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

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

The argument has been made for the last few years that the gap is shrinking between Goliath and David, that the bluebloods are no longer unbeatable, that there is more parity in college basketball.  UMBC as a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament beating No. 1 Virginia two years ago may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, as the floodgates appear to have been opened.  The "little" schools and mid-majors cannot be underestimated.

Perhaps that is no more evident than the start to the 2019-2020 campaign.  Stephen F. Austin snapped No. 1 Duke's 150-game non-conference home winning streak with a captivating 85-83 OT victory in front of the Cameron Crazies.  Earlier this season, the Evansville Purple Aces stunned then-No. 1 Kentucky, at Rupp Arena, by a score of 67-64.

With these upsets as a backdrop, this week's College Hoops Barometer will feature at least a few top performers at less heralded schools that are making waves early on during the 2019-2020 campaign, along with some notable injuries and outcomes affecting some of the usual suspects.

UPGRADE

Obi Toppin, F, Dayton – Keeping with the above theme, the Flyers dispatched of Georgia and Virginia Tech in extremely convincing fashion, then took Kansas to the brink in overtime in the final of the Maui Invitational.  Dayton was a Cinderella darling under Archie Miller a few years ago, but the Flyers are making their way into the regular conversation for dangerous tournament squads each and every season.  This iteration of the Flyers is led by Toppin, a sophomore forward from Brooklyn who has stepped his game up thus far during the 2019-2020 campaign.  Toppin is averaging 23.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.8 dimes and 1.5 rejections per tilt. He is shooting a blistering 69.7-percent from the field.  A Preseason All-Conference First Team selection, Toppin, along with upperclassmen Jalen Crutcher and Ryan Mikesell, form a potent, experienced, formidable trio.

Malachi Flynn, G, San Diego State – The Aztecs are off to an 8-0 start, and Flynn has been surging of late.  He scored 28 points, all in the second half, in Friday's 83-73 win over Iowa.  Flynn is more than just a scorer, though, as he also tallied five rebounds, four assists and three steals in the victory.  Flynn also has a 10-assist game on his resume.  He leads the Aztecs in scoring and dishing.  San Diego State should give Utah State all it can handle when the schools meet later in this year during Mountain West play.

Yor Anei, F, Oklahoma State – The Cowboys put on a defensive clinic in the NIT Season Tip-Off, punctuated by a 78-37 triumph over Ole Miss in the championship.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Anei swatted four shots in that contest, and currently leads the Big 12 with an average of 3.3 blocks per tilt.  Anei and company held the Rebels to 25.9-percent shooting from the floor, including 1-for-20 from three-point land.  Anei is much more than just a defensive presence, though, as the sophomore big man is averaging 12.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest as well.  Anei and Cameron McGriff form an imposing frontcourt tandem, spurring the Cowboys to a 7-0 start.

Paul Reed, F, DePaul – Speaking of rejections, Reed has been hosting a block party of his own for the Blue Demons this season.  Reed swatted an outrageous eight shots Friday in a win against Minnesota, nearly tallying a triple double in the process with 11 points, nine rebounds and the eight blocks.  Reed has six double-doubles in DePaul's eight games, all wins.  The junior currently leads the Big East in rebounding and blocks.  DePaul was picked to finish dead last in the conference; instead, Reed, Charlie Moore and crew have led the Blue Demons to their best start since the 1986-1987 season.

CHECK STATUS

Samir Doughty, G, Auburn – Is Doughty's ascension to superstardom a mirage?  He played a respectable role for the Tigers last season following a transfer from VCU, starting 27 games, but was far from a true impact player.  Now a senior, he is averaging 19.3 points to go along with 4.6 boards and 2.6 assists per tilt.  That includes a career-best 33 points against lowly CSU Northridge.  The Tigers haven't really been tested much through seven games, though, and one has to wonder what will happen once the Tigers level up in competition.  Still, Doughty's shooting has improved in each season, and currently he is hitting over 45-percent from three-point range.  With contributions in bounding and dishing as well, perhaps Doughty deserves credit for taking his game to the next level.

