College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

This column enjoys highlighting the underdogs and mid-majors whenever possible, and it appears that the Murray State Racers have won this week's prize.  The Racers are no strangers to front-page publicity, though, having produced one of the NBA's newest stars in the form of Ja Morant.  Murray State had a down season last year, but the Racers have rebounded with a perfect 12-0 start in the Ohio Valley Conference.  In fact, the Racers only have two losses on the entire season, one of which came to the current No. 1 squad, Auburn.  The Racers are led by juniors Tevin Brown and KJ Williams, both of which provide differing skill sets.  Brown is the leading scorer but does a little bit of everything for the Racers as a hybrid guard, while Williams is a beast down low capable of a double-double on any given night.  Meanwhile, point guard Justice Hill serves them up opportunities on a silver platter with 5.0 assists per game, though is no slouch when it comes to putting the ball in the bucket as well.  This trio has the ranked Racers on a 12-game winning streak heading into crucial matchups with their biggest competition in the OVC this season in Morehead State and Belmont.

Let's gather more insight on some notable players and their performances in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

JD Notae, G, Arkansas – The Hogs offered a thrilling upset of No. 1 Auburn on Tuesday, outlasting the Tigers in

This column enjoys highlighting the underdogs and mid-majors whenever possible, and it appears that the Murray State Racers have won this week's prize.  The Racers are no strangers to front-page publicity, though, having produced one of the NBA's newest stars in the form of Ja Morant.  Murray State had a down season last year, but the Racers have rebounded with a perfect 12-0 start in the Ohio Valley Conference.  In fact, the Racers only have two losses on the entire season, one of which came to the current No. 1 squad, Auburn.  The Racers are led by juniors Tevin Brown and KJ Williams, both of which provide differing skill sets.  Brown is the leading scorer but does a little bit of everything for the Racers as a hybrid guard, while Williams is a beast down low capable of a double-double on any given night.  Meanwhile, point guard Justice Hill serves them up opportunities on a silver platter with 5.0 assists per game, though is no slouch when it comes to putting the ball in the bucket as well.  This trio has the ranked Racers on a 12-game winning streak heading into crucial matchups with their biggest competition in the OVC this season in Morehead State and Belmont.

Let's gather more insight on some notable players and their performances in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

JD Notae, G, Arkansas – The Hogs offered a thrilling upset of No. 1 Auburn on Tuesday, outlasting the Tigers in overtime by a score of 80-76.  The senior Notae was sensational on both ends of the floor, scoring 28 points while also compiling five rebounds, three assists, four blocks and three steals.  He was particularly impressive in drawing contact and getting to the free throw line, setting career highs in attempts (14) and makes (11).  Notae has hit the 20-point mark in three of his last five games.  He leads the SEC in scoring as well as steals.  Arkansas has won nine games in a row, including eight-straight conference games, and Notae is the catalyst behind this current winning streak.

Jalen Williams, G, Santa Clara – The rest of the West Coast Conference tends to get lost in the shuffle with Gonzaga sitting up top, but Santa Clara has won six of the last seven games, including an upset victory over Saint Mary's.  Williams is the leading scorer and assist man for the Broncos and tallied a double-double with 18 points and 10 dimes in the aforementioned win over the Gaels.  Williams also hit a game-winning layup at the buzzer at the end of last month in a triumph over BYU.  Williams and Green Bay transfer PJ Pipes are a formidable backcourt tandem, and the recent surge even has the Broncos thinking about their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1996, when their point guard was none other than Steve Nash.

Aaron Wheeler, F, St. John's – Wheeler has come on strong since the calendar turned to 2022.  The Purdue transfer is averaging 14.7 points in his last 11 games, punctuated by 31 points in Tuesday's narrow loss to Villanova.  By contrast, Wheeler managed just 4.5 points in the first 11 games this season.  The recent injury to Posh Alexander has certainly helped his usage, but Wheeler had started five games in a row even prior to Alexander's ankle ailment.  Wheeler was a complementary, reserve piece in three seasons at Purdue, but he has thrust himself into the spotlight with the Johnnies on late.  With Julian Champagnie exiting Tuesday's loss with a hip injury, Wheeler could be even more heavily involved in the short term.

Armaan Franklin, G, Virginia – Franklin's impact in the recent surge for the Hoos cannot be understated.  The Indiana transfer played stifling defense in wins over both Miami and Duke, tallying four steals in each game.  His shot was falling against the 'Canes, too, as he scored 22 points in the 71-58 triumph.  Franklin has been getting his teammates involved as well, as he has accumulated at least two assists in eight of the last 10 games.  Franklin does not get the same notoriety as teammates Jayden Gardner or Kihei Clark, but he is vital to the success of this squad.

