There’ve been plenty of surprises in the early portion of the college basketball season. Start with Houston, soaring to the top of the rankings. It’s the first time since the Phi Slama Jamma days of Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, The Cougars (+700) are favored in odds to win the national championship, according to the college basketball playoff odds. Texas, Virginia, Purdue, and UConn are the next teams getting attention in the wagering.
The flip side has 2022 national finalists North Carolina and Michigan St. both out of the top 25 rankings. Gonzaga’s suffered three losses already.
This is the debut of “Who’s Hot, Who’s Not?” in the college basketball world, focusing on individual successes or struggles rather than team results.
- Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan: After a season of 9½ points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman at Memphis, Bates has thrived in Ypsilanti. He was the top-rated transfer in the country according to the 247sports.com database, Bates averaged 27½ points and seven boards in back-to-back wins against Florida International and Florida Atlantic.
He is averaging 21½ points and 6½ rebounds per game. Bates doesn’t have much help, though, as the Eagles are just 1-7.
- Oumar Ballo, Arizona: Ballo is averaging 23 points and nine rebounds over his last three. He’s missed just eight of his 39 field-goals attempts, leading the Division I men’s players with a shooting percentage of 76.9%.
The college basketball betting lines have Ballo top 15 in national player of the year award odds.
- Marcus Carr, Texas: Carr hasn’t committed a turnover in two of his last three games. He had 10 assists (just two turnovers) while averaging 18 points in wins over Northern Arizona, UT Rio Grande, and nationally-ranked Creighton.
Carr has 12 assists and a single turnover in two games against ranked opponents so far this season as the second-ranked Longhorns are 6-0.
Those who bet online should note that Texas has failed to cover in two of its last three.
- Zach Edey, Purdue: The 7-foot-4 Edey has emerged as No. 4 Purdue’s No. 1 option this season, and seems to be taking to that expanded role rather nicely.
He has seven straight 20-point games to date, coming off a 31-point, 22-rebound stat stuffer in a win over Minnesota. Edey (+300) is listed by the Las Vegas odds as the front-runner in the national player of the year race.
⌚️ It’s time to take notice of Z. pic.twitter.com/sMpKJSGGYY
— Purdue Men’s Basketball (@BoilerBall) December 6, 2022
- Kris Murray, Iowa: Iowa didn’t need to look far to find a replacement after Keegan Murray went to the NBA after a breakout 2021-22 season. Brother Kris is compiling similar stats this season.
Murray is coming off a 31-point, 20-rebound game in a win against Georgia Tech in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Scoring in a variety of ways (7-of-10 inside the arc, four 3-pointers, and five free throws) as he shook off tough shooting efforts against Clemson and Texas Christian.
- Sam Griffin, Tulsa: The junior guard scored at least 20 points in three of the first four games.
It’s been a bit of a struggle recently, just 11-of-40 of his last three. He missed 15 of his last 17 3-point attempts as Tulsa dropped games to Murray St., Oklahoma St., and Oral Roberts.
Griffin is leading the Golden Hurricane in scoring (15.4 ppg), and his numbers are close to what he did a year ago in his first season at Tulsa. He spent his first two seasons at Texas Arlington.
- Kobe Bufkin, Michigan: Bufkin is continuing to struggle with his shot, coming off a game against Kentucky when he missed seven-of-10. He’s at 30% or less in three of his last five.
He is 8-of-8 at the line in his last couple.
- Kuany Kuany, California: The senior forward is playing a larger role this season but is still inconsistent on offense He’s just 9-of-32 (28.1%) over his last six, including back-to-back outings without hitting a shot.
Kuany isn’t the first option in the Cal offense, but if the Bears are to rebound after an 0-9 start, he will need to improve his woeful (36%) shooting.
- KC Ndefo, Seton Hall: NdeFo is 2-of-6 (limited sample of 33.3%) as Seton Hall has dropped its last two. Ndefo only had one field-goal attempt (but committed five turnovers) in 22 minutes during a 36-point blowout loss to Kansas the last out.
The Jersey move (St. Peter’s to Seton Hall) has been a slow one. He averaged 13.7 and 10.5 points, respectively, in his final two seasons with the Peacocks. Now, just 6.9 ppg at the Hall.
- Brandon Slater, Villanova: Slater began the season scoring in double figures in five of his first six games. He’s struggled in the last couple (1-of-5 3-pointers and just 12 points in a loss to Oregon and a win over Oklahoma.
Villanova is just 3-5. Slater’s poor shooting has been a factor. He was at 50% (field) and 41.7% (3-pointers) two years ago. Those numbers have dropped to 39.3% (field) and 23.1% (distance). Villanova’s odds to win the title have freefallen to +12500, per the college basketball odds.