This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, how's this for a family affair? Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has his son Buddy Boeheim, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, as a starter on his team. Buddy is no team mascot, as he plays 34.0 minutes per game and is averaging 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per contest thus far this season. One of Boeheim's daughters, Jamie, plays at the University of Rochester as well. If that's not enough, on Thursday, Syracuse played Cornell, an annual tradition between the two schools from Central New York. The star of the Big Red? Boeheim's other son, Jimmy Boeheim. The 6-8 junior scored 25 points against his pops and brother, but the Orange predictably won the contest, 72-53. Syracuse has won 40-straight games against Cornell dating back to 1968, so Jimmy likely knew his squad was fighting an uphill battle to begin with. Maybe Dad will let Jimmy win in the family's annual Thanksgiving day football game as a consolation prize?
Let's fill up our plates with this week's College Hoops Barometer.
Yves Pons, G/F, Tennessee – The Vols lost a ton of talent from last year's Sweet 16 squad (Admiral Schofield, Grant Williams, Jordan Bone, to name a few). However, Tennessee still has veterans remaining, with Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden leading the charge as seniors, along with the junior Pons. A bit player who averaged 2.2 points and 1.8 rebounds in 35 games as a sophomore, Pons has parlayed increased opportunities into stellar production. The 6-5 guard/forward is averaging 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per contests. The rejections are particularly noteworthy, as the athletic Pons has flashed his muscle on both ends of the floor. He is tied for second in the SEC in blocks per contest. He is shooting an absurd 66.7 percent from the field, including 6-of-10 from three-point land to begin the season. By contrast, he only shot 25 three-pointers all of last season. His ferocity on the defensive end, as well as his improved shot combined with athleticism on the offensive end, has led to a huge jump in statistics for Pons.
Kofi Cockburn, C, Illinois – Cockburn has been a double-double machine since stepping onto the court for the Illini. Cockburn has achieved double-doubles in four of his first five contests as a collegian. The seven-footer is averaging 15.0 points and 12.6 rebounds per game thus far as a freshman. Illinois is a bit starved for height, so the presence of Cockburn pays huge dividends on both ends of the court. He is also managing 1.4 rejections per tilt. With two capable passers at his disposal in the form of Andres Feliz and Ayo Dosunmu, Cockburn should be placed in position to succeed. The Illini have a lot to be hopeful about this season, and the fast start by Cockburn only serves to fuel that fire even more.
Aaron Nesmith, F, Vanderbilt – Nesmith was expected to see a jump in production from his freshman to sophomore campaigns, but nobody can say they expected this level of scoring prowess. He was named to the Preseason Second Team All-SEC squad, and he did average 13.5 points and 5.4 rebounds during conference play last season. Nesmith asserted himself after Darius Garland went down with an ACL injury. With Garland now in the NBA, the pathway had been cleared officially for Nesmith to take hold of the reins for the Commodores. And has he ever. Nesmith is averaging 26.6 points per game, which is third in the nation. He is shooting a standout 61.3 percent from the floor, which includes a 55.3-percent mark from long range. With Saben Lee an extremely capable disher, and 6-1 Scotty Pippen Jr. showing all-around skills like his father, Vandy has an exceptional backcourt with Nesmith at the forefront.
Zeke Nnaji, F, Arizona – Nico Mannion and Josh Green came to Arizona amid much fanfare, and it was them, and not Nnaji, who came into the season as the top-rated freshman recruits for the Wildcats. Mannion has certainly performed admirably thus far (13.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists through four contests). Green is still finding his way at 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 dimes per game. However, Nnaji is the neophyte who has exploded out of the gate. The 6-11 forward is averaging 21.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.3 swats per tilt. Nnaji has had his way on the interior, shooting an insane 84.6 percent against inferior competition. The trio form a dangerous triumvirate that could do serious damage come tourney time, and the rapid ascension of Nnaji should only help their chances.
Jarron Cumberland, G, Cincinnati – Cumberland battled a foot injury in the offseason, and there were questions as to whether he would be healthy enough at the beginning of the season for the Bearcats. The reigning conference player of the year, Cumberland managed just 12.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game through the first two contests. Then he watched the third game of the season from the bench in street clothes, as he was benched, supposedly due to a coach's decision and not the foot ailment. There has been little talk of the reason for this benching, and the situation remains shrouded in secrecy and mystery. It remains to be seen how this will affect Cumberland, his first-year head coach John Brennan and the outlook for the Bearcats this season.
