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College Hoops Barometer: Early Riser

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.

Tired of the ranting and raving over perennial powerhouses like Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky? Looking for a not-so-ordinary, early season darling to root for? San Diego State is 5-0 to start the season, led by 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has collected double-doubles in each of the Aztecs' first five games en route to leading San Diego State in points, rebounds and even assists. Will Leonard and the rest of the Aztecs be able to keep it up through March? Only time will tell. For now, on to this week's NCAA Barometer.

UPGRADES

1. Kemba Walker, G, Connecticut -
Already considered by many to be arguably the best player in the Big East, Walker torched Vermont for 42 points on 15-of-24 shooting last week, then led the Huskies to a closer victory over Wichita State on Monday with 14-of-15 free throws. Forced to shoulder more of the scoring load with Jerome Dyson gone, Walker's other stats will come around once the rest of the Huskies settle in to Coach Jim Calhoun's offense. Still, Walker has collected 16 rebounds in three games with eight assists and six steals. Overall, Walker is making an early push to be the best point guard in the land.

2. Aaric Murray, C, La Salle -
Get Murray on your radar if he isn't there already, as he might be the nation's best big man by season's end. All he's done through four games is average 18.8 points, 8.5 boards and 4.0 blocks. He blocked nine shot against Morgan State on Nov. 20 and twice has recorded five steals in a game. Yes, you read that correctly. The 6-10, 250, sophomore still has room to grow as well, a scary proposition for opposing bigs.

3. Tu Holloway, G, Xavier -
Holloway's stats are simply off the charts thus far this season, as he's averaging 27.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists through four games, while shooting a blistering 55.8 percent from the floor. Did I mention he's just 6-0? Tu's TOs are a bit high, though perhaps that's to be expected considering how often the ball is in his hands. If you can stomach the turnovers, Holloway looks poised for a monstrous junior campaign.

4. Joevan Catron, F, Oregon -
Granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA after a back injury sidelined him for all but four games last season, Catron has exploded out of the gate, managing 21.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. More of a post player despite his 6-6 height, Catron tallied nine offensive rebounds over his first three games this season. It remains to be seen if he can keep up the scoring, but Catron has proven he can bang down low and hit the glass hard, making him a fairly valuable commodity regardless.

5. Darius Morris, G, Michigan -
Who fills the huge void created by the loss of Manny Harris, perhaps Michigan's best player since The Fab Five? Enter Morris, a cagey sophomore who has reached double-digit assists in each of his last two contests. He also leads the Wolverines in scoring with 14.7 points per game. while shooting a robust 65.4 percent from the floor. We'll see if he can keep it up, but so far he's been the catalyst to Michigan's 3-0 start.

6. Maalik Wayns, G, Villanova -
Corey Fisher ran the two-guard sets well with Scottie Reynolds last season, and coach Jay Wright is finding out quickly that Wayns is equally up to the task. Through four games, the 6-1 sophomore is averaging 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists per tilt. His shot still needs work, as his three-point shooting in particular has been rather abysmal. However, overall Wayns has shown a firm grasp of the offense and has proven an excellent complement to Corey Fisher.

Honorable Mentions

1. Reggie Johnson, C, Miami (FL)
2. Tristan Thompson, F, Texas
3. Faisal Aden, G, Washington State
4. Ben Hansbrough, G, Notre Dame
5. Durrell Summers, G, Michigan State

DOWNGRADES

1. Jeremy Hazell, G, Seton Hall -
A dynamic scorer, Hazell decided to come back for his senior season after briefly testing the NBA draft waters. Gunning for his third consecutive season averaging 20.0 points per game, he scored 24 points per game through the Pirates' first three games of 2010-2011. However, in that third game, Hazell broke a bone in his left wrist against Alabama, and will miss the next 4-6 weeks. It will be tough to replace Hazell, both for Seton Hall and fantasy owners alike.

2. Josh Selby, G, Kansas -
For starters, it could have been worse for the Jayhawks. After all, Kentucky center Enes Kanter, for example, was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA earlier this month. So perhaps the fact that Selby, the No. 1 recruit from last year's high school class, is suspended until only Dec. 18, isn't all that bad. That said, the freshman will already be behind the learning curve, and it may take an additional couple weeks to get his sea legs. In other words, Selby may not prove useful until the start of 2011.

3. Harrison Barnes, F, North Carolina -
Barnes' trip to Puerto Rico didn't go exactly as planned. The freshman small forward has dominated lesser opponents, but struggled in UNC's losses to Minnesota and Vanderbilt. In fact, Barnes shot an absurd 0-for-12 from the floor against the Gophers, and he wasn't much better at 4-for-12 against Vandy. Fortunately, the Tar Heels have some cupcakes mixed into their schedule for a while until conference play begins, because Barnes is clearly still adjusting to the speed and size of defenders at major college programs.

4. Isaiah Thomas, G, Washington -
Thomas played rather poorly in Washington's loss to Kentucky on Tuesday, shooting just 4-for-14 from the floor, including 0-for-4 from downtown, in the 74-67 loss. Perhaps most disturbing, however, was the fact that the 5-8 junior shot a mere 5-for-10 from the charity stripe. A 73.2 percent shooter from the free-throw line last season, Thomas is shooting just 57.9 percent through four games this season. And although his overall field goal percentages is higher than last season, the rest of his stats are down, including points, rebounds and even assists. If the Huskies are to go far once again come March, Thomas needs to play up to his potential, and perhaps beyond.

5. Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State -
Pullen had one of the worst games of his collegiate career Tuesday against Duke, shooting an abysmal 1-for-12 from the floor, including just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. It was clear the Duke gameplan was to shut him down, and the Blue Devils were extremely effective in that regard. Without Denis Clemente, Pullen will have to find a way to not only get his shot off with a constant hand in his face, but also find ways to contribute and lead his team if his shot isn't falling.

6. Elias Harris, F, Gonzaga -
Harris had his first decent game of the season Tuesday against Marquette, tallying 19 points and eight rebounds. Still, his overall start to the season has been less-than-stellar, as his numbers are way down across the board. The most significant drop has come in points (14.9 last year to 9.2 this year) and rebounds (7.1 last year to 4.2 this year). He's also shooting just 42.9 percent from the floor, after compiling a blistering 54.7 field goal rcentage during his freshman campaign. His minutes aren't really down, so hopefully Harris can turn it around. But it looks as though the extra attention this season hasn't done much for his numbers.

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