College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

College Hoops Barometer: Risers & Fallers

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

The Auburn Tigers currently sit atop the polls, and unlike most of the other squads surrounding them, are not driven by guard play.  That's not to say that K.D. Johnson, Wendell Green and Allen Flanigan are not vital parts of this team.  However, Flanigan is averaging about half as many points as he did a season ago, and Green is coming off the bench.  The strength of this team instead lies in the frontcourt with the duo of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler.  Smith is arguably the top freshman in the nation; he leads the Tigers in scoring, is second in rebounding and hits over 40 percent of his shots from downtown.  Kessler, meanwhile, is a ferocious defender, swatting 4.2 shots per contest, which is second in the entire nation.  He's no slouch on the offensive end either, though, managing 11.5 points and 7.9 boards per contest.  He nearly posted his second triple-double of the season in Tuesday's thrashing of rival Alabama, notching 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight rejections.  With Smith at 6-foot-10 and Kessler over seven feet tall, the Tigers are as imposing and skilled as any team in the nation in the frontcourt.

Here are some other players who are trending in this week's edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Malaki Branham, F, Ohio State – Teammate E.J. Liddell is a brand name at this point, but the freshman Branham has improved his play markedly as the season has progressed.  After failing to

The Auburn Tigers currently sit atop the polls, and unlike most of the other squads surrounding them, are not driven by guard play.  That's not to say that K.D. Johnson, Wendell Green and Allen Flanigan are not vital parts of this team.  However, Flanigan is averaging about half as many points as he did a season ago, and Green is coming off the bench.  The strength of this team instead lies in the frontcourt with the duo of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler.  Smith is arguably the top freshman in the nation; he leads the Tigers in scoring, is second in rebounding and hits over 40 percent of his shots from downtown.  Kessler, meanwhile, is a ferocious defender, swatting 4.2 shots per contest, which is second in the entire nation.  He's no slouch on the offensive end either, though, managing 11.5 points and 7.9 boards per contest.  He nearly posted his second triple-double of the season in Tuesday's thrashing of rival Alabama, notching 14 points, 12 rebounds and eight rejections.  With Smith at 6-foot-10 and Kessler over seven feet tall, the Tigers are as imposing and skilled as any team in the nation in the frontcourt.

Here are some other players who are trending in this week's edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Malaki Branham, F, Ohio State – Teammate E.J. Liddell is a brand name at this point, but the freshman Branham has improved his play markedly as the season has progressed.  After failing to score in double figures in nine of his first 10 games for the Buckeyes, Branham has hit the 10-point plateau six times in his last eight outings.  That includes a scorching 35-point barrage in an overtime win at Nebraska on January 2, 24 points one week later against Northwestern and another 20-point outing in Sunday's narrow defeat to Purdue.  Branham also grabbed a career-high seven boards in that contest as well.  Now the second-leading scorer on the squad behind the aforementioned Liddell, Branham's inspired recent play will need to be continued if Ohio State is to keep pace in an extremely competitive Big Ten.

Terrell Brown, G, Washington – Brown continues to provide the majority of the offense for the Huskies, who have won five of their last six games after a dreadful start to the season, as well as several COVID-related postponements.  Over those last six outings, Brown is averaging 23.8 points.  He poured in 30 points in Washington's last game versus Utah, a double-overtime thriller.  Brown has contributed outside the scoring column too, though, managing 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.8 steals during the above-referenced span as well.  He even swatted three shots in the win over the Utes.  Brown is more of a volume shooter and prefers to shoot inside the three-point arc, but there is certainly plenty of volume right now.  Brown has a sky-high usage rate, so there does not appear to be any end in sight to his massive productivity, especially if the Huskies keep winning.

Tari Eason, F, LSU – Eason has been a key cog for the Tigers this season after coming over from Cincinnati.  The sophomore is averaging 15.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest.  He has more than doubled his scoring from a season ago with the Bearcats, this despite only starting three of 18 games for LSU this season.  Those three starts have all come in the last three outings, though, as the Tigers finally appear to have realized Eason's value.  Add in a slide of losing five of the last six contests, and Eason's presence in the starting lineup could be viewed as an attempt to shock the Tigers out of their current funk.  Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, Eason continues to produce.