Justin Bean, F, Utah State – The Aggies just suffered their first loss of the season, and have been without the services of seven-footer Neemias Queta, who suffered a knee injury over the summer and has yet to see the floor this year.  However, Utah State is still 7-1, and the improved play of Bean has to be listed as one of the major reasons the squad has barely missed a beat despite Queta's absence. Bean is averaging a double-double with 14.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per contest.  The sophomore is averaging 10 more points and seven more rebounds than a season ago.  He scored a career-high 24 points in Friday's loss at Saint Mary's. Queta's return remains up in the air, so as long as the big man is sidelined, Bean should be a nice piece to keep the Aggies on track.

Jahmius Ramsey, G, Texas Tech – Ramsey has taken up the mantel for a Red Raiders squad that lost three of its top four leading scorers from last season's Final Four unit.  The freshman is averaging 17.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per tilt. Ramsey leads the Red Raiders in scoring and is second in bounding.  It will be difficult Texas Tech to replicate its magical Final Four run from a season ago even with Ramsey taking over the primary scoring role from Jarrett Culver, who was a lottery pick in last June's NBA Draft.  However, Ramsey is also a little banged up with a leg injury and missed the OT loss to Creighton.  The Red Raiders have lost their last two contests after five cupcake matchups to begin the year.  Ramsey's injury is not considered serious, but the freshman will have a huge task ahead of him even when he's healthy.

DOWNGRADE

Cassius Stanley, F, Duke – The Blue Devils bounced back from the above-referenced stunning defeat at the hands of the Lumberjacks and beat Winthrop on Friday, but Stanley suffered what may be a serious leg injury.  He has been ruled out at the very least until after Christmas, leaving Duke without one of its prized freshman phenoms. Stanley had been averaging 12.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per contest.  Fellow freshman Matthew Hurt scored a team-high 20 points in Friday's triumph, and Hurt, Joey Baker and Jordan Goldwire should all see some extra minutes while Stanley is shelved.

Xavier Pinson, G, Missouri – Pinson left Tuesday's loss to Oklahoma early due to a knee injury.  The severity of the injury is unknown.  The sophomore has been a key contributor for the Tigers thus far, averaging 8.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest.  Pinson is fourth in scoring and second in dishing for the squad.  Fellow guards Dru Smith and Mark Smith will be asked to shoulder even more of the backcourt load for Mizzou if Pinson is forced to miss extended time.  The Tigers have already dropped three games this season, though challenged themselves with a non-conference slate against the likes of Xavier, Butler and Oklahoma.

Anton Watson, F, Gonzaga – The 6-foot-8 local product from Spokane has missed the last two games for the 'Zags due to an ankle issue.  The freshman is averaging 7.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals per contest for another loaded Gonzaga team. The Zags lost to Michigan in the Battle of Atlantis Championship, and narrowly defeated Oregon in the game prior, both without Watson, and perhaps not coincidentally.  Still, Watson is one of eight players averaging at least seven points per tilt for the Bulldogs.  Having senior Killian Tillie back in the fold and healthy for the first time in nearly two years should soften the blow if Watson missed more time, though.

Braxton Key, F, Virginia – As the Cavaliers found out last year, not only do you need skill, execution and effort to win a championship, but you also need a little bit of luck and health. Key played a vital reserve role for the Hoos during their championship run a season ago, but had been a starter thus far in 2019-2020.  He was averaging 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.  Key led the Hoos in rebounding and was tied for second in scoring.  Unfortunately, he suffered a wrist injury, was forced to undergo surgery and will be sidelined indefinitely.  Jay Huff replaces Key in the starting lineup, but Virginia was playing essentially seven players with Key healthy.  With Key injured, coach Tony Bennett may have to rely on some previously underutilized depth to fill in the blanks.

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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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