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College Hoops Barometer: Big Shoes to Fill

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.

The injury to Kentucky center Nerlens Noel brought to the forefront an ever-present argument concerning college hoops and pro eligibility. The current one-and-done system forces at least one year of post-high school activity before going to the pros. Most players since the rule's introduction have opted to go to college for one year and then jump to the NBA. The option to play overseas is also there as well, a route that Brandon Jennings took before being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. Although not ideal, a player could also simply sit out a year and train on his own.

Noel was arguably the top prospect for the 2013 NBA Draft before tearing his ACL. The injury knocks down his stock and may cost him millions. Had the rule not existed, he likely would have been in the NBA already. Noel was essentially forced to go to one year of college with no pay and no insurance against injury.

The one-and-done rule helps the college game, but it hurts the individual high school superstar player. There is no question that LeBron James and Kevin Garnett were NBA-ready straight out of high school. There's no question that Nerlens Noel has been hurt by the rule this season. But for every LeBron James, there are names like Lenny Cooke, Ousmane Cisse, James Lang and Korleone Young. Players who were either stubborn or received bad advice out of high school. Still others were drafted in Round One but quickly fizzled: Leon Smith, Ndubi Ebi and Robert Swift, to name a few.

The draft is certainly an inexact science, but the idea behind the one-and-done rule is that players' games and maturity will only grow after one year of college basketball. Granted, a player like Noel could have gone overseas, but is sending an 18-year-old to live in a foreign country for a year what the NBA envisioned when the rule was initially made? Should college players at least be slightly compensated then? Should they be insured? Should the rule exist at all, with the decision (and associated risk) instead left solely up to the player? There's no clear-cut answer, but when a player as talented as Noel sees his career and livelihood flash before his eyes, the discussion must be revisited.

UPGRADE

Khalif Wyatt, G, Temple -
Wyatt has been a scoring machine for the Owls recently, scoring at least 18 points in 11 consecutive games. This stretch included a 35-point outburst against Duquesne on Valentine's Day, in which Wyatt connected on a perfect 15-of-15 free-throw attempts. He hit seven three-pointers on Feb. 2 at St. Joe's en route to 34 points for the contest. Wyatt is also no slouch dishing the rock as well, averaging 4.0 assists per game as a senior. He also stole a career-high six passes in that close loss to Duquesne. Scoring is still his forte, but Wyatt has become the total package for Temple this season.

Brandon Davies, F, BYU -
With all the controversy behind him, Davies has been able to focus solely on basketball. The results have been splendid, with the senior forward averaging 18.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Cougars. Davies recently had a string of four consecutive double-doubles; he has eight to his resume this season. Davies is also managing 2.4 assists per game, showing his versatility. Davies is among the NCAA leaders in free-throw attempts, getting to the line an impressive 7.2 times per game. His points are up, and his turnovers are down. In sum, Davies has seen consistent growth in his game, ultimately blossoming into an elite player at BYU.

Larry Drew III, G, UCLA -
Drew never quite fit in at North Carolina. He was known more for his turnovers and mental miscues than anything else during his time in Chapel Hill. Now with the Bruins, Drew is finally putting it all together. The senior point guard is averaging 7.7 assists per game this season, which is good for fourth in the nation. He is also posting career-highs shooting the basketball, hitting 43.8 percent from the floor and 39.5percent from three-point land. Lastly, despite playing almost 35 minutes per game, he is averaging just two turnovers per tilt. A more mature, focused Drew has seen his game take off at UCLA.

Mike Rosario, G, Florida
The Rutgers transfer has been streaking recently, scoring in double figures each of the last six games for the Gators. He's shooting 55.2 percent over that span, including 40 percent from three-point territory. The emergence of Rosario at the two-guard has allowed Kenny Boynton to slide over to the point guard slot and improve his playmaking skills. Rosario hasn't been too shabby in that department either, dishing out 2.4 dimes per tilt. Add in a 90.2-percent clip from the free-throw line, and Rosario appears to have finally found his niche in Gainesville.

CHECK STATUS

Rodney Williams, F, Minnesota -
Williams is nursing a shoulder injury, and his status is in the air. He missed his first game in nearly three years on Feb. 10 against Illinois due to the injury. The senior swingman also sat out the second half of Sunday's loss at Iowa. Williams has been productive, if unspectacular during his career at Minnesota. He averages 11.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, similar statistics to his junior campaign. Likewise, after scoring in double figures in each of his first nine games of the season, Williams has notched double-digits in points in just eight of his last 16 games played. The injury certainly won't help his cause, so keep an eye on Williams as the season wears on.

