College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers
College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

While Zion Williamson dominated the college basketball headlines last season, the 2019-2020 campaign could see a reversal in terms of impact players.  Now, that's not to say there aren't some insanely talented and gifted freshmen coming through the pipeline this season.  Anthony Edwards, Cole Anthony, Isaiah Stewart, Nico Mannion and possibly the entire starting five at Memphis, among others, will be worth the price of admission.  And of course Kentucky and Duke, among other stalwart programs, have reloaded with top-tier neophytes.  Tyrese Maxey of the Wildcats put the rest of the college basketball world on notice with a dynamic performance off the bench in a win Tuesday over Michigan State.

However, the upperclassmen are making the most noise heading into the season.  Senior Cassius Winston leads a Michigan State squad that may be considered the favorite to cut down the nets next April, though an opening night loss to UK has left the Spartans at 0-1 to begin the year.  Still, Winston is the frontrunner to repeat as Big Ten Player of the Year, and perhaps even the favorite for National Player of the Year.  Markus Howard of Marquette decided to return to school despite winning Big East Player of the Year.  The Florida Gators could give Kentucky a run for its money in the SEC, and a big reason why is graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. from Virginia Tech.  Utah State is ranked in the top-25 to begin the season, as guard Sam Merrill looks to repeat his performance as Mountain West Player of the Year.

New blood will be injected into the hardwood, but the returning players may ultimately decide this season's fortunes.  It is my distinct pleasure to welcome you back to the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall – Don't look now, but the Pirates have made the NCAA Tournament four years in a row.  The senior Powell is yet another experienced marksman that has been there for a majority of those appearances.  That includes a monstrous junior campaign in which he averaged 23.1 points per contest.  He also averaged 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest.  While the Pirates may have been an under-the-radar squad over the last few seasons even with the berths in the big dance, they won't be taken lightly anymore.  Seton Hall is ranked No. 12 in the preseason AP Poll.  The Pirates will go as far as Powell takes them this season.  He poured in 27 points in the Hall's season-opening laugher against Wagner on Tuesday.

Jalen Smith, F, Maryland – The Terps lost Bruno Fernando to the NBA, but Smith appears poised to fill that void.  Smith was no slouch as a freshman last year either, averaging 11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per tilt.  With more shots and rebounds available due to the departure of Fernando, the 6-foot-10 Smith has the chance to be a dominant force in the paint.  If he can improve his outside shooting, Smith could end up being one of the elite forwards in the Big Ten.  He posted a ferocious 16-point, 11-rebounds, three-block double-double against Holy Cross in the Terps' first game of the season.

Jordan Nwora, F, Louisville – Even after a breakout season, Nwora and the Cardinals continue to lack publicity.  The most improved player in the ACC averaged17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for Louisville as a sophomore.  An All-ACC Third-Teamer, Nwora led the Cardinals in scoring and rebounding.  He finished sixth in scoring and 10th in rebounding in the conference, and the majority of players ahead of him on each list have since moved on to greener pastures. He collected nine double-doubles during the year.  While Duke and North Carolina are still projected to finish ahead of Louisville in the ACC, Nwora was named the Preseason ACC Player of the Year. Nwora dominated Miami to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds on Tuesday.

Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois – Dosunmu appears poised to take his game to the next level as a sophomore.  His freshman campaign certainly wasn't too shabby, though, as the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest.  Dosunmu showed excellent versatility.  He scored at least 20 points in seven games, had 12 games with at least five rebounds, and dished out at least five dimes on six occasions.  He can score in a variety of ways; he shot 35.2-percent from three-point range, but also flashed the ability to get to the foul line too.  Dosunmu reportedly added 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, which should only further the notion that he is in line to take a leap into the elite tier of guards in the Big Ten. Though Illinois needed overtime to dispatch of Nicholls State in the season opener, Dosunmu led the victory charge with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals.

CHECK STATUS

James Wiseman, C, Memphis – The Tigers bring in a monstrous freshman class under second-year coach Penny Hardaway, and Wiseman's seemingly boundless talent lands him at the top of the heap.  The seven-footer is expected to be a defensive menace, possessing outrageous athleticism and elite size.  His offensive game may need some polish, though, particularly outside the paint.  However, the teenager has absurd upside and could be the top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.  Wiseman had little difficulty with South Carolina State on Tuesday, though, notching 28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.  It will be interesting to see how he handles expectations and better competition, though.  The first real test looks to be Nov. 12 against Oregon.

