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College Hoops Barometer: Versatile Joe

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.

How about those Miami Hurricanes? A notoriously football-driven school has become basketball crazy over the 2012-13 edition of the hoops squad. The Canes are a veteran team with seniors Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji and Reggie Johnson leading the way. Let's not forget about senior swingman Trey McKinney Jones or senior enforcer Julian Gamble either. In fact, only two non-seniors are key contributors: starting point guard Shane Larkin and reserve Rion Brown. The sophomore Larkin is the catalyst for this Miami team and was just named ACC Player of the Week. Miami is ranked in the top-10 for the first time since 1999, and at No. 8 is tied for its highest ranking in school history. Despite this foray into uncharted territory, make no mistake about it; these Hurricanes are for real.

Let's look at the rest of the college basketball landscape in this week's College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Joe Harris, G, Virginia -
Harris has shown improvement across the board as a junior this season, despite being extremely serviceable during his first two season for the Cavs. Harris is shooting career highs of 46.4 percent from the field and 45.8 percent from three-point land en route to a career-high 15.3 points per game. The 6-foot-6 guard has been particularly deadly in his last five contests, scoring at least 17 points in four of those games. Harris has also gotten his teammates more involved this season, managing a career-high 2.4 assists per game. With 4.2 boards per tilt as well, Harris has versatility to his game and has been the main reason the Cavs surprisingly have a winning conference record this season.

Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State -
While freshman Marcus Smart is in the conversation for Big 12 Player of the Year, it's been Brown, and not sophomore swingman LeBryan Nash, who has been his most effective sidekick. Brown poured in 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting in Saturday's huge, 85-80, win over Kansas, snapping the Jayhawks' 33-game home winning streak. Seven of Brown's field goals came from three-point range, where he is shooting 39 percent on the year. Brown has actually compiled three 20-point outputs in his last five games for the Cowboys. Brown is the leading scorer for OK State at 15.5 points per contest. With 4.4 boards and 2.3 assists per game as well, it's best not to sleep on Brown.

Adrick McKinney, F, TCU
It's been a rough year for the Horned Frogs, who have not won a Big 12 conference game thus far. McKinney has been one of the lone bright spots for TCU, though. The 6-8 senior forward has been particularly excellent recently. He scored in double figures in four of his last five games, while snatching at least eight rebounds in three of those contests. TCU may have a difficult time matching wits with the top dogs in the Big 12, but McKinney has certainly held his own recently.

Spencer Dinwiddie, G, Colorado -
Dinwiddie often gets overlooked, but he has been consistent for the Buffs. He's scored in double figures in all but three games this season, averaging 16.7 points over his last six games. Dinwiddie is also shooting 46.4 percent from the floor, a rather impressive number for a guard, particularly when compared to teammate Asika Booker's 39.9-percent clip. On the year, the sophomore guard is also managing 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He is the leading scorer and disher on the squad. Dinwiddie is quietly having a standout season for Colorado, and is still just a teenager.

CHECK STATUS

Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse -
Depth issues at Syracuse have forced Grant to play huge minutes the last few games. After averaging fewer than 15 minutes in the first 16 games for the Orange, Grant has played more than 33 minutes per game over the last six contests. In fact, Grant played all 40 minutes Saturday at Pittsburgh and Tuesday against Notre Dame. The results have been mixed, with Grant averaging 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in those six tilts despite the heavy PT. The freshman has had some ups and downs, as should be expected for a young forward pressed into action early. The question remaining is whether he will get better as he continues to receive more minutes, or if he'll break down due to overuse.

Trevor Releford, G, Alabama
Releford sustained an undisclosed eye injury during Saturday's tilt with Vanderbilt and is day-to-day. Releford shot just 1-for-7 from the field before leaving the game. A dynamite scorer, the senior guard ranks sixth in the SEC in scoring at 15.9 points per game. Releford has seen an impressive spike in his three-point percentage this season, hitting an outstanding 48.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. With 2.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as well, Releford is arguably the most important player on the Crimson Tide, and an extended absence would undoubtedly be a detriment to the squad. Monitor his status.

Nick Williams, G, Ole Miss
The Rebels have hit a rough patch recently, with losses to Kentucky and Florida after starting the season 17-2. Injuries certainly haven't helped their cause, as backup forward Aaron Jones tore his ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Likewise, Williams sprained his foot and missed Saturday's blowout loss to the Gators. On the year, the senior guard is averaging 9.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Although he may play in the next game for Ole Miss, it remains to be seen how effective the experienced guard will be.

Pierce Hornung, F, Colorado State -
Hornung had a monster output against Boise State last week with 23 points and 12 rebounds, followed by another double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds Saturday against Wyoming. However, before those two games, he had gone more than a month without a double-double, failing to even score in double figures in six of eight games. The senior forward remains a superior rebounder, posting double-digits in boards in 11 of his 20 contests played this season. Nevertheless, his limitations on the offensive end make him tough to rely on as a fantasy star on a game-by-game basis.

DOWNGRADE

P.J. Hairston, G, North Carolina
Hairston suffered a scary head injury against Boston College last week, having to be taken off the court via stretcher and winding up with a concussion. He was forced to miss Saturday's OT victory over Virginia Tech and is questionable for the remainder of UNC's games this week. Hairston is the third-leading scorer on a North Carolina squad that has underachieved this season, so his loss puts a further damper on what has been a down year in Chapel Hill. Hairston's season averages were 12.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game before the injury.

Wally Judge, F, Rutgers
Judge's transfer from Kansas State hasn't gone exactly as planned. After sitting out last season due to NCAA rules, Judge stormed out of the gate with two double-doubles for the Scarlet Knights. Unfortunately, he has failed to reach double-digits in rebounds since, while battling foul trouble in the majority of his contests. A McDonald's All-American in 2009, Judge has lacked consistency throughout his career and has been victim to much of the same during his brief time in New Jersey. Although he is still averaging 7.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, he has simply not been able to dominate at the college level like many had hoped he would.

Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas -
Mitchell's stats aren't bad, but he was supposed to dominate the competition in the Sun Belt conference and become a surefire lottery pick in the NBA Draft. Although the uber-athletic forward still may hear his name called in June, he has not exactly imposed his will on opposing squads this season. The Mean Green are just 8-16, including 3-10 in the conference. Mitchell is shooting substantially worse from the floor this season now that teams are prepared for him. In fact, his numbers are down across the board as a sophomore, averaging 13.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.8 swats per game. Again, these are still pretty decent statistics for a sophomore forward in the Sun Belt. However, expectations were higher for Mitchell, as he has not taken that leap into the stratosphere of superstardom.

Jordan Henriquez, F, Kansas State -
Henriquez is another player who has not taken his game to new heights this season. Although not expected to be a player on the level of the aforementioned Mitchell, Henriquez still improved over each of his first three seasons as a Wildcat. As a junior he posted career highs of 7.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. However, as a senior his game has taken a step back. Henriquez is managing just 5.1 points and 4.5 rebounds, playing fewer minutes under new coach Bruce Weber. Even his rejections are down to 1.5 swats per game. Perhaps most embarrassingly, he is a paltry 12-for-41 (29.3-percent) from the free-throw line. It's clear that Henriquez has lost confidence under this new regime, and it remains to be seen if he can recapture it before his K-State career is over.

Follow @JesseLSiegel on Twitter.

Siegel was named the 2012 College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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