Michael Devoe, G, Georgia Tech – Is Devoe's hot start an aberration, or has the sophomore taken over for Jose Alvarado as the primary catalyst for the Yellow Jacket offensive attack? A combo guard, Devoe is off to a scorching start for the Ramblin' Wreck, averaging 26.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per contest. That includes a career-high 34 points in Wednesday's loss to Georgia. Devoe had slightly lesser stats than his backcourt mate Alvarado a season ago, though both guards played significant roles in the offense. However, Alvarado has been banged up with an ankle ailment this year, leaving the door open for Devoe to seize hold of the offense. While Devoe is more of a scorer and Alvarado more of a facilitator, the ball was in Alvarado's hands more often last year. That has not been the case thus far this season, though the sample size is small, and Alvarado has not been healthy. Still, if Devoe continues to pour it in at such an alarming rate (11-of-15 from three-point range, for example), then the Yellow Jackets may have to reevaluate their offensive scheme.
Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky – After losing to Evansville and then barely scraping by Utah Valley University, the Wildcats better hope that Quickley comes back, well, quickly. The sophomore guard suffered a chest injury during practice, and sat out the narrow win over UVU. Quickley is second on the team in scoring and dishing, and third in rebounding despite his 6-3, 188-pound frame. Ashton Hagans scored a career-high 26 points in Quickley's absence, and would stand to gain the most in terms of usage and productivity if Quickley remains sidelined any longer.
George Conditt IV, F, Iowa State – Conditt's per-minute production is astounding. In just 17.8 minutes per game, the 6-10 sophomore is averaging 10.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per contest. Conditt played more of a complementary role as a freshman, but has done plenty this season despite still seeing fairly limited playing time. He's shooting an outrageous 82.6-percent from the field. A matchup with a true seven-footer in the form of Michigan's Jon Teske next week will be an interesting test for Conditt. Oregon State's Tres Tinkle dominated the interior of the Cyclones earlier this season, though perhaps that is understandable as he is one of the marquee players in the nation.
Casey Morsell, G, Virginia – Morsell earned a few votes in the ACC Preseason Rookie of the Year voting, even though the vast majority of votes went to North Carolina's Cole Anthony. Still, Morsell has failed to contribute much on the stat sheet for the Cavaliers thus far to start his collegiate career. A top-60 recruit for coach Tony Bennett, Morsell is playing 26.0 minutes per game but averaging just 1.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 assist per contest. Virginia lost its top three scorers from last year's National Championship team, and the squad has actually gone from being backcourt to heavy to its strength being in the frontcourt with Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff. Growing pains certainly could be expected for Morsell, and Virginia's slowdown pace doesn't typically yield monster statistics. Still, the numbers are paltry despite Morsell being one of just six players for the Cavs averaging over 25 minutes played per game.
Davion Mintz, G, Creighton – Mintz tested NBA waters before deciding to return for his senior season. He had started 67 of Creighton's previous 70 games. However, he suffered an ankle injury in the offseason, an issue that has not gone away, and has resulted in him being sidelined since the beginning of the season. Mintz stuffed the stat sheet for the Bluejays a season ago, managing 9.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.1 steals per contest. Ty-Shon Alexander, Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock have had to play extremely heavy minutes to begin the season without Mintz to share some of the load. It is unknown when Mintz will be healthy enough to return either.
Jaylen Shead, G, Washington State – Shead was unable to play last game due to an ankle injury, sporting a noticeable limp. The senior has been a mainstay for the Cougars, and was coming off arguably his best season in Pullman. Shead averaged 7.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.2 steals as a junior. The presence of JUCO transfer Isaac Bonton may have an impact on Shead, as they essentially play the same position, and Bonton has been surging to begin his Wazzu career. Bonton is averaging 16.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per contest. As such, even when Shead gets healthy, his minutes and production may not even be able to approach what they were a season ago.
Alterique Gilbert, G, Connecticut – Gilbert's collegiate career has been marred by injury. Between the beginning of the 2016 season and the end of the 2018 campaign, Gilbert appeared in just nine games due to rather serious left shoulder issues, which included a dislocation and surgery. Last year was by far his best season, as he appeared in 25 contests for the Huskies, averaging 12.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest. Still, he missed a few games after aggravating that same shoulder, and then suffered an unfortunate concussion in early March and missed the remainder of the season. Gilbert was reportedly healthy to begin this season, that is, until he injured his ankle Thursday against Buffalo. Gilbert will miss at least the next couple of games, and with such a checkered injury history, there is obviously some pessimism regarding eventual return.