Markel Starks, G, Georgetown
Since the injury to Greg Whittington, Starks has emerged as the sidekick to Otto Porter. Over the last six games, the 6-1 junior guard is averaging 16.3 points, 2.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He's hit 16-of-37 (43.2 percent) from beyond the arc during that time. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Hoyas have won all six of those contests. However, he's averaging a ridiculous 37.2 minutes per game over that span, so one has to wonder whether Starks will continue to thrive or lose steam. Monitor his production heading into the latter portion of the Big East conference slate.

Trae Golden, G, Tennessee
Golden has been on fire since his return from a two-game absence due to a strained hamstring. During his last three games, the 6-2 junior guard is averaging 17.3 points. Golden was the catalyst in Saturday's 30-point thrashing of Kentucky, pouring in 24 points while dishing out eight assists in the 88-58 rout. Golden has been getting to the free-throw line in bunches, hitting an outstanding 22-of-26 from the charity stripe over the last three contests. The big question is, how long can this hot streak last? Prior to the injury, Golden had scored in double figures in just two of the previous nine games. He averages just 11.0 points per game this season. In other words, ride Golden while he's hot, but expect him to come down to earth shortly.

Juvonte Reddic, F, VCU
The remaining conference schedule for the Rams doesn't do Reddic any favors. Reddic has been a double-double behemoth for VCU this season, notching nine on the year and six over his last nine contests. However, the 6-9 forward has to play ranked Butler, as well as Temple and Xavier on the road before the end of the season. Reddic has been able to feast on weaker opponents recently; he will have no such luxury down the stretch for the Rams. It's not that Reddic will be unable to perform, he'll just have a much more difficult time getting to his usual bench marks, so temper your expectations.

DOWNGRADE

Eli Carter, G, Rutgers
Carter suffered a fractured fibula in Saturday's loss to DePaul and will miss the remainder of the season for the Scarlet Knights. The leading scorer for Rutgers at 14.9 points per game, Carter broke the 20-point barrier eight times during his sophomore campaign. He also averaged 2.8 boards and 2.1 assists per game. In his stead, Rutgers will rely even more heavily on Miles Mack, who responded with 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists in Monday's loss to Villanova.

Brandon Mobley, F, Seton Hall
A frustrating, injury-plagued season has come to an end for Mobley, who will undergo shoulder surgery this week. Mobley has actually been bothered by shoulder injuries for the past two seasons, missing nine games as a freshman and an additional four games as a sophomore before the surgery. Mobley had compiled five double-doubles this season, averaging 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds as a starter for the Pirates. Expect the height-deficient Pirates to give heavy minutes to 6-9 junior center Eugene Teague; freshman center Kevin Johnson is the only other player taller than 6-6 on the roster, and Johnson has played just 7.9 minutes per game this year.

Willie Cauley-Stein, F-C, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein looked lost in his first attempt at replacing Nerlens Noel in the middle for the Wildcats. In Saturday's 30-point drubbing at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers, Cauley-Stein was 1-for-4 from the floor for just two points, along with two rebounds, one assists, two blocks and one steal. Cauley-Stein played 23 minutes, but fouled out. He also turned the ball over four times. The 7-footer was not expected to be the type of impact freshman that Noel was, but was still ranked at No. 40 in ESPN's Top 100 recruits in 2012. He may even be a first-round pick in the NBA draft some day. But he's raw to say the least, so expect some growing pains for the time being.

De'Mon Brooks, F, Davidson
Where has Brooks' production gone? After averaging 15.7 points per game as a sophomore, Brooks has struggled with his shot as a junior. He is shooting a career-low 47.7-percent from the field, as well as an abysmal 25 percent from three-point land. He has failed to score in double figures in three of the Wildcats' last four games. It also appears that Brooks has taken a backseat to senior forward Jake Cohen. Cohen tallied 24 points and 12 rebounds on Feb. 7 against West Carolina, followed by a 32-point explosion at Charleston on Feb. 14. Meanwhile, Brooks was a virtual non-factor in those contests. Brooks is still the leading rebounder on the squad and a quality contributor for Davidson; however, he no longer appears to be the top option for the Wildcats.

Follow @JesseLSiegel on Twitter.

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