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College Hoops Barometer: More than Great Defense

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.

Now that football is over, it's time to focus our attention on conference action in college basketball. These games will make or break a team's chances of heading to the NCAA Tournament. A below-.500 record in conference play likely spells doom for a team's tourney hopes. Meanwhile, those sitting at or near the top of their league's standings can cement their seeds in the Big Dance with crucial wins. Storied rivalries take place; UNC-Duke and Syracuse-Georgetown, among others. All in all, college hoops takes center stage in the race toward the bracket.

UPGRADE

Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky -
Forgive me for the obvious Upgrade, but Davis has not gotten enough love for his all-around game. First and foremost, his defense has been absurdly good for the Wildcats. With 120 blocks on the year, Davis has more blocks than most teams. He will shatter Shaquille O'Neal's SEC record for blocks in a season. Davis also averages 14.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Although most of his hoops come on dunks, Davis can step out and hit a jumper when necessary, and he simply knows where to be on the court at all times. Should he choose to go pro, he will likely be the top pick in the NBA draft. Davis, along with fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, give Coach John Calipari his best chance yet at bringing home that elusive NCAA crown.

Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois -
The 7-foot-1 sophomore has battled back nicely from an injured ankle, tallying two double-doubles in his last four games. In his most recent effort, he played all 40 minutes against Northwestern en route to 21 points and nine rebounds for Illinois. Leonard has also accumulated nine rejections over his last three games, asserting himself on the defensive end as well. Leonard averages 13.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.1 swats per game for the surprising 16-7 Illini.

Mike Moser, F, UNLV -
It seems as though Moser could get a double-double in his sleep. In fact, double-doubles are expected when the 6-8 sophomore hits the court for the Rebels. Moser has 13 of them this year, including five in his last six contests. He's snatched 20 or more rebounds in two games this season. UNLV is 21-4, and most of the credit should be given to Moser, who manages 14.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per tilt. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding and steals and is second on the squad in assists. Moser is the centerpiece for the success for the Rebs in 2011-2012.

Kenny Kadji, F-C, Miami -
The transfer from Florida has given the Canes a huge frontcourt with the beastly Reggie Johnson. Kadji has compiled 12.6 points, 5.8 boards and 1.8 blocks per contest. Kadji is a superior three-point shooter, hitting 48.6 percent of his shots from downtown, despite being 6-11, 251. He helped Miami knock off Duke at Cameron on Sunday with four treys. Kadji averaged 18.0 points per game over his last eight contests with Miami.

CHECK STATUS

Maalik Wayns, G, Villanova -
Wayns hurt his left knee in the second half against Providence on Tuesday and did not return to the contest. Although it does not appear to be a serious ACL injury, Wayns will have an MRI to determine the severity. Wayns is the leader of the Wildcats, who can ill afford to lose him for any time. The junior point guard has been shooting poorly recently, though is still averaging 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.5 dimes per tilt.

Allen Crabbe, G, California -
Crabbe is another player who was forced to leave his last game with an injury. Crabbe hurt his right ankle after scoring 19 points in Cal's 68-47 trouncing of ASU on Saturday. Just four days earlier, Crabbe was seen in a walking boot due to an undisclosed injury to the same foot. Crabbe has been dynamic for the Bears, averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 dimes per contest. He could be slowed by the injury.

Trey Finn, G, Arkansas State -
Third on the Red Wolves in points, rebounds and dimes, Finn has been an integral part of the squad for Arkansas State. However, Finn has missed the last three games due to a knee injury. Not surprisingly, the Red wolves have dropped two of those three contests. A 6-2 junior guard from Little Rock, Finn has managed 9.9 points, 5.5 boards, 1.6 dimes and even 1.5 steals per game for the Red Wolves. It is unknown at this point in time when he will return to the lineup.

Fetstus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt -
Ezeli has been a consistent member of this list due to repeated problems with his knees. He missed time earlier this year due to a strained MCL and PCL in his right knee. This time around, Ezeli reportedly injured his left knee last week against Arkansas. Although he's expected to return, certainly monitor the 6-11 senior's status. He is averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season after managing 13.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year. Shooting a career-low 50.0 percent from the floor, it's clear Ezeli has not been at full strength.

DOWNGRADE

Moses Morgan, F, DePaul -
Morgan suffered a scary concussion Monday against Marquette, landing on his head and staying down for several minutes on the court. Although he walked off under his own power, he had apparently fainted in practice the week before and will miss an undetermined period as team doctors give the appropriate attention to the head injury. Morgan averages 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists for the Blue Demons.

Jordin Mayes, G, Arizona -
The Wildcats suffered another blow after losing Mayes, their backup point guard, for the remainder of the season. The sophomore reinjured the left foot that he previously broke in Thursday's victory over Cal. Mayes averaged 5.8 points, 1.4 rebounds and 1.1 dimes per game. Arizona has already lost swingman Kevin Parrom for the season and is still reeling from the decision of Derrick Williams to go pro.

DaVante Gardner, F, Marquette -
A sprained knee has held the 6-8 sophomore out of three consecutive games for the Golden Eagles. A behemoth at 290, Gardner averages 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting an impressive 57.7 percent from the field. He had been seeing increased minutes at the time of the injury too, and could be out for an extended period. An already small, albeit talented Marquette squad will have to lean on its talented guards to pick up the slack even more in the interim.

Herb Pope, F, Seton Hall -
Pope's bruised ribs kept him out of Saturday's loss to UConn, but he hasn't been as effective recently even not taking into account the injury. After beginning the year with eight double-doubles in his first 10 games, Pope has just one double-double over his last five games. Likewise, after scoring at least 20 points in 7 of his first 10 games, Pope has failed to reach the 20-point plateau in 12 straight contests played. Pope's season appears to be trending in the wrong direction.

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