February is upon us, and, unfortunately, that means it's still snowing in most areas of the country. Don't fret, though, as March Madness, and spring, are just around the corner. With the conference standings taking shape, one of the continuing surprises is St. John's keeping pace in the ultra-competitive Big East in Steve Lavin's first season at the helm. The Johnnies also flexed their collective muscle in a staggering 93-78 victory over Duke on Sunday. We could see as many as 11 Big East teams in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama, a school not necessarily known for its hooping, is alone in first at 5-1 in the SEC West behind the frontcourt tandem of Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green. Meanwhile, out in California, the UCLA Bruins sit at 6-3 in a Pac-10 that is certainly up for grabs. In Mountain West territory, San Diego State continues to roll at 21-1 overall, despite a momentary blip courtesy of The Jimmer and BYU.
As we wade through the thick of conference play, let's take a look at the landscape of college hoops this week.
1. Peyton Siva, G, Louisville - Although he struggled a bit against Georgetown on Monday, Siva has still been a crunch time hero for the Cardinals of late. He hit an acrobatic game-winning lay-up between two defenders against West Virginia on Jan. 26, followed by several crucial buckets in Saturday's Double OT victory over Connecticut. In those last two contests, the 5-foot-11 sophomore averaged 16.5 points per game. Siva has been an excellent distributor as well, managing 5.0 dimes per game this season. His clutch baskets and ability to find the open man in end-game situations makes him a trustworthy guard for Rick Pitino, and he appears to be peaking now for Louisville.
2. Klay Thompson, G, Washington State - Thompson followed up his worst game of the season with one of his best, tallying 25 points, two rebounds, four assists, five steals and a block in Sunday's 87-80 victory over cross-state rival Washington. It was the first time in six tires that the Cougars beat the Huskies. Thompson has been simply monstrous for WSU, with 22.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per contest. He is shooting a career-high 46.4 percent from the floor, including 43.0 percent from three-point land. An 80.7 percent free-throw shooter to boot, Thompson might just have ability to lead the Cougars to a surprise Pac-10 title.
3. Jordan Williams, F, Maryland - Williams does not get enough attention due to the less-than-stellar reputation of the ACC this season after Duke and perhaps North Carolina. However, he has been beastly for the Terps, collecting 18 double-doubles in Maryland's 21 games this season, including 13 in a row at one time. He's hitting an impressive 55.5 percent from the field, showing a polished post game for a sophomore. His free-throw shooting could use some work, and he will need to get better as a passer out of the post if he wants to excel at the next level. However, it is evident that the 6-10, 260-pounder is a force to be reckoned with.
4. Cory Joseph, G, Texas - Although fellow freshman Tristan Thompson gets the pub, Joseph has had an equally productive rookie campaign for the Longhorns. The 6-3 guard is playing 32.6 minutes per game, more than Jordan Hamilton and Gary Johnson. Joseph is averaging 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per contest this season. He's shooting 43.0 percent from downtown, while contributing a healthy dose of defense to the Longhorn cause. Joseph may not be the man teams game plan for, but he is certainly the motor for Texas on both ends of the court.
5. Erving Walker, G, Florida - Despite standing just 5-8, Walker has been larger than life at times this season for the Gators. He hit a 35-foot three-pointer against Georgia on Jan. 25 to send the game into double overtime, where Florida would go on to defeat the Bulldogs, 104-91. He has accumulated at least 15 points, four rebounds and four assists in each of the last three games. With a nearly 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio over that span as well, Walker has been the catalyst for UF.
6. Thomas Robinson, F, Kansas - The Jayhawk community rallied around Robinson when his mother passed away earlier this season, including the entire team attending the funeral. After a stretch of games in which Robinson was understandably not himself, he has responded with consecutive 17-point, nine-rebound performances for Rock Chalk. With the sophomore contributing stellar minutes to the Jayhawks off the bench, Kansas appears more dangerous than ever.
1. Joe Mazzulla, G, West Virginia
2. C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
3. Mike Davis, F, Illinois
4. Brett Royster, F, Florida Atlantic
5. Terrence Jennings, F, Louisville
1. E'Twaun Moore, G, Purdue - Just a minor downgrade for Moore, an extremely talented guard on a team missing one of its best players in Robbie Hummel. After starting the season 14-1, the Boilermakers are just 3-4 over their last seven games. And over that span, Moore is shooting just 35.8 percent from the floor. Although he has a 17.5 points-per-game average, Moore failed to score even in double-digits in two of those games. The senior guard is going to shatter his previous highs for field goal attempts in a season, and he could be suffering from tired legs of late. Likewise, he is hitting just 68.5 percent of his free-throws overall this season. Moore is too dynamic to be held in a funk for much longer, but be aware of his shooting struggles.
2. Rashad Bishop, F, Cincinnati - One of the senior leaders for the Bearcats, Bishop's shooting has been erratic to say the least this season. The 6-6 senior forward is shooting just 38.4 percent from the floor. This statistic stands in stark contrasts to his 91.9 percent from the free-throw line. Even more curious, Bishop shot 50.0 percent from the floor last season, but just 57.1 percent from the charity stripe. The sample sizes were large enough, leaving many, including this writer, scratching their heads at the confusing shooting numbers for Bishop. His rebounds and dimes are also down from a season ago, showing a carryover affect to other parts of his game.
3. Rick Jackson, F, Syracuse - What's wrong with the Orange? After starting the season 18-0, 'Cuse has dropped its last four contests, all in conference play. Jackson has actually accumulated double-doubles in three of those four games, so the downgrade here is for his leadership. We all know the Big East is an incredibly difficult conference, but the Orange were blown out by Seton Hall at home, something that simply should not happen to such a talented team. In their last game against Marquette, Jackson snatched just four rebounds for the game. He is still managing a double-double for the season, but he and Kris Joseph must assert themselves before the 'Cuse go slip sliding away. There are no off days in this conference; three of their next four opponents are Connecticut, Georgetown and Louisville, all ranked in the Top 15.
4. Marcus Jordan, G, UCF - Trying to be like Mike? Marcus has been more like Jordan Farmar than his father of late. The Knights have had a similar path to the above-referenced Syracuse Orange, winning 14 games in a row, then subsequently losing six after that. Over that span, MJ Lite has shot just 35.0 percent from the floor, with at least four turnovers in four of those six contest. He's clearly got good genes, but Marcus needs some seasoning and a little help from his friends to right the Knights' ship.
5. Wally Judge, F, Kansas State - The Wildcats can't catch any breaks this season. A combination of lost talent, suspensions and lack of focus has led K-State to a 2-5 conference start. Sometimes, if you look close enough, it appears that you can see smoke coming out of coach Frank Martin's ears. His passion is like no other, but up close and personal, it must be a different feeling altogether. The latest blow to the hoops program comes in the form of Judge, McDonald's All-American who quit the team because he was not happy. His frustrations certainly could have had something to do with playing time, as he was averaging just 15.2 minutes per game despite K-State's struggles to field a full squad due to injuries, suspensions and the like. If Judge is to fulfill his once lofty expectations and talent, it will likely be for another school.
6. Ronnie Moss, G, TCU - The leading scorer for the Horned Frogs, Moss has been suspended indefinitely for undisclosed team violations. Moss was the fourth-leading scorer in the Mountain West, averaging 15.7 points per game. The 6-2 junior guard was also averaging 3.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest for Texas Christian. Look for Greg Hill and J.R. Cadot to get increased minutes as a result of the suspension.