College Hoops Barometer: Opening Night Edition

College Hoops Barometer: Opening Night Edition

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

Let the Chet Holmgren hype train begin.  The No. 1 recruit in the land showed off his dynamic game Tuesday against hapless Dixie State.  The seven-footer collected 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and seven blocks in a memorable debut, as the 'Zags win in a landslide, 97-63.  Holmgren's unique skill set was on full display; he has the height and shot-blocking prowess of a center, but the handle and vision of a point guard.  Not to mention he can shoot more than a little bit, too.  Paolo Banchero of Duke and Emoni Bates of Memphis headline an ultra-talented freshman class along with Holmgren, but the Gonzaga neophyte may be in a class of his own.

Let's take an extremely early look at some notable names and performances in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Julian Champagnie, F, St. John's – Champagnie was a unanimous selection for All-Big East Preseason First Team, though ceded Preseason Conference Player of the Year to Collin Gillespie of Villanova.  Regardless, Champagnie appears poised for a monstrous campaign after deciding to return to the Johnnies instead of turning pro.  He led the conference in scoring last season, averaging 19.8 points per contest.  He's a matchup nightmare for the opposition, listed as a guard though standing 6-8 and pulling down 7.4 boards per tilt.  With Posh Alexander as his running mate, St. John's has a great chance to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2000.  Champagnie scored 20 points in 20 minutes

Let the Chet Holmgren hype train begin.  The No. 1 recruit in the land showed off his dynamic game Tuesday against hapless Dixie State.  The seven-footer collected 14 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and seven blocks in a memorable debut, as the 'Zags win in a landslide, 97-63.  Holmgren's unique skill set was on full display; he has the height and shot-blocking prowess of a center, but the handle and vision of a point guard.  Not to mention he can shoot more than a little bit, too.  Paolo Banchero of Duke and Emoni Bates of Memphis headline an ultra-talented freshman class along with Holmgren, but the Gonzaga neophyte may be in a class of his own.

Let's take an extremely early look at some notable names and performances in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Julian Champagnie, F, St. John's – Champagnie was a unanimous selection for All-Big East Preseason First Team, though ceded Preseason Conference Player of the Year to Collin Gillespie of Villanova.  Regardless, Champagnie appears poised for a monstrous campaign after deciding to return to the Johnnies instead of turning pro.  He led the conference in scoring last season, averaging 19.8 points per contest.  He's a matchup nightmare for the opposition, listed as a guard though standing 6-8 and pulling down 7.4 boards per tilt.  With Posh Alexander as his running mate, St. John's has a great chance to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2000.  Champagnie scored 20 points in 20 minutes in the season opener versus lowly Mississippi Valley State.

 Branden Carlson, C, Utah – Opportunity knocks for Carlson, who should get all the opportunities he can handle due to the departures of Timmy Allen and Alfonso Plummer.  In fact, Carlson is the only returning starter from last year's squad.  The seven-footer still posted solid numbers a season ago in 23.1 minutes per contest, averaging 9.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per tilt.  However, Allen and Plummer combined for over 30 points per game last year, leaving a huge void in the scoring column.  This could mean heavy reliance on the junior for a squad picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12.  Carlson managed 14 points and nine boards in the season-opening triumph over Abilene Christian on Tuesday.

 Sahvir Wheeler, G, Kentucky – Even John Calipari has been dipping his toes in the transfer pool.  Sure, the Wildcats have some standout freshmen as per usual, but their lineup will also feature some faces familiar to the college basketball landscape.  Kellan Grady made his way over from Davidson, while Oscar Tshiebwe came to Kentucky midway through last season from West Virginia.  Tshiebwe had a monstrous double-double against Duke on Tuesday.  Sharpshooter CJ Fredrick transferred from Iowa, but it is Wheeler who is likely to have the biggest impact.  The pure point guard led the SEC in assists at Georgia last season by a wide margin, and his presence will also allow standout freshman TyTy Washington to play off the ball.  Wheeler will allow for easy buckets for Tshiebwe and freshman big man Daimion Collins down low, but also provide open looks for a roster suddenly flush with scorers.  Unsurprisingly, Wheeler notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists in Tuesday's 79-71 loss to Duke.

 E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State – Duane Washington took his talents to the NBA, and Justice Sueing has been banged up for the Buckeyes.  That leaves Liddell to take on huge responsibility for Ohio State.  He responded with a sensational performance in a thrilling 67-66 triumph over Akron in Tuesday's season opener.  Liddell accumulated 25 points, 11 rebounds, three dimes, one steal and two blocks.  Liddell had three double-doubles all of last season.  Expect big numbers from the junior, as only one other starter returned from a squad that went to the Big Ten Championship Game last season.

