November is dust and December is here, meaning that warm-up tournaments are over, and the real ballers are beginning to round into form. While the national championship certainly can't be won or lost in these early stages of the season, it is clear already that Butler's magic from a season ago has worn off. The Bulldogs are 3-2, including their most recent loss to lowly Evansville. Somewhere in Utah, Gordon Hayward is wondering whether he should have stayed in school. Nevertheless, let's take a look at who's hot (and who's not) as we near the year-end festivities.
1. LaceDarius Dunn, G, Baylor - Dunn is back from his three-game suspension and does not appear to have missed a beat. The senior guard scored at least 20 points in each of his first two games, while also totaling nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals. He also turned the ball over nine times, but that's attributable to rust more than anything else. Overall, Dunn is a stud for the Bears.
2. Ravern Johnson, G, Mississippi State - Johnson has certainly shown he can fill it up over the Bulldogs' first four games. The lanky 6-foot-7 senior is averaging 27.3 points per contest, while shooting an insane 56.3 percent from beyond the arc. Although his numbers from three-point land likely won't continue, Johnson did shoot more than 40.0 percent from downtown as a junior, while also hitting 47.8 percent of his shots from the floor. His scoring prowess has been on full display so far, so continue to ride him while he's scorching.
3. Omari Johnson, F, Oregon State - Johnson has come from anonymity to lead the Beavers in scoring and rebounding through Oregon State's first five games. Seeing big minutes for the first time in his career, the senior has not disappointed, managing 15.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and even 2.8 steals per tilt. The Beavers do not have a strong squad this season, as evidenced by losses to Texas Southern and Seattle University, but Johnson should still be the recipient of decent numbers as the season progresses.
4. Alec Burks, G, Colorado - Burks is a scorer at his core, with the ability to beat opposing defenders off the dribble and either get his shot or earn a trip to the free-throw line. The sophomore has already shot 50 free throws in five games, a huge reason that he is averaging 22.4 points per game. Still, his 47.2 percent shooting from the field isn't too shabby either, and the 6-6 guard shot 53.8 percent from the floor over his entire freshman campaign. Burks is also averaging 4.2 rebounds per game, and though Cory Higgins should help to take some of the pressure off him, Burks should still be the No. 1 option for the Buffaloes this season.
5. Jeff Brooks, F, Penn State - Talor Battle is the catalyst for the Nittany Lions, but Brooks has proven an excellent complement, posting 16.0 points and 7.5 rebounds for Penn State. Hitting 67.3 percent of his shots from the floor surely doesn't hurt, though Brooks was a 50.0-percent shooter from the floor last season. He's also averaging 1.5 blocks this year, showing he can mix it up with the bigs down low. All in all, though it's still early, Brooks has nearly doubled his production from just a season ago.
6. Aaron Johnson, G, UAB - Johnson leads the NCAA in assist per game at 9.7. The diminutive senior guard has already managed four games with double-digit totals in assists. He hasn't averaged higher than 4.8 dimes per game in each of his previous three seasons with the Blazers, but perhaps Johnson has finally realized that dishing is his true forte. After all, the 5-8 guard is shooting just 27.3 percent from the floor to start the season.
1. Demetri McCamey, G, Illinois
2. Brad Wanamaker, G, Pitt
3. Ryan Rossiter, F, Siena
4. Alex Oriahki, F-C, Connecticut
5. Ty Walker, C, Wake Forest
1. Juan Fernandez, G, Temple - Through Temple's first five games, Fernandez is shooting an abysmal 29.6 percent from the floor, while not even averaging double-digits in points. He's been woeful from three-point land, shooting a paltry 17.4 percent from beyond the arc. His rebounds are up slightly, but so are his turnovers. As such, Fernandez has just about a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Temple is 3-2 to start the season after losing five games all last season, and much of that has to do with the fact that Fernandez has yet to find his stride for the Owls.
2. Brandon Triche, G, Syracuse - It's not that Triche has been terrible so far this season, but merely that he hasn't taken the "leap" as many expected he would. His averages of 8.2 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest are virtually identical to his averages from a season ago, despite the fact that he's averaging almost seven more minutes played per contest. His shooting may be the main culprit; after shooting 50.0 percent from the floor as a freshman, Triche is hitting 41.9 percent from the floor as a sophomore, including just 31.6 percent from downtown. Triche could still explode should his shot begin to fall, but thus far his performance has not been up to snuff.
3. Jeremy Green, G, Stanford - A scary moment for Cardinal fans and spectators alike when Green collapsed on the court due to dizziness and stomach pains following Stanford's victory on Sunday over DePaul. The good news is that Green, the Cardinal's leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, did not lose consciousness and was simply exhausted. Despite being hospitalized, Green was not expected to receive much treatment other than an IV. That said, monitor Green's status closely the next few days, as the Cardinal may want to ease him back into the swing of things, particularly with their next two games against UC Riverside and North Carolina A&T.
4. Preston Knowles, G, Louisville - Expected to be one of the senior leaders for coach Rick Pitino, Knowles has struggled shooting the rock so far this season, connecting on just 29.5 percent of his shots from the floor. His three-point shooting hasn't been much better at 33.3 percent. The 6-1 guard has been a surprisingly decent rebounder for his size, snatching 3.3 boards per contest, but his assists are down to just 1.3 per contest. If Knowles can't find his stroke, he may not be worth a look.
5. J'Covan Brown, G, Texas - The knock on Brown has been consistency; he explodes one game, then disappears the next, with an injury occurring sometime thereafter. His shot continues to need work, as he is hitting 38.6 percent from the floor and 23.8 percent from beyond the arc. His overall stat line already looks remarkably similar to last season. He should be getting more playing time as a sophomore, but that simply has not been the case thus far this season due to his struggles. The talent is there, but will Brown be able to take advantage? Only time will tell.
6. Tracy Smith, F, NC State - For those wondering about the whereabouts of Smith, the Wolfpack's leading scorer and rebounder from a season ago: Smith injured his right knee in NC State's first two games against the College of Charleston and ECU, and had surgery on Nov. 19. He likely will miss another couple of weeks, including tough matchups with Wisconsin and Syracuse. When healthy, Smith is among the better players in the ACC. He posted 16.5 points and 7.3 boards as a junior last season.