Any doubt about Indiana's legitimacy as the No. 1 squad in the nation may have been squashed by Tuesday's 83-59 dismantling of North Carolina. Though the Tar Heels lost some firepower from a season ago, the Hoosiers pulled away in the second half and made mince meat of a Top-25 team.
One of the most impressive points to make about Indiana concerns its depth. Christian Watford, the best player on the squad two years ago, currently sits at fifth on the team in scoring. While Cody Zeller gets the pub, and rightly so, the contributions from Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls and Will Sheehey have been and will continue to be vital to the team's success. Meanwhile, talented freshman like Kevin Ferrell and Jeremy Hollowell have already made an impact, and seven-footer Peter Jurkin and 6-9 forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea are set to debut after nine-game suspensions due to the receipt of impermissible benefits. It's easy to gush about a team in November, but it appears the Hoosiers have all the makings of a championship-caliber squad.
Let's look at the rest of the NCAA landscape in this week's edition of the College Hoops Barometer.
Erick Green, G, Virginia Tech - Green's playmaking skills have been off the charts to begin his senior season. The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 24.3 points per game, shooting 50.6-percent from the field. The most notable change in his game has been his ability to get to the free-throw line. Green is attempting an outstanding 10 free-throws per tilt, up from a mere 3.9 attempts per contest last season. Green has also been finding open looks for his teammates as well, nearly doubling his assist production from a season ago with 5.2 dimes per game. Green has taken his game to the next level for the undefeated Hokies thus far in 2012.
Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse - In a bit of a surprise, it's been the sophomore Carter-Williams and not senior Brandon Triche who has asserted himself as the catalyst of the Syracuse offense. Carter-Williams is currently leading the nation in assists with 9.3 dimes per tilt, including a sterling 13-assist effort Sunday against Colgate. Expected to be more of a shooter, the sophomore has instead focused his efforts on dishing in leading the 'Cuse to a fast 4-0 start. Make no mistake about it, though; Carter-Williams can score as well. He is averaging 10.3 points per game, good for fourth on the team. With 5.5 boards per tilt as well, Carter-Williams is fast-emerging as an integral part of the Syracuse fabric.
Aziz N'Diaye, C, Washington - N'Diaye is on his way to becoming one of the elite centers in all of college basketball. The imposing seven-footer from Senegal is averaging a double-double to start the year with 10.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. N'Diaye's post game is developing and his shot selection is improving, as witnessed by his impeccable 67.9-percent field goal shooting from the floor. He will likely never be much of a shooter, and he doesn't block as many shots as one would hope at his size. However, N'Diaye does enough around the basket to make himself a viable option.
Chris Obekpa, C, St. John's - Need a cheap source of blocks? Look no further than the 6-9 freshman center, who is managing 4.5 swats per game for the Johnnies. Obekpa is also averaging 3.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists in just 23.2 minutes per game. If he can limit his foul troubles and stay on the court, Obekpa could emerge as a nice sleeper. Jakarr Sampson is a superior offensive player to Obekpa at this time, as the latter is working more on raw talent.
P.J. Hairston, G, North Carolina - Hairston missed the above-referenced battle with Indiana on Tuesday due to a left knee sprain. The third leading scorer for the Tar Heels, Hairston was averaging 10.8 points in just 15.7 minutes played per game, while also tallying 4.2 boards, 1.5 dimes and 1.2 thefts per tilt. After playing a complementary role as a freshman, Hairston is expected to light up the scoreboard as a sophomore. That is, assuming he can stay healthy. The knee sprain is considered mild, but Hairston may not be back to 100 percent upon returning.
Chase Tapley, F, San Diego State - Tapley missed Sunday's clash with USC due to a knee injury of his own. It is unknown how long the strain will keep him out, but Tapley's loss would clearly be a big blow to the Aztecs. Tapley accumulated 15.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per game last season, though was off to a slow shooting start as a senior. Still, as the Robin to Jamaal Franklin's Batman, both the Aztecs as well as fantasy owners alike will miss his services should he be sidelined for an extended period of time. Monitor his status moving forward.
Vander Blue, G, Marquette - Knee injuries appear to be the theme of this section, as Blue missed Monday's rout of UMBC with a sprain of his own. With reigning Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder now in the NBA, there are plenty of opportunities at Marquette this season, and Blue as well as Davante Gardner appear to be most suited to pick up the slack. Blue was averaging 11.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game before the injury; these numbers should go up once Blue is back at full strength. Until that time, though, Blue may not be the best choice.
Anthony Collins, G, South Florida - It's not a knee injury, but a calf ailment that's been bothering Collins to start the season. Still, Collins has been productive despite the injury, averaging 7.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game for the Bulls. Nevertheless, he was forced to sit out Monday's game with Stetson, and may be limited moving forward. A point guard by trade, Collins is currently fourth in the NCAA in assists.
Trey Zeigler, G, Pittsburgh - The Central Michigan transfer has been suspended indefinitely after being charged with Driving Under the Influence. Zeigler played for his father at CMU and averaged 15.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a sophomore. However, the 6-5 swingman had been more of a bench player for the Panthers through seven games this year, managing 6.2 points in just 16.8 minutes per game. Clearly the move to Pitt has not benefited Zeigler so far.
Joshua Smith, C, UCLA - Smith has apparently left the UCLA program. The mammoth center has battled conditioning and associated weight issues while never fully reaching his potential. A stellar freshman campaign in 2010-2011 left many buzzing over the skills of 6-10, 305-lb behemoth. However, he was averaging just 13.5 minutes per game this year and was losing minutes to the Wear brothers. Inconsistency in a variety of areas may have ultimately led to Smith's departure, as he possessed uncanny agility for his size as well as solid post moves. It is likely he emerges with another program, just not the Bruins.
Arsalan Kazemi, F, Oregon – The Rice transfer has still been a rebounding force for the Ducks, but has found scoring just a tad more difficult against better opponents. Having never averaged less than 10.3 points per game in his career before this season, Kazemi is managing just 5.8 points per tilt. He is shooting a career-low 44.4-percent from the floor. There will be an obvious adjustment period on the offensive end for the 6-7 forward from Iran, as he works on fitting in with his new team and battles stronger, taller, more physical opponents in the paint.
Derrick Nix, C, Michigan State – Nix hasn’t developed as the Spartans hoped he would during his time at MSU. The senior center only began playing bigger minutes as a junior last season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. His rebounding has improved this year, up to 7.7 bounds per tilt. However, he has failed to block a single shot through seven games, and swatted just 13 shots in total last year despite his 6-9, 270-lb frame. He has also battled foul trouble in three of his last four games. All in all, Nix is a serviceable big man with decent post moves and a nice frame, but lacks the athleticism to be a truly dominant force down low.