groves will not quite meet his standards set while a member of the Eagles, but he is actually shooting career bests from both the field as well as the three-point line.  Groves has proven a tremendous addition for the Sooners.

 Nate Laszewski, F, Notre Dame – Laszewski has struggled shooting the ball to begin the season.  Last year, Laszewski shot 58.9 percent from the floor, including 43.4 percent from beyond the arc, en route to an average of 13.3 points per tilt.  He's playing a similar number of minutes per game this year, but the results have simply not been the same in the shooting column.  Laszewski is hitting just 44.3 percent of his shots from the field, including just 35.3 percent from three-point land.  As a result, he is averaging only 8.4 points per outing.  Laszewski remains a terrific rebounder, as he is currently fifth in the ACC in that category, but the Irish would certainly like some more consistency and production on the offensive end.

DOWNGRADE

 Tolu Smith, F/C, Mississippi State – Smith had a surgery for a foot injury in September and missed nearly the first month of the season as a result.  He returned, perhaps too early, and played four games in late-November/early-December.  It was then noted that Smith broke his right pinkie toe and had been playing through the injury, but the Bulldogs then decided recently it would be best to shut him down for a couple of weeks and let the injury heal.  As a result, Smith could be out until January.  It is unclear whether the injuries are the same, related or completely separate.  Smith was a consistent interior presence for the Bulldogs last year and had two double-doubles to his credit prior to being shelved.  Look for North Carolina transfer Garrison Brooks to pick up the slack while Smith is gone.

 Jase Townsend, F, San Diego – The Toreros suffered two significant injuries in their contest versus Cal Poly, the most damaging of which is the broken hand for Townsend.  He will be sidelined for at least the next month.  Townsend is second on the squad in both scoring and dishing.  Meanwhile, third-leading scorer Joey Calcaterra injured his ankle in that same contest and is without a timetable for his return.  Add in that Terrell Brown-Soares has missed the last two games due to an elbow infection, and it is a miracle San Diego could even fill a roster for their subsequent game with California Lutheran.  The Toreros happen to be fairly deep this season, though missing three of their top four scorers is not a recipe for success heading into WCC Conference play, which includes a date with Gonzaga before the end of the calendar year.

Marcus Santos-Silva, F, Texas Tech – The numbers for Santos-Silva are down from a season ago, and there are at least two chief reasons for this downturn in production.  The first has been a nagging sprained toe, which limited him to just three minutes earlier this month in a clash with Tennessee.  The second reason is the presence of transfers Kevin Obanor and Bryson Williams.  Both Obanor and Williams are playing more minutes and averaging more points and rebounds as a result.  Despite shooting a career-best 61.1 percent from the floor, the playing time is down for Santos-Silva, who entered the transfer portal in the offseason and nearly left the program.  In an odd twist, two players who transferred into the program have now seized a sizable chunk of his minutes.

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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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