This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.
Three weeks later than a "normal" season, college basketball started with a flurry of non-conference matchups that tipped off Nov. 25. Despite dozens of programs getting shut down or interrupted by the same COVID-19 virus that cancelled the 2020 NCAA Tournament, over 100 games tipped off in the day-long opener. Scheduling continues to be complete chaos as teams add and subtract games on a daily basis, but one thing is for sure: college hoops is back.
After the virus, the biggest offseason story was the state of the game's top talent. Several top prospects skipped the college game to play overseas or in the G-League, following in the footsteps of R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball. Big names such as Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix ultimately bypassed the collegiate hardwood, depriving fantasy players of the high-powered freshman that are so valuable in many formats. Even Auburn's Sharife Cooper – ESPN's No. 20 overall recruit – could end up departing early due to eligibility concerns.
Despite an oft-exaggerated exodus of talent, the game remains in excellent shape. Freshmen Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley are off to roaring starts, while preseason All-Americans like Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Ayo Dosunmu look every bit the part. Each week this season, RotoWire will take a look at player pool on a whole, identifying athletes trending up or down with respect to their fantasy production. Many of this week's options are tied directly to the waiver status of transfers. Let's get things started.
Ayo Dosunmu, G, Illinois
While fellow Big Ten players Luka Garza (33.5 ppg) and Marcus Carr (29.7 ppg) are both in the top-5 in the nation in scoring, I'm highlighting Dosunmu here because he took on one of the best defenses in the country Wednesday night and still had a strong fantasy performance against the Bears (18 points, six rebounds, five assists). Dosunmu did so without the Illini's second-best player as well, as Kofi Cockburn was limited to just 18 minutes due to foul trouble. It seems as if we have a matchup-proof producer on our hands, which means there's little worry about the production falling off when conference play begins.
Charles Bassey, F, Western Kentucky
Bassey had the makings of a one-and-done player after putting up 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds his freshman season in 2018-19, but returned to school, and it cost him. He ended up breaking his leg just 10 games into his sophomore season, and many seemingly forgot about the 6-11 center to start this year. That didn't last long. He's been in double figures each game and recently pulled down a season-high 15 rebounds Tuesday against Louisville. Enjoy this production and center eligibility while it lasts, because he won't be in college after this year.
Sahvir Wheeler, G, Georgia
Wheeler has taken the reins at point guard for the Bulldogs and opened the season with back-to-back double-doubles, including a career-high 12 assists in the Nov. 29 opener against Florida A&M. Things will no doubt get tougher once SEC play begins, but in the immediate future, Wheeler draws non-conference matchups against Jacksonville (Dec. 4), Montana (Dec. 8) and Samford (Dec. 12). Montana is probably the best of that trio, checking in at No. 162 on KenPom. Ride the wave while you can.
Sandro Mamukelashvili, F, Seton Hall
We knee "Mamu" was going to be in for a big fantasy season after electing to return for his senior year, but the 6-11 forward has seemingly taken his scoring to a new level. It's only three games, but his average is up nearly 10 points from a season ago, checking in at 21.7 ppg. The opponents haven't exactly been cupcakes, either. Mamukelashvili had 22 and 10 in the opener against Louisville, plus 25 and 10 Wednesday night against another potential tournament team in Rhode Island. Seton Hall will definitely struggled without top scorer Myles Powell (graduation), but all those shots left up for grabs bode well for Mamukelashvili's fantasy potential.
Josh Christopher, G, Arizona State
The Sun Devils have an embarrassment of riches with Remy Martin back for another year and Portland transfer Holland Woods getting cleared for a waiver. The surprise has been the instant impact of Christopher, ESPN's No. 11-ranked recruit. Through three games, he leads ASU in both scoring (18.7 ppg) and usage rate (20.1 percent). The latter will eventually be taken over by Martin, but Christopher will be an elite fantasy asset worth trying to acquire before the price gets out of hand.
Julian Champagnie, F, St. John's
Speaking of usage, Champagnie has chucked up a total of 40 shots over the first two games of the year, accumulating totals of 29 and 25 points. We knew he was going to have to step up with L.J. Figueroa (transfer) and Mustapha Heron (graduation) gone, but Champagnie has so far exceeded expectations. Production from JUCO transfer Vince Cole and freshman Posh Alexander has helped complement Champagnie, but there's no doubt who is the star of the show here.
