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College Hoops Barometer: Big Play in the Big East

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.

What's your New Year's resolution? If you're Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, it might be to schedule a less intense schedule to start the season, particularly when your star player is coming back from injury. If you're Renardo Sidney of Mississippi State, you're likely hoping to spend more time on the court, and less time on YouTube. If you're Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, your resolution certainly involves fewer barbecues with potential recruits and more compliance with NCAA rules.

For auld lang syne, let's take a look at who's hot and who's not in the last version of 2010's College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADES

1. Matt Howard, F, Butler -
The absence of Gordon Hayward may sink Butler's NCAA title hopes, but Howard has thrived without Hayward in the picture. The former Horizon League Player of the Year is averaging career highs across the board, including 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest. Howard has added the three-pointer to his repertoire this season, hitting 14 threes after nailing just five total in his previous three years at Butler. Shooting 51.2 percent from the floor, Howard is a threat to score from nearly anywhere on the court and is certainly not afraid to bang with the big boys down low.

2. John Shurna, F, Northwestern - How about this for an eye-popping statistic? Shurna, a 6-foot-8 junior, is shooting 62.3 percent of his shots from downtown this season. The sample size is not terribly small either, as he's hit 33-of-53 from beyond the arc. Shurna averages 23.3 points per game, along with 5.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per tilt. He has scored in double-digits in every game this season, while getting his teammates easy buckets at a career-high rate. It shouldn't come as too much of a shock then that the Wildcats are 9-1 to start the season, with much of the credit going to Shurna.

3. Austin Freeman, G, Georgetown - The Big East Preseason Player of the Year, Freeman will likely lose out on the year-end honor to UConn's Kemba Walker. However, he has been no less effective for the Hoyas, averaging a career-high 18.9 points per game. One of the purest shooters in all of college hoops, Freeman is shooting a scorching 56.8 percent from the floor, showing excellent shot selection. Still, he's hit the long ball as well, connecting on 49.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. With a free-throw percentage hovering above 85 percent, Freeman is a standout weapon to close out games from the charity stripe too. He won't destroy the rebounding and assist categories, but he's serviceable in those areas as well. All in all, Freeman's sweet stroke will be the difference maker for Georgetown this season.

4. Jordan Williams, F, Maryland - How about six consecutive double-doubles? Is that good? Williams has been nothing short of dominant over this stretch, shooting more than 59 percent from the floor and doing his best impression of a Dirt Devil in vacuuming the glass. Williams has failed to post double-digit rebounds just twice in 12 games this year for the Terps. With 18.2 points per game to boot, the 6-10 Williams should be flying up NBA draft boards despite being just a sophomore.

5. Papa Dia, F, SMU - Dia's offensive game has been a revelation this season for the Mustangs, as the 6-9 senior forward is shooting an other-worldly 64.5 percent from the field en route to 17.7 points per game. His free-throw shooting has been excellent as well, as Dia has hit 85.7 percent from the charity stripe. His rebounding hasn't been too shabby either, as he's averaged 8.3 boards per contest. With 1.9 assists and 1.6 blocks per game to his name to boot, Dia's all-around improvement is certainly something to note.

6. Will Clyburn, G-F, Utah - Clyburn has come from virtual anonymity to lead the Utes in scoring and rebounding. The 6-7 swingman is averaging 18.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. He's been deadly from beyond the arc, hitting 40.9 percent of his treys. The Utes do not have a stellar squad overall this season, but Clyburn still gives Utah something to get excited about.

Honorable Mention

1. Brandon Bowdry, F, Eastern Michigan
2. Chris Warren, G, Ole Miss
3. Andrew Goudelock, G, College of Charleston
4. Justin Hurtt, G, Tulsa
5. JaJuan Johnson, F-C, Purdue

DOWNGRADES

1. Blake Hoffarber, G, Minnesota -
On the plus side, Hoffarber has been getting his teammates involved more so than ever, averaging 4.7 assists per game. His previous season high was 1.8 dimes per contest. However, the senior's shot has suffered this season after posting career-highs across the board percentage-wise as a junior. Hoffarber is shooting just 42.4 percent from the floor, including less than 40 percent from beyond the arc. Hoffarber also had 12 points and just one assist in Minnesota's loss to Wisconsin on Tuesday. He is still averaging a respectable 13.8 points per tilt, but the dip in his shooting percentages is something to keep an eye on.

2. Fab Melo, C, Syracuse -
Syracuse has so many weapons this season, it'd be unfair to expect Melo to come in right away and dominate for the Orange. With Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche higher on the proverbial totem pole, Melo averages just 2.3 points and 1.9 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per games. The 7-0 freshman is a project, and although he has massive potential, he isn't likely to help much this season.

3. Malcolm Delaney, G, Virginia Tech -
Delaney has been a beast for the Hokies, but he's averaging a career-high 4.5 turnovers per game and just 3.9 assists per contest, his lowest assist mark since his freshman campaign. As a result, Va Tech is just 7-4 to begin the season. He's averaging fewer points per game (19.6) than last season, despite playing 39.2 minutes per contest. His shooting percentage is surprisingly higher, but it appears that Delaney has a little too much responsibility on his shoulders and needs some help due to the constant attention he receives from opponents.

4. D.J. Kennedy, G-F, St. John's -
Nobody thought coach Steve Lavin would be able to turn the Johnnies around overnight, but the production of Kennedy, arguably St. John's best player from a season ago, has dropped across the board. In fact, the senior's averages of 12.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists have not been so low since his freshman season. With Justin Brownlee and Dwight Hardy surpassing Kennedy as the focal points of the SJU offense, Kennedy is left only to pick up the scraps.

5. Verdell Jones III, G, Indiana -
Jones is another player who hasn't been terrible, but just hasn't taken that next step as many Hoosier fans had hoped. His minutes, points and rebounds are all down, while his turnovers are up. His range is still largely within the three-point arc. The Hoosiers have lost three games in a row, with Jones shooting 28.6 percent from the floor over that span. He's got all the tools, but Jones has yet to put it all together for IU.

6. Earnest Ross, G, Auburn -
As great as the Auburn football team has been this season behind Cam Newton, that's how bad the basketball team has been. The Tigers sit at just 4-7 with losses to schools like Campbell, Samford and Presbyterian. Ross is the leading scorer at 11.8 points per game for the Tigers, but he's shooting just 38.2 percent from the floor, including 29.5 percent from three-point land. The most curious statistic? The 6-5 guard is leading the team in rebounding at 6.6 boards per game. Clearly not a good sign for Auburn's interior game. Stay away from the Auburn hoops team.
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