CHECK STATUS

 Jayden Gardner, F, Virginia – Gardner was the best player on a rather poor East Carolina squad last season.  Still, he averaged over 16 points and over eight rebounds in three-straight campaigns, garnering All-AAC honors in the process.  The senior suddenly finds himself in the ACC and a nightly step up in competition.  It will also be interesting to see how he meshes with fellow transfer Armaan Franklin, as well as adjusts to the slowdown in tempo employed by the Cavaliers.  Gardner is a bit of a "tweener" at 6-foot-6, something he could get away with at East Carolina, but may not be as easy at Virginia.  He posted 18 points and 10 rebounds in Virginia's season opener Tuesday, but the Cavaliers dropped a stunner to Navy. In an odd twist, Gardner may yet again find himself on an underachieving squad.

 Johnny Juzang, G, UCLA – Juzang was the catalyst of the unlikely Final Four run for the Bruins last season, averaging 22.8 points per NCAA Tournament contest.  The 6-foot-7 shooting guard has ideal size and is an elite scorer, but his contributions in other categories leave a bit to be desired.  He averaged 4.1 boards and 1.6 assists per contest last year overall, registering just one double-double while failing to record five assists in any contest.  Growth for Juzang will be how he can affect the game in other ways, even though his best asset is putting the ball in the basket.  He had 19 points but just four boards and one dime in the win over CSU-Bakersfield on Tuesday.  If Cody Riley's knee injury is serious, Juzang will be asked to help shoulder more of the rebounding load.

 Marreon Jackson, G, Arizona State – Players change schools almost as much as they change socks these days.  Ok, so that's not quite fair, and Jackson is a graduate transfer who had spent his first four seasons at Toledo.  Still, the Sun Devils lost Remy Martin to Kansas, Alonzo Verge to Nebraska and Josh Christopher to the NBA, so Jackson will be tasked with filling some of that void.  He is more than capable of stepping up, though, as he managed 18.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists last year with the Rockets.  A 90.4-percent foul shooter last season, Jackson's presence on the court will especially prove vital in close contests.  He struggled shooting the ball Tuesday against Portland, but should be a stat sheet stuffer on a nightly basis, as he tallied four rebounds, five assists and two steals in the 76-60 triumph.

 Tramon Mark, G, HOU – Mark missed Tuesday's season opener for the Cougars due to a balky shoulder, and the Cougars struggled without his services.  In fact, the surprise Final Four squad from a season ago was taken to overtime by Hofstra.  Houston comes into the season without four of its top five scorers from a season ago, so missing Mark was a nearly devastating blow.  Marcus Sasser returns as the top scoring option and had 25 points in the victory, but a lot is expected to be asked of Mark.  While the injury is not considered serious, it is certainly not the start to the season that coach Kelvin Sampson envisioned.

DOWNGRADE

 Keyshawn Bryant, F, South Carolina – Bryant has been suspended for the first five games of the season due to a violation of athletic department rules.  Bryant's absence during training camp as well as the exhibition schedule had been noticeable, though had been chalked up to a minor knee ailment.  Now it appears something else was afoot.  Nevertheless, Bryant is expected to return following the suspension; he averaged 14.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per tilt last season.  With AJ Wilson also sidelined due to a back injury, Wildens Leveque, had 14 points and eight rebounds against South Carolina Upstate on Tuesday, though Josh Gray and Ja'Von Benson also had eight boards apiece in the 78-60 win.

 Manny Bates, C, NC State – Bates missed an exhibition game a week earlier due to an undisclosed reason, then left Tuesday's clash with Bucknell after playing just one minute due to an apparent shoulder injury.  Bates has had a bit of a hard time staying healthy during his time with the Wolfpack, so this is clearly not a good start to his junior campaign.  Bates led the ACC in shot blocking in each of the past two seasons, placing among the top swatters in the nation overall.  His offensive game had also been showing signs of improvement, including a better shooting touch and more polish on his post moves.  The severity of the injury is not yet known.

 Chase Audige, G, Northwestern – Audige started 23 of the 24 games he appeared in for the Wildcats a season ago.  The transfer from William & Mary averaged 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest for the surprising Wildcats.  In fact, he was the top scorer for the Wildcats.  However, Audige was not even seen warming up for Tuesday's season opener and did not suit up for the contest.  An undisclosed injury is apparently keeping Audige off the court, though there is little information as to what ails him at this time.  In his place, sophomore Ty Berry played heavy minutes against Eastern Illinois, while Boo Buie carried the offensive load overall.  The Wildcats have a cupcake schedule until a November 22nd meeting with Providence, so perhaps they are simply exercising caution with Audige.

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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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