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

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

Happy New Year!  Here are some wishes for health, wealth, happiness and prosperity, with a college basketball twist, as we drive down the lane, rise to the rim and slam into 2020.

Health: To North Carolina's Cole Anthony, on a speedy recovery from arthroscopic surgery on his knee.  With the focus of some "one-and-done" players on simply getting to the NBA, here's to hoping we will not only see Anthony back in a Tar Heels uniform, but get to see him healthy and doing some damage come tourney time.

Wealth: To Gonzaga, a perennial juggernaut.  The program started off as David and ended up being Goliath.  While they have been to 21-straight NCAA Tournaments, the program has just one Final Four and has yet to cut down the nets with a championship.  Perhaps this is the year for coach Mark few and the Zags.

Happiness: To Juwan Howard, Patrick Ewing, Penny Hardaway and any other former players coaching at their alma maters.  Coaching is an entirely different animal from playing.  There's an added layer of pressure when coaching at the school you attended and achieved some level of success.  Practice patience, ride out the waves, and keep reminding yourselves that at the end of the day, you get to coach basketball for a living.

Prosperity: To the sport as a whole.  With the proposed expansion of the NBA's G-League, players like LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton are deciding to skip college and play internationally. Even the cases like James Wiseman where a highly touted prospect barely gets to grace the floor before going pro, college basketball is at a crossroads.  Whatever the solution, and the suggestions are plentiful, let's hope the NCAA, lawmakers or anyone else that's involved gets it right so that this beautiful game can continue.

Didn't expect to get so sappy there.  In any event, as we ring in the new year, here are some other players making headlines in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Jayden Gardner, F, East Carolina – A double-double-threat each and every time he steps onto the hardwood, Gardner has six such outputs through 13 contests as a sophomore.  He has scored at least 22 points in five-straight outings.  Gardner leads the American in scoring and is third in rebounding.  He is an adept passer as well, as he is second on the Pirates in dishing with 2.1 dimes per game.  Gardner can do it all, though is the only returning starter from the squad from a season ago, so the Pirates may struggle during conference play.  However, that should mean all the more opportunities to pad his stats as the season wears on.

Kameron McGusty, G, Miami – The Oklahoma transfer and All-Name Team nominee has been tremendous of late for the 'Canes, who have reeled off five-straight wins since two lopsided losses to Florida and UConn.  McGusty has proven an excellent complement in the backcourt to point guard Chris Lykes.  In fact, a recent career-high output of 28 points in a thrashing of Coppin State has placed McGusty near the team leader Lykes in terms of points per game.  He is also third in both dishing and rebounding for the Canes, who boast a stellar three-man backcourt of McGusty, Lykes and senior Dejan Vasiljevic.  Miami will need its thin frontcourt to contribute in order to keep pace in the mighty ACC, but the improved play of McGusty gives them a fighting chance.

Gabe Kalscheur, G, Minnesota – In an ugly 20-point loss to Iowa on Dec. 9, Kalscheur failed to record a single point, and Minnesota dropped to 4-5 on the year in what was increasingly looking like a lost season.  However, Kalscheur and the Golden Gophers have bounced back in a big way, ripping off three consecutive wins, including an impressive 84-71 triumph over previously undefeated Ohio State.  Kalscheur has been on fire over the last two contests in particular, averaging 28.5 points during that span.  He has hit a staggering 12 three-pointers over that time period.  With sophomore point guard Marcus Carr second in the conference in assists, and big man Daniel Oturu dominating the interior, the Gophers may be in better shape than expected.

Elijah Hughes, F, Syracuse – Hughes was overshadowed a bit by Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle last season, but he is playing second fiddle to no one as a junior.  Hughes has played 40 minutes in seven of the Orange's 13 games this season.  He poured in a career-high 33 points at Georgia Tech on Dec. 7, and nearly posted a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in a win over Niagara last Saturday.  Syracuse is thin all around this season, thus forcing Hughes to play extremely heavy minutes.  It may not be a recipe for success in the vaunted ACC, but it should result in exceptional numbers for Hughes.  He is second in the conference in scoring, and seventh in dishing.

