There has already been much talk about this year's scintillating freshman class, but the upperclassmen may still have something to say about the 2013-14 college basketball campaign when all is said and done. Senior big man Adreian Payne leads an experienced, dare we say veteran, Michigan State squad with a No. 2 ranking in the polls entering this season. Meanwhile, Syracuse senior C.J. Fair will be the focal point of the Orange offense, particularly due to the losses of Michael-Carter Williams and Brandon Triche. Syracuse enters the season ranked in the Top 10 once again. Likewise, the Arizona Wildcats should make some noise with a game-tested backcourt of junior Nick Johnson and Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell. The freshmen will get the publicity this season, but make sure not to forget about those other guys.
Enjoy the opening tip to the season with this week's College Hoops Barometer.
Dwayne Evans, F, St. Louis - The Billikens have become a powerful mid-major the last few years, and much of the thanks can go to Evans. The senior plays bigger than his 6-foot-6 height, as he averaged 7.7 rebounds with 14.0 points per game last season. Evans shot an impressive 54.7 percent from the field as a junior. He remains an interior presence, however, as he has attempted just 48 three-pointers in his previous three years at St. Louis. Although the development of an outside shot may not be in the cards for Evans, he remains a terror on the glass and should dominate inside in his final campaign in the A-10.
Yogi Ferrell, G, Indiana - The Hoosiers lost Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford, but managed to reload with freshmen talent like Noah Vonleh. Still, Ferrell is a holdover from a season ago and will be asked to shoulder a much greater load this time around. In fact, Ferrell is the only returning starter from last season's squad. Ferrell averaged 7.6 points, 2.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as a freshman but took just six shots per game. Expect his scoring opportunities to increase as he becomes the catalyst for the Indiana offense.
Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky - Harrison will follow in the footsteps of John Wall and Brandon Knight as a freshman point guard on a high-power, youthful Kentucky squad. Harrison has superior size for a point guard at 6-6, and sees the floor extremely well. He should rack up the assists while playing alongside his brother, Aaron, as well as feeding the ball to another freshman, studly power forward Julius Randle. Harrison also excels at getting to the rim, using his excellent ball-handling skills to his advantage. He's a streaky shooter, but as long as he keeps his turnovers down, Harrison should put up stellar stats for the Wildcats.
Rodney Hood, F, Duke - With all due respect to freshman sensation Jabari Parker and sophomore shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon, Hood may be the most important player on the Blue Devil squad this season. The Mississippi State transfer drew rave reviews in the offseason and should stuff the stat sheet. He averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists in his only season for the Bulldogs. Hood is a polished scorer with outstanding athleticism at 6-8. The season layoff should also benefit him from a strength as well as confidence perspective. Assuming his dominating practice performances translate to the games, Hood could be in line for a huge year.
Wayne Selden, G, Kansas - Fellow freshman Andrew Wiggins gets the pub for the Jayhawks, and rightly so. However, it would be a mistake to sleep on Selden, who has athleticism to spare and can bully smaller opponents with his 6-6, 230, frame. Selden can also shoot the three-ball, though needs to improve his consistency in the scoring column overall. Still, Selden is a big-bodied two-guard who will be a matchup nightmare for opponents, particularly due to the fact teams will have to deal with the presence of the aforementioned Wiggins on the floor as well.
Marshall Henderson, G, Ole Miss - What can you expect from the Land Shark? Points, energy and the always looming possibility that he'll be kicked off the team. Henderson averaged more than 20 points per game last season, but was suspended indefinitely during the offseason and will miss the first three games for the Rebels. Henderson's temper and on-court flair make him a high-risk, high-reward option. A volume shooter, Henderson will hurt in field-goal percentage but help at the charity stripe, where he connected on 88.3 percent of his tries. He did average 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists last season but will continue to make his mark as a scorer. Henderson is entertaining, but he may be more trouble than he's worth from a fantasy perspective.
LaQuinton Ross, F, Ohio State - Ross is an upside pick for the Buckeyes, particularly after the loss of leading scorer DeShaun Thomas. Ross is also a scorer at heart, much like the aforementioned Henderson, though he plays with much more control and efficiency. Ross shot 38.9 percent from three-point land as a sophomore and uses his excellent size (6-8) and high release to get off his shot from almost anywhere on the court. He averaged 8.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game last season despite playing more than 16 minutes per game for OSU. With increased minutes, Ross should provide even more offense, though make sure he proves ready to carry the offensive load for the Buckeyes.
LeBryan Nash, F, Oklahoma State - Nash has had an up-and-down career at Oklahoma State. He came to the Cowboys with much fanfare and excelled during his freshman campaign. However, he put up similar stats as a sophomore. Certainly the presence of Marcus Smart had something to do with that, but one would think with a superior point guard at your disposal, it would be easier to find ways to score and contribute in other ways. Nash averaged 14.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2012-13. Certainly not terrible numbers by any stretch, but not superstar caliber either. That's about what can be expected from Nash as a junior with Smart remaining by his side. He has not made much progress as a rebounder during his time in Stillwater. Nash is a low-risk, unspectacular option at small forward this season.
Dominic Artis, G, Oregon - Artis has been suspended indefinitely due to selling team gear provided by the university in the offseason. Realistically, Artis will miss about 10 games. He was the catalyst for the surprisingly successful Oregon squad last season, managing 8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds, 3.5 dimes and 1.5 steals per game as a freshman. The Ducks may not feel the sting of losing too much, as they have other stellar options in Johnathan Lloyd, Damyean Dotson and transfer Joseph Young to log significant minutes in the backcourt. Still, fantasy owners will want to take note of the suspension of Artis, who likely will be unable to contribute until Pac-12 conference play begins in earnest.
Luke Hancock, F, Louisville - Fresh off Most Outstanding Player Honors in the Final Four last April, Hancock was expected to play an even larger role for the Cardinals this season due to the departures of Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng to the NBA, as well as the suspension of Chane Behanan. However, Hancock has been battling an Achilles injury and will miss at least Louisville's season-opener against the College of Charleston, if not longer. Hancock averaged 8.1 points and 2.6 rebounds per game coming off the bench last season for the Cardinals, but connected on five three-pointers in the national championship game to boost Louisville to victory. Expect Wayne Blackshear to gobble up serious minutes due to the multiple vacancies in the starting lineup.
David Pellom, F, Memphis – Pellom will miss approximately the next five weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The transfer from George Washington sat out last season, but was a key member of the Colonials frontcourt in 2011-12, averaging 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. The vertically challenged Tigers will take a hit in the paint in Pellom's absence, though look for sophomore Shaq Goodwin and freshman Nick King to attempt to pick up the slack. Freshman Kuran Iverson should also enter the mix once he returns from a brief suspension.
P.J. Hairston, G, North Carolina – Hairston will miss at least the opening tilt for the Tar Heels and perhaps more time due to an ongoing NCAA investigation regarding possible impermissible benefits received. Hairston had previously been suspended indefinitely by the team due to off-court issues during the offseason. The leading returning scorer for the squad, Hairston averaged 14.6 points with 4.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. Hairston is an incredibly dangerous three-point shooter, hitting 39.6 percent of his treys just a season ago. He could be back soon, or he could be missing in action for an extended period. Due to the uncertainty, it is difficult to trust him in the starting lineup.