It's been a particularly bad winter thus far, with snow wreaking havoc over much of the nation. The weather could even play a pivotal role during the NFL Playoffs this weekend in Chicago, Foxboro or Pittsburgh. Fortunately, the college hoops scene has no such concerns, though certainly some ballers have been creating storms of their own. Let's look at who's fighting the elements, and who's snowed in.
1. Jeff Allen, F, Virginia Tech - The Hokies had a rough start to the season, losing four of their first eight contests. The turnaround has been swift, though, as Tech has now won six games in a row, with Allen providing the spark. The 6-foot-7 senior forward has tallied double-doubles in five of those six games with a nine-rebound effort against St. Bonaventure on Dec. 23 mixed in. He is shooting a career-high 50 percent from the floor and also averaging more than one additional assist per game than just a season ago. Allen has proven an excellent complement to Malcolm Delaney, and VT will need more stellar outputs from him if it is to contend in the ACC.
2. Tristan Thompson, F, Texas - The Longhorns lost Dexter Pittman, Damion James and Avery Bradley to the NBA, a death knell for most programs. However, Texas is 13-3 to start the season, with losses to perennial Top-10 squads Pitt and UConn. Much of the credit has to go to Thompson, a 6-8 freshman forward who has fit in seamlessly as Jordan Hamilton's sidekick. Thompson has scored 13 or more points in each of his last five games, while grabbing at least six boards in each of those contests as well. He also has provided some defensive toughness, swatting 2.0 shots per game. The Longhorns certainly would not be where they are without the talented freshman.
3. Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU - Make no mistake, Fredette can flat out score. He had 31 points in his last game against Utah - at the half. The senior from Glen Falls, N.Y., is averaging 24.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, both career highs. He is deadly at the end of games, hitting 88.5 percent of his free throws. Not surprisingly then, the Cougars have started the season 17-1 due to Jimmer's hot hand.
4. Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky - Consider all the dynamic freshman talent to come through Kentucky over the years: Jamal Mashburn, Antoine Walker, Sam Bowie, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, to name a few. Now let this statistic sink in: Jones set the Kentucky freshman single-game scoring record with 35 points against Auburn on Tuesday. Even more impressive, he started the game on the bench battling flu-like symptoms. Jones has been everything coach John Calipari could have hoped for, and then some, averaging 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per contest. Even though he might be another one-and-done player, Jones has certainly left his mark in Wildcat lore.
5. Dairese Gary, G, New Mexico - The Lobos lost Darington Hobson to the NBA, as well as team leader Roman Martinez to graduation, but Gary has picked up the slack. The 6-1 senior guard is managing career highs across the board with 13.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.3 dimes per game. He is also shooting a career-high 52.0 percent from the floor, a significant improvement from past seasons. Although he's turning the ball over almost three times per game, that is to be expected with the ball in his hands so much. New Mexico is 12-4 to begin the season, one year after losing its two best players. Gary deserves most of the credit for the continued stellar play from the Lobos.
6. Casey Mitchell, G, West Virginia - A JUCO transfer, Mitchell didn't play much last season with Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks in the mix. With those two players now in the League, Mitchell has taken his opportunity and has ran with it, averaging 17.6 points in 27.7 minutes for the Mountaineers. A scorer first and foremost, Mitchell's overall game has improved as the season has worn on as well; he's had at least two assists and two rebounds in each of his last four games. Mitchell's maturation is evident, and he should only continue to prosper.
1. Josh Terry, G, Austin Peay
2. Jamel McLean, F, Xavier
3. Arsalan Kazemi, F, Rice
4. Dwight Buycks, G, Marquette
5. Delvon Johnson, F, Arkansas
1. Trevor Mbakwe, F, Minnesota - Mbakwe went from "Hot" to "Not" in one week's time after an arrest and subsequent jailing for violating a restraining order obtained by an ex-girlfriend. Mbakwe averages a double-double with 13.4 points and 10.4 rebounds, good for Top 20 in the nation in rebounding. The Gophers have decided not to discipline Mbakwe, but it remains to be seen if this incident will linger over the junior forward and the rest of the Minnesota program.
2. Mike Scott, F, Virginia - A crushing blow to Virginia, as Scott, the Cavs' leading scorer and rebounder, will miss the rest of the season following a second surgery on his left ankle. Scott posted six double-doubles prior to the injury and was averaging 15.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game for Virginia. The No. 2 scorer on the squad behind Scott is Mustapha Farrakhan, who averages 12.1 points per game and had a 31-point outburst against Howard on Jan. 4.
3. A.J. Walton, G, Baylor - Nobody said filling Tweety Carter's shoes would be easy, and in all fairness to Walton, he isn't being asked to shoulder a huge scoring load with the likes of LaceDarius Dunn, Perry Jones and Quincy Acy on his squad. However, Walton's turnovers are slightly disconcerting, as the 6-1 sophomore guard is averaging 3.5 turnovers per contest, compared to 5.3 assists per tilt. He is also shooting just 68.2 percent from the charity stripe, which does not bode well for end-game situations. The Bears are still 12-3 to start the season and look to be among the better teams in the conference, but one has to wonder whether Walton's inexperience and carelessness with the ball will come back to bite Baylor sooner or later.
4. Jon Leuer, F, Wisconsin - Leuer is still a superstar by Big Ten standards, but his mid-range game has been off this season. After shooting 52.2 percent from the floor last year, the 6-10 senior is hitting just 47.3 percent from the field this season. He's been even worse in conference play, shooting just 36.4 percent in the first four games of Wisconsin's Big Ten schedule. Not surprisingly, the Badgers are just 2-2 over that span. Leuer actually recorded a season-low 10 points in Tuesday's 64-61 OT loss to Michigan State. He's simply too good to bench, but keep Leuer's recent shooting woes in mind.
5. Mike Singletary, F, Texas Tech - The Red Raiders got smashed by Texas on Tuesday, 83-52, with Singletary, the leading scorer for Tech, being held to just eight points on 2-of- 9 shooting. Singletary's shooting struggles have not been confined to just one game, though, as the 6-6 senior has hit just 3-of-28 three-pointers this season for a 10.7 percent mark from downtown. Yes, you read that correctly. As a result, his points per game average is down. He still remains an above-average rebounder for his size, but his boards are down from a season ago as well. Texas Tech does not have the squad to compete in the Big 12 either this season, leaving Singletary to try to carry the team's burden against superiorly talented teams. An unenviable position for the four-year letterman.
6. Enes Kanter, F-C, Kentucky - For those of you not following the Kanter story, the NCAA upheld its ruling in permanently suspending the uber-talented big man from Turkey for accepting $33,000 in impermissible benefits from his Turkish club team. Many prominent figures around college basketball, including coach John Calipari and Dick Vitale, have argued that the NCAA is providing inconsistencies in allowing some players to repay their received benefits and suspending them for a certain amount of games (see Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor), while permanently barring others from ever participating in collegiate athletics, like Kanter. Although his dreams of playing at UK have been dashed, don't feel too sorry for Enes; he'll likely be a first-round pick in this June's NBA draft.