CHECK STATUS

Miles McBride, F, West Virginia – The freshman has come on strong recently, averaging over 15 points per contest over the last three games.  That included a career-best 21 points in Sunday's stunning 67-59 victory over highly ranked Ohio State.  McBride scored six points in the final two minutes and change to lead the Mountaineers to victory.  Will this serve as a springboard for even greater things to come for the neophyte, or will he come back down to earth?  McBride is currently one of five Mountaineers averaging at least eight points per game, but he also leads West Virginia in assists.  The team is 11-1 heading into Big 12 conference play.  McBride is likely here to stay, but it will be interesting to see if he can consistently put up numbers for the Mountaineers, or if they will instead be spread out amongst his teammates.

Onyeka Okongwu, F, USC – The leading scorer and rebounder for the Trojans, Okongwu missed Southern Cal's most recent win over Florida Gulf Coast due to an ankle injury.  The issue is not considered serious, and the Trojans were able to take care of business versus the Eagles even without the services of Okongwu, so perhaps this absence was more of a precautionary measure than anything else.  Still, it is worth monitoring Okongwu's status as the Trojans head into the meat of Pac-12 conference play.  Okongwu is currently third in the conference in rebounding and field goal percentage.

Kamar Baldwin, G, Butler – Baldwin injured his ankle in Tuesday's narrow victory over St. John's on Tuesday, and clearly was not 100 percent despite attempting to play through the issue.  He still scored 19 points in the 60-58 triumph, but that could also have been pure adrenaline.  He was spotted in a walking boot following the game.  We will see how the ankle responds in the coming days.   The senior is the leading scorer for the 13-1 Bulldogs, and any sort of absence during the beginning of conference play could certainly negatively affect Butler.

DOWNGRADE          

Carlton Bragg, F, New Mexico – Bragg has been suspended indefinitely by New Mexico for undisclosed reasons.  The former Kansas Jayhawk had been averaging a double-double for the Lobos with 13.5 points and 10.8 rebounds per contests prior to the suspension.  Bragg has an extremely checkered past, having been suspended twice while at Kansas for off-court issues, which included arrests for domestic battery and possession of drug paraphernalia.  He subsequently transferred to Arizona State, but never actually appeared in a game there before making his way to the Land of Enchantment.  In his place, Corey Manigault has posted back-to-back 20-plus point outings, and should continue to see extensive minutes in the frontcourt for the Lobos as they attempt to replace Bragg's significant production.

Romello White, F, Arizona State – White was forced out of ASU's demolition of Texas Southern early due to a right ankle sprain, leaving his status in doubt for Saturday's rivalry game at Arizona.  White is averaging a double-double on the season with 11.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest.  He leads the Pac-12 in rebounding currently, and is second in field goal percentage, hitting a blistering 68.9 percent of his shots from the floor.  Kimani Lawrence would likely see a bump in minutes should White be unable to suit up versus the Wildcats, and he and sophomore Taeshon Cherry would probably draw the difficult assignment of attempting to slow down Arizona's freshman sensation Zeke Nnaji.

C.J. Bryce, G, NC State – In a bit of a freak occurrence, Bryce was inadvertently struck in the face by a teammate during the final sequence of gameday practice and was placed in the concussion protocol.  He missed the 72-60 triumph over Appalachian State, and the Wolfpack do not play again until Jan. 4 at Clemson.  Still, the absence of the squad's leading scorer and rebounder could certainly spell trouble, as Bryce paces the Wolfpack with 16.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per tilt.  This seems like simply a case of NC State being cautious, but any sort of setbacks could obviously negatively impact NC State.

Lamonte Turner, G, Tennessee – The Vols lost Grant Williams, Jordan Bone and Admiral Schofield to the NBA, but still had a decent nucleus remaining with Yves Pons, Jordan Bowden and Turner.  Unfortunately, Turner decided to undergo surgery for a balky shoulder that will sideline him for the remainder of the season, dealing a crushing blow to the Vols' hopes for this campaign.  Turner's collegiate career is over.  With Turner gone, the Vols were trounced Sunday by Wisconsin by 20 points.  Junior Jalen Johnson and freshman Davonte Gaines should be the chief beneficiaries in the absence of Turner for the suddenly thin Vols.

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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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