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College Hoops Barometer: Time for Tip Off

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 college basketball season is upon us, and the incoming freshman class is one of the best we've seen in years. Kansas Jayhawks small forward Andrew Wiggins is the most hyped high school player since Lebron James. Duke small forward Jabari Parker doesn't have the jaw-dropping athleticism of Wiggins, but he scores effortlessly and is exceptional at finding his teammates as well despite standing at 6-foot-8. Meanwhile, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle is already a load in the post, and will team with the Harrison brothers to form yet another potent, freshman-laden squad for coach John Calipari. Some other freshmen to watch that will almost certainly make their presence felt at some point this season: Aaron Gordon (Arizona), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Jabari Bird (California) and Chris Jones (Louisville).

Without further ado, let's dive right into the first edition of the College Basketball Barometer for the 2013-2014 campaign.

UPGRADE

Dez Wells, G, Maryland -
Wells was already set to take on a huge role with the Terps this season, but Maryland will rely on him even more due to the recent injury suffered by projected starting point guard Seth Allen. Allen suffered a broken foot and will miss the next 8-10 weeks. As a result, the scorer Wells will be forced to show off his playmaking abilities as well. Still, he was versatile during his sophomore season; Wells averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, mostly from the shooting guard slot. He'll be asked to shoulder even more of the offensive load this season across the board, particularly due to Allen's injury, but Wells should be up to the task for Terps.

Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse -
C.J. Fair will be the main option on offense, and is a player I am also extremely high on this season. Grant should see a huge jump in production, though, as his minutes will increase significantly from a season ago. A superior rebounder, Grant has a rapidly improving post game, and good genes to boot. His father is former NBA player Harvey Grant, while his uncle is four-time NBA champion Horace Grant. His brother, Jerian is a solid guard in his own right at Notre Dame. Jerami should be able to blaze his own path at Syracuse, coming into his own as a double-double threat each and every night for the Orange this season.

Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky -
Most pundits expect the sophomore Cauley-Stein to emerge as an elite center this season. He was no slouch during his freshman campaign, though, averaging 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game while coming off the bench behind Nerlens Noel. When Noel got injured, Cauley-Stein showed off his rebounding prowess, posting double-digit boards in three of the last six games of the season for the Wildcats. He did have some growing pains both on and off the court as a freshman, but he's a year older, a year wiser and will also be surrounded with more talent this year. As a result, Cauley-Stein should be a force on the defensive end and should get plenty of dunks by hanging around the rim as well.

Semaj Christon, G, Xavier -
The best player nobody knows might just be Christon, the sophomore point guard who was scintillating for the Musketeers a season ago. The 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 4.6 dimes and 1.5 steals per game. Christon has superior court vision and uses his quickness to his advantage at both ends of the court. He excels at getting in the lane on offense, with the ability to attack the rim or give his teammates easy looks. If his shooting continues to improve, Christon will be an absolute handful for opposing guards to deal with.

CHECK STATUS

Mike Moser, F, Oregon -
Moser had an injury-riddled 2012-13 season at UNLV but will get a fresh start with the transfer to Oregon. He will play immediately, and the double-double threat should have an immediate impact for the Ducks. When he was healthy two seasons ago, Moser had 15 double-doubles for the Runnin' Rebels. However, a dislocated right elbow slowed him last year, and his stats nosedived across the board. Assuming Moser can stay on the court, he should boost the frontcourt for the Ducks tremendously. However, make sure he is fully recovered before deploying him.

Mitch McGary, F/C, Michigan -
McGary has a couple of things working against him as he begins his sophomore season. The first item is that he has been battling a bad back the last couple months. Second, he will no longer have the luxury of relying on point guard Trey Burke and shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. to take the attention away from him. The third reason ties into the second; the absence of both Burke and Hardaway means that teams will focus much more on McGary. In other words, he will take no one by surprise this season. We're not ready to write off McGary just yet, particularly after such an incredible breakout during Michigan's NCAA Tournament run last season. However, a sophomore slump certainly seems possible.

Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana -
The Hoosiers lost Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford to the NBA, leaving a huge void in the Indiana lineup. The freshman Vonleh will be asked to fill those rather large shoes in the frontcourt. While he is a likely future NBA draft pick and oozes athletic talent, Vonleh may not be ready to step right in and shine from the get-go. He relies mostly on his physical gifts and long wingspan on both ends of the floor, but needs to work on his shot as well as his motor. As a result, it's unlikely he will be able to carry the Hoosiers from an offensive standpoint, at least not right from the start. Vonleh ahs the potential to be a star, but it might take some time.

T.J. McConnell, G, Arizona -
Watch to see how McConnell meshes with Arizona leader Nick Johnson in the backcourt. Johnson is used to playing with the ball in his hands, but is more of a combo guard. McConnell is a true point guard, having averaged 5.5 assists per contest in 2011-2012 at Duquesne. He sat out last season, but has been impressive in exhibition play. McConnell can score if need be as well; the 6-1 guard averaged 11.4 points per game as a sophomore, shooting 50.9 percent from the floor. With 2.8 steals per tilt as well, McConnell has the all-around game to make a significant impact. If Johnson and McConnell can co-exist, there is plenty of ball to go around.

DOWNGRADE

Melvin Ejim, F, Iowa State -
Ejim hyperextended his knee in practice and will be out until December. Ejim had a breakout junior campaign, notching 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per tilt. Ejim collected 15 double-doubles last year, leading the Cyclones to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Ejim's shoes will be difficult to fill, particularly since the Cyclones also lost their starting backcourt in Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn. Sophomore Georges Niang will see a heavy workload as a result of the various departures.

Eric Moreland, F, Oregon State -
Moreland has been suspended for the first 14 games of the season for the Beavers due to undisclosed violations of team rules. Moreland was expected to play a vital role in Corvallis this season after posting averages of 9.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.6 dimes and 2.5 swats per game. The 6-10 forward shot an impressive 57.4 percent from the field. Fellow forward Devon Collier was also suspended, but just for one game. Upon his return, Collier should pick up the slack for the Beavers. The senior from the Bronx managed 12.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per tilt last season.

Patric Young, F/C, Florida -
Young's basketball skills have never quite caught up to his physical talent. A beast at 6-9, 240, Young's stats actually went down slightly from his sophomore to junior campaigns. Young still averaged 10.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last year, but he is still somehow raw despite entering his fourth and final collegiate season. Young isn't a bad option, particularly if eligible at center, but it doesn't appear that he's ever going to be the star that he was once projected to be.

Chane Behanan, F, Louisville -
With the loss of Gorgui Dieng to the NBA, Behanan was expected to shoulder the brunt of the rebounding load for the Cardinals n 2013-2014. He averaged 6.6 boards per game last season, good for second on the squad behind Dieng. However, Behanan has been suspended indefinitely by coach Rick Pitino, leaving his status up in the air. Behanan was a beast down low for Louisville during its run to the NCAA Championship last season; he grabbed 12 boards in the championship game against Michigan and nine rebounds against Wichita State in the national semifinal. Without Behanan, look for Montrezl Harrell to seize the opportunity and become a force on the glass.

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