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

This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.

Since 1990, only three teams have entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated.  Those schools are UNLV in 1991, Wichita State in 2014, and Kentucky in 2015.  San Diego State currently sits at 26-0 and is vying to become the fourth.  As funny as it sounds, they may not want to be undefeated.  None of the other three schools mentioned above went on to win the NCAA Championship.  Two made the Final Four, though, and the Aztecs have never been past the Sweet 16 as a program.  In fact, San Diego State won its first ever NCAA Tournament game in 2011, so a Final Four trip just nine years later would be mighty impressive.

We are getting ahead of ourselves, of course, but the Aztecs have three regular season games remaining, followed by the Mountain West Tournament.  If they survive that unblemished, then the pressure will really, truly mount.  The pressure on undefeated teams is immense, and the expectations even higher.  Note that Wichita State lost in the second round in 2014, just one season after making the Final Four as a Cinderella.  To be the favorite is an entirely different animal.  The Aztecs haven't played a close game in a month.  That will also change during the NCAA Tournament.  The one-and-done format is extremely unforgiving.  The table is set; can the Aztecs make history, one way or the other?

Let's take a look at some other hardwood heroes in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.
 

UPGRADE

Trevon Scott, F, Cincinnati – Everyone knew about Jarron Cumberland coming into the season, but Scott has upped his game for the Bearcats as well.  The senior is averaging a double-double with 10.8 points and 10.0 rebounds.  Scott is second in the conference in rebounding, behind only Precious Achiuwa of Memphis.  Diving deeper into the numbers, Scott has nine double-doubles on the season, including three straight.  He has seven double-doubles over his last 10 contests, and has recorded double-digit rebounds in five-straight contests.  Over those last five outings, Scott is averaging 17.8 points and 13.2 rebounds.  He is shooting over 60-percent from the field during that span.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cincinnati has won seven of the last eight games, and Scott's superior play is certainly a big factor.

Isaiah Wong, G, Miami – Injuries to starters Chris Lykes and Kameron McGusty thrust the freshman Wong into the spotlight, and even since the return of those players, Wong has continued to earn himself playing time.  Through the first 18 games of the season, Wong managed just 12.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.1 points and 1.7 rebounds.  By contrast, in the last seven games, all starts, Wong is playing nearly 33 minutes per contest, parlaying increased action into averages of 16.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists.  As mentioned above, the fact that he has remained in the starting lineup despite the return of both Lykes and McGusty shows he will continue to be a vital part of the Hurricanes roster for the remainder of the season.

Chris Smith, F, UCLA – The Bruins have won five of six, and seven of their last nine contests.  More consistency from Smith has been a huge reason for the turnaround.  Smith already leads the Bruins in scoring, but his play has been even more inspired of late.  Over the last six games, five of them wins, Smith is averaging 17.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists.  That includes a career-high 30 points against Colorado on January 30.  Smith is also second on the squad in rebounding.  Since entering the starting lineup Dec. 28, Smith has three double-doubles.  UCLA has gone from NCAA tournament afterthought to legitimate hopeful over the past month, and Smith has been the catalyst.

Xavier Pinson, G, Missouri – Pinson has been on a scoring tear of late, and almost seemingly out of nowhere.  Prior to Feb. 8, the sophomore had hit the 20-point mark just once in his entire career.  Over the last four games, though, Pinson has caught fire, averaging 23.3 points per contest.  That includes 28 points against Auburn on Saturday, followed by a 32-point virtuoso performance in a win over Ole Miss in which he out-dueled the SEC's leading scorer, Breein Tyree.  Pinson's ability to get to the free throw line has been a big part of the recent renaissance, as he has attempted 34 foul shots over the last four tilts, making 29 of them.  The Tigers have won three of the last four contests, and suddenly no longer look like the doormat of the conference.
 

CHECK STATUS

Killian Tillie, F, Gonzaga – Injuries continue to plague Tillie, who can be a star for the 'Zags when on the court but has missed large chunks of time during his collegiate career.  Tillie has missed nine games this season, including three of the last four contests.  He reportedly aggravated a left ankle injury against Saint Mary's, which had previously forced him out of the first two games of February, and he missed this past Saturday's win over Pepperdine as a result.  The Bulldogs are likely to cruise to the WCC Championship and likely a one-seed, so coach Mark Few may choose to proceed cautiously with Killie and keep him fresh for when the games really matter.  Tillie is one of seven members of the 'Zags averaging double figures in points.

MaCio Teague, G, Baylor – Not much has gone wrong for the Bears this season, as Baylor is currently riding a staggering 23-game winning streak, which is a Big 12 record.  Teague has missed the last two games of that stretch, though, as he is nursing a wrist injury.  The team has remained rather mum on his status.  Teague is second on the squad in scoring and third in rebounding and assists.  While the Bears found ways to beat Oklahoma and West Virginia without the services of Teague, his absence could be huge in Saturday's monumental clash with Kansas, which sits just a game behind Baylor in the Big 12 conference standings.

Isaac Bonton, G, Washington State – Bonton will miss Wednesday's clash with Cal due to a leg injury, but the issue is not considered serious.  The Cougars hope to have him back for this weekend's tilt with Stanford.  The JUCO transfer from Casper College has been an immediate contributor for Wazzu, averaging 14.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest.  Expect freshman Noah Williams to attempt to pick up the slack if Bonton misses more time.  Williams collected 10 points, five rebounds and three assists with Bonton sidelined last game.
 

DOWNGRADE

Jericho Sims, F, Texas – Sims is likely to miss the remainder of the season for the Longhorns due to a back injury.  The junior has increased his level of production in each of his three seasons at UT.  Sims led the Longhorns in rebounding by a wide margin, managing 8.2 boards per contest.  He was seventh in the Big 12 in rebounding at the time of injury.  He was also fourth on the Longhorns in scoring, shooting an impressive 65.8 percent from the floor.  That figure was second in the conference.  Texas was unlikely to make the NCAA Tournament even with Sims, as the bumbling Longhorns have dropped four-straight.  6-foot-11 freshman Will Baker snatched a team-high seven rebounds in UT's first game without the services of Sims, and Baker could be in line for an increased role down the stretch.

Akok Akok, F, Connecticut – Akok suffered a complete rupture of his left Achilles in Sunday's win over Memphis, and will miss the remainder of the 2019-2020 campaign.  In fact, due to the severity of the injury, there is no guarantee Akok is ready for the beginning of next season either.  The 6-foot-9 freshman had started 24 of 25 games for the Huskies, averaging 5.8 points and 5.5 rebounds.  More rebounds should be available for Josh Carlton, who grabbed a season-best 13 boards in Sunday's victory, as well as junior Isaiah Whaley.  The latter had an impressive performance in 35 minutes, compiling five points, seven rebounds and six blocks in the triumph over the Tigers.

Isaac Okoro, F, Auburn – A hamstring injury caused Okoro to miss Auburn's loss to Mizzou last Saturday, and according to coach Bruce Pearl, Okoro has been unable to practice due to the ailment.  Without Okoro at the squad's disposal, the Tigers had a seven-game winning streak snapped.  The 6-foot-6 freshman has played a dynamic, versatile role for the Tigers, so his absence was obviously missed.  Okoro is second on the team in scoring, tied for second in rebounding and steals, and third in assists.  Only leading scorer Samir Doughty sees more court time than Okoro.  Fellow freshman Allen Flanigan made the start with Okoro shelved, but managed five points, six rebounds and two dimes in the 85-73 loss to Mizzou.  It is safe to say the Tigers are not the same team with Okoro sidelined.

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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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