College Basketball Notebook: Stock report, freshmen sensations

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No, it’s not quite time to start filling out your brackets for March Madness, but the truth is, college basketball is somehow inching past us.

As we approach the final turn before we head into the home stretch in February, teams are positioning themselves for the stretch run. There are always upsets and surprises to come. Here is an idea on which teams maybe gaining steam at the right time and a few disappointments as well.

Risers…
You don’t have to look far if you reside in the Pelican state. The UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns were 21-11 last season but appeared primed to far surpass that output this year. Winners of 14 out of their past 15 contests, the Cajuns are much improved defensively from a year ago. Meanwhile, they are producing 84 points per outing.

Garbbing 12.7 offensive rebounds per game while clearing the glass on the other end of the floor, ULL appears to have a complete team capable fo scaring teams in March.

Cajuns coach Bob Marlin has done a solid job, boasting a 80-71 neutral site win over Iowa earlier this season. Three seniors – Bryce Washington, Frank Bartley and Jonathan Stove – lead the charge.

Washington, a rugged St. Augustine product at 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, has 10.3 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Bartley (6’3-215) tallies 16.5 points per game. Stove (6-4, 220) is contributing 9.5 points per outing. Stove and Bartley prepped at Christian Life in Baton Rouge (the school now known as The Church Academy).

Talented transfers Malik Marquetti, Jakeenan Gant and Marcus Stroman have helped make the Cajuns difficult to defend and deep as they have cruised through Sun Belt play unbeaten at this point.

Buffalo, hardly a basketball powerhouse, finished 17-15 last season. Now the Bulls are dangerous, winners of their past eight games and 11 of the previous 13. Averaging 83.6 points per game, Buffalo is fueled by guard C.J. Massinburg (18.6 points/game) and forward Nick Perkins (6-8, 250 with 16.2 avg.).

Boise State, 20-12 last year, are hitting the boards hard to the tune of 30 defensive rebounds per game. The program has been consistently good in recent seasons. This year, Chandler Hutchinson (6-7, 197) averages 19.9 points and 8.1 rebounds as the top gun for the Broncos.

New Mexico State (28-6 last season) is hoping to make a March splash this go’ round. Winners of 11 of their past 12 including a victory over Miami (FL), the WAC fovaries score at a 74.3 point clip and allow just 63.5 points per game to their opposition. Zach Loftin, a 6-4 guard, is good for 19.9 points per game while forward Jemerrio Jones (6-5, 200) averages a double-double at 10 points and 11.3 boards.

Some disappointments…
Oregon, 33-6 last season, did lose 63 points per game through graduation. As a result, the Ducks are struggling in the tough PAC-12. The good news is Eugene? A consensus top three national recruiting class is on the way.

Baylor with high expectations has dropped six out their past eight games.

Minnesota, expected to make the NCAAs ahead of the season, won eight of their first nine coming out of the gate. Yet in this year’s watered-down Big Ten, the Gophers of Richard Pitino are 1-6 in their last seven.

Surprise on the Bayou…
Duke is pacing the nation with a 92 point per game average but the Southland has a surprisingly good squad who can really score the ball.

The Nicholls Colonels are the 12th best scoring team in the land, producing 86.3 points and hitting 47.8 percent from field. In Richie Riley’s second year in Thibodaux, his team is also ranked fourth in college basketball in steals at 10.25 per game.

The “Young Guns”…
These are the Top 12 elite freshmen ‘ballers in the land. They are making a splash in their field and leading their teams, even as newcomers. Many of these will be suiting up in NBA next season.

Oklahoma’s freshman sensation Trae Young is stealing headlines. The 6-2 whirling sensation leads the country with 30.5 points and and 9.7 assists per game. The 5 star prospect from Norman, Oklahoma averaged 42.6 per outing at Norman North High. It’s a true case of the hometown hero!

R.J. Cole has made a major impact on the Howard University Bison program as the nation’s sixth leading scorer with 23.4 points/game. He is Young-like as a scorer who creates as well (six assists per game). The 6-1 native of Jersey City, NJ led St. Anthony’s to four consecutive state titles.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley has lived up to his hype as a 5 star recruit in the 2017 class. The nation’s No. 14 scorer with 21.9 points and 11.5 rebounds is a 6-11 post and a big reason for the success of the 18-2 Blue Devils.

Trevon Duval, a 6-3 guard, is another freshman sensation for Coach K. The New Castle, Indiana product produces 12.1 points and 6.2 assists per game.

UC Santa Barbara guard Max Heidegger scores at a 21.4 points per game as a college newcomer.

DeAndre Ayton (7-1, 250) will have to decide if he will bolt for NBA following season. Oh who am I kidding? The Nassau, Bahamas native is scoring 19.7 points and pulling down 11.1 boards per game for Arizona. A sure-fire top two pick (Ayton or Young, the Wilcats center reminds onlookers of a young Joel Embiid.

Texas big man Mohamed Bamba (7-0, 216) hails from Harlem with a 7’9” wingspan and serious hops. He is good for 12.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.37 blocks each game. He had a season high of eight blocks against rival Kansas.

Murray State guard Tremetrius “Ja” Morant scores 11.7 points, dishes out 6.5 assists and snares 6.2 rebounds per game.

Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. has some local ties to the Crescent City. Although the 6-11 force in the middle prepped in Carmel, Indiana, his dad Jaren Jackson Sr. prepped at Cohen High in New Orleans before going onto play at Georgetown and in the NBA. The younger Jackson is a key player for the Spartans averaging 11.9 points, 6.4 boards and 3.38 blocks.

Cameron Lard (6-9, 225) played his AAU ball in New Orleans, but prepped in Natchitoches Central across the state. The redshirt freshman is a main cog for Iowa State with 12.1 points and 7.3 rebounds, hitting on 64.4 percent of his attempts from the floor.

Central Arkansas’s Hayden Koval (7-0, 210) is not only a versatile big man in the Southland Conference, but the former 2 star rated prospect out of Prosper, Texas has proven doubters wrong with his 9.5 points, 5.2 boards and 2.85 blocks each game.

Paul Atkinson (6-10, 220) has excelled at an unlikely basketball program, the Yale Bulldogs. The West Palm Beach, Florida native is contributing 9.2 points, hitting on an impressive 70.3 percent of his shots.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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