Prince Ali, G, UCLA – Ali sprained his ankle during an exhibition contest last week, leaving his status up in the air for the start of UCLA's season.  Ali started all 26 games he played in last season, averaging 9.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per contest.  Ali was fourth on the squad in scoring but could see the ball in his possession more often with last year's floor general Jaylen Hands now in the NBA.  Leading scorer Kris Wilkes also left school for the league, so Ali and new point guard Tyger Campbell, who missed all of last season due to a torn ACL, could form a surprise dynamic duo in Westwood.

Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga – It has been a rough last year or so for Tillie, who entered last season with serious hype but was plagued by ankle and foot injuries.  Instead, Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura flexed their star power, and are now in the NBA.  Tillie, meanwhile, returned to Gonzaga to try and regain his star power, but underwent preventative knee surgery a month ago, leaving his start to the 2019-2020 campaign in question.  Tillie appeared in just 15 games last season, and is not on the right track to start this year either.  Expect sophomore Filip Petrusev and freshman Drew Timme to fill the frontcourt until Tillie can return to action.

Udoka Azubuike, C, Kansas – Speaking of injuries, Azubuike has had two of his three seasons with the Jayhawks cut massively short due to injury.  When healthy, he is a dominant force, a true big man who displays efficiency on the offensive end and ferocity on the defensive end.  He averaged 13.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game as a sophomore, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Jayhawks made the Final Four that season.  The only question is whether he can stay on the court.  Now a senior, Azubuike is one of the big reasons remains among the elite teams in the country, and he has even been named Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year.  He will need to maintain his health to take the Jayhawks to the Promised Land and reach the school's true potential.  Azubuike did collect eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and a block Tuesday against Duke, but also battled foul trouble and committed four turnovers as well.

DOWNGRADE        

Alexis Yetna, F, South Florida – The Bulls suffered a crushing blow last week when it was determined Yetna would miss the entirety of the 2019-2020 campaign with a left knee injury.  Yetna was a walking double-double last season as a freshman.  He had 14 double-doubles in all, en route to averaging 12.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per tilt.  He was named the conference's Rookie of the Year.  Arguably the top returning interior player in the American, Yetna was a Preseason Second-Team All-Conference selection.  The Bulls were supposed to return all five starters and be poised for a breakout season, but obviously now that may have to wait.  Even worse, Yetna's supposed fill-in, Mayan Kiir is out indefinitely due to personal issues.  The Bulls will be forced to either start freshman B.J. Mack at power forward or slide Michael Durr over to that position and start Antun Maricevic at center.

Devonte Green, G, Indiana – Green is battling a hamstring injury and will miss at least the season opener for the Hoosiers.  With Romeo Langford and Juwan Morgan in the NBA, the senior Green is the leading returning scorer for Indiana.  He also led the team in assists with 3.0 dimes per tilt last season.  With Robert Phinisee also questionable with an ankle injury, ball-handling duties could fall to Aljami Durham, who started 30 of 34 contests for the Hoosiers last year, or freshman Armaan Franklin.  The Hoosiers are not projected to be very good this season, and if injuries are mounting up before the season even starts, things could get worse before they get better.

Keyshawn Bryant, F, South Carolina – Bryant battled injury last year, and it appears a left knee injury will keep him out for at least the next month for the Gamecocks.  Bryant was fourth on the team in scoring at 9.0 points per game as a freshman, but with last year's leading scorer and rebounder Chris Silva now in the NBA, Bryant was expected to step up into that void.  Instead, Felipe Haase and Alanzo Frink will likely be asked to shoulder some extra burden until Bryant can return.  Ironically, Frink suffered the same type of knee injury a season ago.  He missed a month and a half.

Neemias Queta, C, Utah State – The Aggies won the Mountain West Tournament last season and begin the 2019-2020 season ranked in the top 25, led by the aforementioned reigning conference player of Sam Merrill.  Queta was a huge part of this team's success just a season ago, though, as he and Merrill formed a potent inside-outside combination.  Queta averaged 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 rejections per game as a freshman.  He was named both the Mountain West Freshman of the Year as well as its Defensive Player of the Year.  After testing NBA waters, Queta decided to return for his sophomore campaign, but suffered a scary knee injury in August.  While he avoided major tears, he still needed surgery, and it turns out he will not be ready for the beginning of the year, at the very least missing the season opener.  Junior Klay Stall will likely start in Queta's place, and it remains to be when the seven-footer will return, or how his body will respond at that time.

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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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