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College Hoops Barometer: Upgrades, Downgrades

Jesse Siegel

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.

Another season of college hoops is upon us. Some names and faces have come and gone since Butler's Cinderella run came oh-so-close to a storybook ending. However, the top-ranked squads remain eerily familiar. Defending champion Duke and Michigan State lead the pack once again, with mainstays Kansas, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Villanova and Syracuse finding themselves in the Top 10. John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats loom just outside with an entirely new cast of freshman characters, while freshman phenom Harrison Barnes has the Tar Heels back in their rightful place of prominence.

Still, with so much of the old guard hogging up the rankings, one has to wonder: who will be this year's Butler? Or was the Bulldogs near-championship an aberration, with the stars just happening to perfectly align this one time for a small-conference, Hoosiers-like tale? Well, that's why they play the games, folks. Without further ado, the first College Basketball Barometer.

UPGRADES

1. Quincy Acy, F, Baylor -
No Ekpe Udoh was supposed to mean more room for Acy to operate around the paint. He hasn't disappointed thus far for the Bears, averaging 22.5 points and 11.5 boards, while shooting a blistering 66.7 percent from the floor. Once Lacedarius Dunn comes back from suspension, teams won't even be able to double-team Acy. Not like he's had to much trouble to start the season anyway, though.

2. Steven Gray, G, Gonzaga -
Gray has exploded out of the gate for the Zags, averaging 25.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.3 dimes through three games. He's shooting a ridiculous 59.1 percent from the floor. Although he'll likely cool off eventually, continue to ride Gray while he's hot, as it appears as though he's taken over the role of facilitator for the Bulldogs with Matt Bouldin graduated.

3. Jordan Williams, F-C, Maryland -
Williams has been sizzling to begin the 2010-2011 campaign, posting three consecutive double-doubles for the Terps en route to averages of 21 points and 13.7 points per contest. Already considered one of the best big men in the land coming into the season, Williams is making an early push for ACC Player of the Year.

4. Markieff Morris, F, Kansas -
His brother Marcus got more pub coming into the year, but Markieff has notched two-straight double-doubles to begin the season. While Marcus is the more polished scorer, Markieff might be better on the defensive end, while also showing decent court sense with six assists over is first two games. All in all, with added minutes Markieff might be a sleeper stat stuffer for the Jayhawks.

5. Jared Sullinger, F-C, Ohio State -
So much for growing pains. The freshman Sullinger flat-out dominated a ranked Florida squad in just his second collegiate game, tallying 26 points and 10 rebounds for the Buckeyes. He's got an NBA body at 6-foot-9, 280, and has already shown a vast array of post moves combined with sheer, raw force and strength. Having superb guards feeding you the ball and taking pressure off doesn't hurt, but Sullinger would likely be rolling no matter who his teammates were.

6. Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois -
From a freshman to a four-year general. McCamey is the heart and soul of the Illini. He's been up to his usual tricks to start his last season in Champaign, managing 14.7 points and 8.0 assists per tilt. Most impressive, perhaps, has been his 4-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio and the overall drop in is turnovers. The Illini have multiple weapons in Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale and Brandon Paul, and if McCamey can keep the ball under his control, both he and Illinois will go far this season.

Honorable Mention

1. Alex Oriahki, F-C, Connecticut
2. E'Twaun Moore, G, Purdue
3. John Henson, F-C, UNC
4. Terrance Jones, F, Kentucky
5. Travis Leslie, G, Georgia

DOWNGRADES

1. Will Barton, G-F, Memphis - Barton was one of the most highly touted recruits coming out of high school, but his ittle brother Antonio has actually performed better out of the gate. Will The Thrill has been slowed by a knee injury he suffered on Oct. 22 during practice, and shooting 0-for-6 from three-point land to start the season obviously hurts. As Barton gets healthier, the 6-6 swingman will come into his own, and he still has the ability to score from anywhere on the court. For now, though, Barton will be eased into the action for the Tigers.

2. Scotty Hopson, G, Tennessee -
With Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze all gone, Hopson will be looked at to carry the Vols this season. He's got a knack for finding the bottom of the bucket, but might not contribute enough on the glass and dishing the rock to emerge as an elite option as some would have hoped. His turnovers will also undoubtedly increase due to the ball being in his hands more. Again, it's early, but 20 percent from three-point land to start the season was not exactly what coach Bruce Pearl envisioned.

3. Kyle Singler, F, Duke -
Not time to panic yet, and just a temporary downgrade for Singler. However, it will take some adjustments after playing three seasons with the now-departed Jon Scheyer. With Kyrie Irving running the show over the first two games, Singler's stats are down across the board, though admittedly he wasn't needed much in two Blue Devil romps. Still, with nothing left to prove at the college level, one has to wonder whether Singler can keep up his motivation for the entire season, particularly with the NBA in his future.

4. Curtis Kelly, F, Kansas State -
Kelly has drawn the ire of coach Frank Martin due to his lack of hustle and leadership during practices. So much so, in fact, that he was benched the first two games of the season for the Wildcats. Ultimately, Kelly is too talented to sit. He'll be a vital cog should K-State wish to contend for the national title. However, to start the season, he's definitely in the doghouse.

5. Jon Diebler, G, Ohio State -
Buford and David Lighty may not shoot as well as Diebler, but appear to be more complete players. With Evan Turner gone, Buford and Lighty look poised to take up his vacant role, while Diebler's stats are down a bit to start his senior season. All three guards are similar in size, meaning Diebler will likely be the one left out for the Buckeyes.

6. Kris Joseph, F, Syracuse -
Joseph has been ice cold to start the season for the Orange, shooting just 26.1 percent from the floor. With Arinze Onuaku gone, Joseph and fellow big man Rick Jackson will look to fill the void. While Jackson has thrived thus far, Joseph has struggled, averaging just 9.0 points and 5.0 points. He's been shooting some threes as well for some reason, and failing miserably, hitting just 18.2 percent of his treys. Once Joseph gets back to pounding the ball inside and choosing better shots, he should be better off and see a jump in his statistics.

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