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College Hoops Barometer: The First Noel

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.

While conference realignment is by and large a product of college football, the effect on college basketball has been no less dramatic. As new, tweaked conferences are born, storied rivalries go out the window. Say goodbye to Duke vs. Maryland, as the Terps head to the Big Ten. Hasta la vista, Georgetown vs. Syracuse, with the Orange moving to the ACC. The Big East in particular is taking a huge hit in basketball after being arguably the top conference the last few seasons. The conference will look drastically different without the likes of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, to name a few. Even the actual name of the conference could change with addition of teams not located near or along the eastern seaboard.

Still, new rivalries will undoubtedly emerge, and hopefully teams with traditional matchups will continue to play in the non-conference portion of their schedules.

Without further ado, let's look at this week's College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky -
The young Wildcats have struggled to begin the season, but it hasn't been because of Noel. The athletic center has been as good as advertised for Kentucky, averaging 11.6 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.1 blocks and 2.9 steals per game. Defense is his calling card, as Noel has the ability to protect the rim as well as play the passing lanes. He's blocked at least five shots in three of the last five games, and stole six passes against Baylor on Dec. 1. While his offense game is still raw, Noel uses his explosiveness to his advantage in attacking the rim. Once he gets some polish on those post moves, the sky's the limit. The rest of the nation should be scared of Noel's ceiling.

Dylan Talley, G, Nebraska -
Cornhusker hoops doesn't usually get much pub, but Nebraska is 6-1, including wins over Wake Forest and USC. Talley is arguably the best player on the squad, as the 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 15.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.7 dimes per tilt. A volume scorer, Talley is shooting just 37.3 percent from the field, but makes up for it by hitting 34.5 percent of his treys and 74.2 percent of his free-throws. Big man Brandon Ubel and sharpshooter Ray Gallegos have also stepped their respective games up, giving Nebraska some unexpected promise on the hardcourt.

Isaiah Armwood, F, George Washington -
Armwood has surged lately with three double-doubles in his last five contests. He had a season-high 23 points against Manhattan on Sunday while also snatching nine boards and rejecting six shots. The six blocks weren't even a season-high for the junior forward, as Armwood swatted an astounding eight shots at Boston University on Nov. 17. With the ability to control the interior on both ends of the floor, Armwood is a player to watch for the Colonials.

Dwight Powell, F, Stanford -
After a down sophomore campaign, Powell has stepped his game up as a junior. This season, he is averaging 14.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. The most drastic improvement has come in Powell's shot selection and ability to draw contact. The 6-10 forward is shooting 53.2 percent from the field, a marked improvement from the 45.3 percent figure posted as a sophomore. Likewise, he is shooting more than five free throws per game, more than double from the year before. He is even developing a long range shot; Powell has already attempted almost as many treys through nine games this season as he did all last year. In sum, Powell's progress is evident for the Cardinal.

CHECK STATUS

Bryce Cotton, G, Providence -
Cotton was already filling huge shoes in the absence of Vincent Council due to a hamstring injury. He had been doing an admirable job, too, averaging 22.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per tilt for the Friars. However, Cotton injured his knee in Saturday's contest with Mississippi State, and his status is in question. He's been a standout option when healthy, but this could put a serious damper on his breakout season. Freshman Josh Fortune appears to be the only healthy guard left for Providence.

Mike Moser, F, UNLV -
Moser is battling a nagging groin injury, something which could linger for the rest of the season. The bruising forward has been a double-double dynamo for the Runnin' Rebels during his time in Las Vegas. In fact, he averaged a double-double last year with 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. However, his scoring and rebounding are down a bit this season, and he's struggling shooting the rock. Moser is hitting just 39.1 percent of his shots from the field, down from 45.0 percent last season. His three-point shooting, though certainly not his forte, has been abysmal as well; Moser is just 3-for-17 to start the year after hitting a decent 33.1 percent of his shots from downtown as a junior. Moser is still a stud, but may have difficult replicating last year's outstanding campaign.

C.J. Leslie, F, NC State -
Leslie was billed as the star of this squad, a long, uber-athletic, forward who averaged 14.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. The Wolf Pack started 2012-13 ranked in the Top 10 but have nearly fallen out of the Top 25 after losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan. Leslie has lost some of his scoring opportunities to freshman guard Ty Warren, while also continuing to share the paint with fellow frontline mate Richard Howell. Leslie leads the team with 8.3 rebounds per game, but N.C. State has lacked cohesiveness to begin the season. There look to be too many cooks in the kitchen right now for the Wolf pack, and Leslie's growth has been a bit stunted as a result.

Will Clyburn, G-F, Iowa State -
Clyburn followed up Saturday's 32-point outburst against BYU with a clunker against Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday. The Utah transfer tallied eight points, seven rebounds and six turnovers in the 83-72 victory. Although Clyburn is averaging a stellar 16.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, he's turnover-prone and can fall in love with the three-point shot a little too much. He's best when attacking the basket with his 6-7 frame; not surprisingly, he didn't get to the foul line one time Tuesday. Clyburn has the chance to be great, but the consistency is not there just yet.

DOWNGRADE

Erik Murphy, F-C, Florida -
A big bodied player who can step out and hit the three, Murphy has been missing in action since leaving the Nov. 29 game against Marquette in the second half with a hip injury. More of a finesse big man, the 6-10 senior averaged 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for the Gators before the injury. Murphy was hitting an impressive 44.0-percent of his shots from beyond the arc, and 54.9 percent overall. His return is still up in the air, leaving the Gators without an important offensive threat.

Seth Curry, G, Duke -
Curry missed Saturday's game with the Fightin' Blue Hens of Delaware with an ankle injury. With Austin Rivers in the NBA, Curry was supposed to be one of the Blue Devils to catalyze the Duke offense. However, Curry remains mostly a scorer, averaging 15.1 points per game but not much else. In fact, he's managed 2.1 rebounds and less than one assist per game this season. Curry will always be good for three-pointers and a high free-throw percentage, but the rest of his game has not developed as hoped. Curry has failed to take the leap into stardom like his brother Stephen, and the ankle injury certainly won't help his cause either.

Michael Snaer, G, Florida State -
It's not that Snaer has necessarily been bad for the Seminoles, but more that after proclaiming himself as the best shooting guard in the country, his squad has suffered a few awful defeats to inferior opponents. The leader of FSU is still averaging 14.1 points per game, but has a career-high 3.1 turnovers per contest, matched by a career-low 38.8-percent clip from the field. In losses to lowly South Alabama and Mercer, Snaer shot a combined 4-for-17. Snaer can still turn his season around, and he's talented enough to do so. However, his bark has been worse than his bite thus far this season.

Ryan Evans, G-F, Wisconsin -
Evans has struggled shooting the ball to start the year for the Badgers. Despite more shots per contest than last season, he is averaging fewer points per game (10.4). The 6-6 hybrid forward is also an astonishingly bad 13-of-35 from the charity stripe. That comes out to 37.1 percent for those keeping score at home. Chris Dudley and Ben Wallace are snickering somewhere. Although Evans is still contributing 7.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, his shooting must improve if the Badgers are to become a force in the Big Ten.

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