CHECK STATUS

Santiago Vescovi, G, Tennessee – Vescovi has rebounded from a subpar sophomore campaign to lead the Vols in scoring as a junior.  He is more than just a one-trick pony, though, as Vescovi is also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per tilt.  Tennessee has won five of its last six games, taking a leap in the SEC standings while also cementing itself as a tournament team.  With the addition of a true point guard in the form of Kennedy Chandler, Vescovi has been able to switch off-ball, which appears to be more natural for him.  As a result, he is shooting career bests from both the field as well as three-point territory.  Vescovi has failed to score in double-figures just once in the last 12 games for the Vols.

Isaiah Mobley, F, USC – Mobley suffered a broken nose recently and did not play Tuesday versus Pacific.  His absence was evident, as the Trojans struggled against an inferior Tigers squad, though ultimately came away with the victory.  The Trojans have a huge clash with rival UCLA this weekend, so USC is clearly hoping to have Mobley back in the fold for that tilt.  However, if he returns he will likely have to wear a mask to protect against further injury.  USC dropped two of its last four Pac-12 games even prior to Mobley's injury, though, so the squad would like to have its complete starting unit as they attempt to regain their earlier season form.

James Akinjo, G, Baylor – Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Baylor's first rough stretch of the season has coincided with injury and inconsistency of Akinjo.  The floor general of the Bears has been battling back and tailbone issues, which caused him to miss two games near the end of January.  It is unclear whether Akinjo is back to full health, but his play has been inconsistent at best when on the court.  Akinjo shot a putrid 0-for-11 from the field in Baylor's loss at Kansas over the weekend, including 0-for-5 from three-point land.  He managed just two points against Oklahoma on January 22 and had just eight in a loss to Alabama at the end of January.  Though Akinjo is more than just a scorer, in Baylor's losses he is managing just seven points per game.  Assists and steals allow Akinjo to be productive even when his shot is not falling, but it is clear the Bears are a better team when his shot is falling as well.

Jacob Toppin, F, Kentucky – The younger brother of New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin, Jacob has similar athleticism to his older sibling but plays more of a reserve role for the Wildcats.  Jacob averages 5.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game.  Toppin was having a superb game Tuesday at South Carolina with 10 points and three rebounds before suffering an ankle injury late in the first half.  Toppin did not return, and the severity of the injury is unknown at this time.  The Wildcats have won nine of their last 10 games and will continue to rely on Oscar Tshiebwe and Keion Brooks to anchor their frontcourt.

DOWNGRADE

Anthony Polite, G, Florida State – The Seminoles have lost four games in a row, and a possible season-ending wrist injury to Polite will not help matters.  A senior and one of the team leaders, Polite was averaging 9.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest.  Polite was also a superior defender, and the southpaw impacted the game on both ends of the floor.  Unfortunately, he has undergone surgery to repair a fractured wrist, leaving his status in doubt for the remainder of the campaign.  The Seminoles would likely need to make the NCAA Tournament for Polite to have a chance to return, and that is looking less and less likely by the day.

Andre Kelly, F, California – Kelly has missed the last three games for the Bears due to an ankle injury, and with the Bears sitting at a putrid 2-11 in Pac-12 conference play, Kelly is unlikely to return to the court this season.  The senior had been enjoying the best campaign of his collegiate career, averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.  Kelly notched seven double-doubles this year while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the floor.  Junior Lars Thiemann, a seven-footer from Germany, will continue to be asked to shoulder a heavy frontcourt load for the Bears, who have lost 10-straight games.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only College Basketball Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire College Basketball fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
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.
DFS College Basketball: National Championship Preview
DFS College Basketball: National Championship Preview
Caesars Sportsbook NY Promo Code: Snag $1100 Bet Insurance for Kansas-UNC NCAA FInal
Caesars Sportsbook NY Promo Code: Snag $1100 Bet Insurance for Kansas-UNC NCAA FInal
BetMGM NY Bonus Code: $200 in Free Bets with NCAA Title Game 3-Pointer
BetMGM NY Bonus Code: $200 in Free Bets with NCAA Title Game 3-Pointer
NCAA Championship Preview: Kansas vs. North Carolina
NCAA Championship Preview: Kansas vs. North Carolina