Jalen Suggs, G, Gonzaga
Even though Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard was granted a waiver for instant eligibility, it's been the freshman Suggs starting and manning point for the Zags. Suggs immediately announced his presence with a 24-point effort in a 102-90 victory over Kansas in the season opener, and hasn't slowed down much. He did appear to suffer an ankle/lower-leg injury Wednesday against West Virginia and was down for some time before hobbling to the locker room. Surprisingly, he re-entered the game, albeit with a slight limp. His progress will be worth monitoring, as there's little reason to skip rehab steps this early in the season.
Kihei Clark, G, Virginia
Clark was the unquestioned point guard at Virginia for the entirety of last season, but after taking an upset loss to San Francisco on Nov. 27, coach Tony Bennett decided a change had to be made. He swapped out his entire backcourt, benching Clark along with Casey Morsell. Both played only 15 minutes in the following game against St. Francis (PA), and Clark was held scoreless. It was freshman Reece Beekman who got the start at point guard, and while he only had two points, he did record four assists and zero turnovers. It's unclear how long Clark will stay in the doghouse, but it's tough to start him in fantasy lineups while he rides the bench.
L.J. Figueroa, F, Oregon
While the NCAA seems to be handing out waivers left and right, Figueroa remains without a decision. Last year's leading scorer for St. John's, Figueroa would seemingly be an instant starter at one of the wing spots. Instead, the Ducks started Duquesne transfer Eric Williams and Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi. To make matters worse, the Ducks lost presumed starting point guard Will Richardson for a possible six weeks due to thumb surgery, so they need Figueroa's scoring process in the worst way possible.
DeAndre Williams, F, Memphis
While Memphis has no shortage of talent in 2020-21, a possible waiver for Williams could really put the Tigers over the edge. The Tigers already seemingly run two-deep at just about every position, though Williams – who averaged 15.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists last year with Evansville – would immediately be their most productive reserve (assuming he doesn't crack the starting five, which we can't rule out). Memphis has already taken a pair of tough non-conference losses, but the fast pace and defensive intensity the Tigers bring to the table should catapult them to their first NCAA Tournament since 2013-14.
Lastly, Jon Rothstein has been doing god's work (as usual) this season. Here's Thursday morning's list of programs suspended due to COVID-19. Basically anyone here falls in the "check status" column until a return to action is made clear. Of the teams on this list, Butler, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are the only "power conference" teams, as Colorado announced its intention to end its pause Thursday afternoon.
Bo Hodges, G, Butler
This one is mind-boggling. There doesn't appear to be a whole lot different with Hodges than the other pile of waivers the NCAA cleared, yet he was officially denied prior to the season opener. No, not in the review process. Outright denied. I have no ties to the Big East or Butler basketball, but you have to feel for this kid. Butler will of course appeal, but those who drafted the double-digit scorer from ETSU are left in limbo with their fantasy rosters.
Josh LeBlanc, F, LSU
LeBlanc was denied his waiver as well, but since he only appeared in six games last year for Georgetown, he'll at least be eligible to return at semester. While LeBlanc impressed with 9.1 points and 7.3 rebounds during his freshman season, his sophomore year was plagued by off-the-court issues, and he enters a complicated frontcourt situation at LSU where minutes may be tough to come by. Even when LeBlanc returns, Trendon Watford and Darius Days are seemingly holding down the frontcourt spots. UCLA transfer Shareef O'Neal, who did get a waiver for immediate eligibility, has also been working as the primary backup.
Will Richardson, G, Oregon
Literally minutes before the opening tip of Oregon's first game of the season, news broke that the Ducks' presumed starting point guard recently underwent thumb surgery and is set to miss approximately six weeks. With all the uncertainty this year, that could easily end up being half the season. Can fantasy players afford to have a bench spot occupied this long? Maybe, considering we're talking about they heir apparent to Payton Pritchard. If you're in a deeper or Pac-12-only format, UNLV transfer Amauri Hardy – who started Wednesday – is the logical pivot.