CHECK STATUS

Nate Watson, C, Providence – The Friars have just one loss in the Big East with two crucial matchups forthcoming with Villanova.  The Friars have previously been known for producing standout, all-purpose guards, but Watson is a fifth-year senior who has roamed the paint for Providence for years.  Watson averages 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds per tilt and has two double-doubles on the season.  The Friars start five seniors, but there is no question that this is Watson's team.  He was asked to do more last season with less talent around him, but the incoming transfers of Justin Minaya and Al Durham have added a jolt to the program.  The Friars are ranked, a surefire tourney team and perhaps much, much more.

Tyree Appleby, G, Florida – Appleby has been shuffled back and forth between the bench and the starting lineup this season for the Gators.  The senior guard has started 14 games for Florida, while coming off the bench for seven other contests.  His stats are remarkably similar regardless, averaging virtually the same amount of points and rebounds no matter the role, though his assists are a tad higher as a starter.  However, Appleby has returned to the starting lineup the last two games and put forth standout performances.  He's averaged 18.5 points and 5.5 dimes in those two contests.  Florida will need more consistency from Appleby, who is averaging 10.6 points and 3.9 assists for the season.

Ryan Kalkbrenner, C, Creighton – The Bluejays were able to pull off an impressive upset versus UConn on Tuesday even despite the fact that Kalkbrenner left the game early due to an ankle injury and did not return.  The severity of the injury is currently unknown.  Kalkbrenner has been a force on the interior for Creighton this season, managing 11.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per tilt.  The 7-1 sophomore is second on the team in rebounding and third in scoring.  Kalkbrenner is third in the conference in rejections behind Ike Obiagu and Kur Kuath.  Senior Ryan Hawkins had a mammoth double-double with Kalkbrenner sidelined and would likely be asked to shoulder even more of the burden in the frontcourt if Kalkbrenner missed additional time.  Freshman Arthur Kaluma could also see additional responsibilities.

DOWNGRADE

Daeshun Ruffin, G, Ole Miss – Ruffin must feel snake-bitten, as the freshman suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury in Tuesday's win over LSU.  An MRI is on tap.  Ruffin broke his hand at the start of the season after playing in just one game for the Rebels.  He was sidelined for eight contests.  He returned in the middle of December, and after three games off the bench, entered the starting lineup and had not given up that spot.  Ruffin finally appeared to be hitting his stride, too, averaging 16.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals over the last four contests for Ole Miss.  Unfortunately, Ruffin's season now appears to be in jeopardy.  With senior Jarkel Joiner already missing in action due to a balky back, the Rebels are razor-thin in the backcourt.  Look for senior Tye Fagan and junior Austin Crowley to attempt to gobble up some of the vacated minutes.

Malik Williams, F/C, Louisville – Williams was rather outspoken about the issues within the Louisville basketball program under the direction of former head coach Chris Mack, though with Mack now gone, perhaps some thought the sailing would be a tad smoother for the remainder of the season.  That may not actually be the case, though, as Williams has been hit with an indefinite suspension.  He missed Tuesday's loss to North Carolina, and it is undetermined when he will return, if at all.  Despite all the off-court hoopla, Williams was having his best season as a collegian, averaging 10.0 points and 8.7 rebounds.  The senior compiled six double-doubles on the year.  Sophomore Matt Cross played 39 minutes versus the Tar Heels and had a double-double of his own with 13 points and 15 rebounds, so he appears to be the most logical choice for continued starts in place of Williams.

Bryce Aiken, G, Seton Hall – Aiken has missed the last four games for the Pirates due to a concussion.  With the proper attention given to head injuries nowadays, there has to be real concern about Aiken's availability for the remainder of the season.  He had been on fire prior to the injury, too, scoring at least 22 points in five of the seven games prior to injury.  The sixth-year guard (yes, you read that correctly) is second on the team in scoring as well as dishing.  Kadary Richmond and Myles Cale will be tasked with attempting to help right the ship for the Pirates, who have fallen under .500 in the Big East.

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.
College Basketball Draft Kit: Ten Key High-Major Coaching Changes
College Basketball Draft Kit: Ten Key High-Major Coaching Changes
College Basketball Draft Kit: Ten Key Mid-Major Coaching Changings
College Basketball Draft Kit: Ten Key Mid-Major Coaching Changings
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