Who will be the first team to knock top-seeded Arizona off of its perch? With fellow undefeated squads Ohio State and Wisconsin headed into brutal Big 10 conference play, and No. 2 Syracuse set to take on Duke, North Carolina and Pittsburgh in the ACC, the Wildcats could be sitting pretty atop the NCAA standings for a while. The toughest games in the Pac-12 for the Wildcats will be against Oregon and Colorado, the only other ranked units in the conference. The Wildcats don't play Colorado until January 23rd. Though the UCLA Bruins should also give Arizona a fight, the 'Cats are clearly the cream of the crop in their conference, and should remain among the favorites heading into March Madness.
Up next, here is this week's edition of "Four on the Hardwood Floor:"
1. Duke's freshman sensation Jabari Parker is clearly the frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year, but NC State's T.J. Warren is quietly making his case for consideration as well. Warren is averaging 23.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per tilt for the Wolfpack, shooting 54.1-percent from the field. By comparison, Parker is averaging 21.4 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, hitting 52.8-percent of his shots from the floor.
2. Temple has lost some depth due to a season-ending knee injury to sophomore Daniel Dingle. Dingle suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and will undergo surgery. he was averaging 6.7 points per game for the Owls, but has scored in double figures in each of the last two contests before getting hurt.
3. The hits just keep on coming for Oklahoma State. First there were injuries (see below) and now backup point guard Stevie Clark has been arrested for marijuana possession. Clark was averaging 7.0 points and 3.7 dimes per game behind Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart. Clark had previously been suspended for four games earlier in 2013, also allegedly related to marijuana.
4. Jamaal Franklin is gone, but San Diego State still has a star in the making in senior guard Xavier Thames. Thames has upped his scoring in the absence of Franklin, including hitting a ridiculous 47.4-percent from three-point land to begin the 2013-2014 campaign. Thames is also averaging 2.0 steals per contest; he picked off a career-high five passes in SDSU's last game at Colorado State.
Let's ring in the New Year with even more college basketball action. The first College Hoops Barometer of 2014 awaits.
Matt Stainbrook, C, Xavier - Stainbrook has been a steady contributor for the Musketeers as a junior, despite not getting as much pub as teammate Semaj Christon. A transfer from Western Michigan, Stainbrook sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but has played an integral role in Xavier's early season success. The 6-10 center is averaging 11.0 points, 8.6 boards, 1.8 assists and 1.6 rejections per game for Xavier. Stainbrook has three double-doubles, but seven games with double-digit rebounds. He has made strides in his offensive game as well, hitting 55.1-percent of his shots from the floor. Stainbrook is also a decent passer out of the post, and has also shown the ability to affect shots on the defensive end around the rim. Stainbrook has been flying under the radar, but that may not last for too much longer.
Terran Petteway, F, Nebraska - A transfer from Texas Tech, Petteway has become the go-to guy for the Cornhuskers this season. The 6-6 forward has scored at least 20 points in four of the last five games for Nebraska, including a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds at Iowa on Tuesday. Petteway barely sniffed the floor for the Red Raiders in 2011-2012, but has shown vast improvement in his game since that time en route to averages of 17.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. As long as he can cut down on his turnovers, Petteway should continue to shine as the ‘Huskers head into a brutal stretch of conference play and be a fantasy force.
Jarvis Summers, G, Ole Miss - The junior Summers has rebounded from a subpar sophomore campaign to once again become an integral part of the Rebels squad. Though boisterous Marshall Henderson will get much fanfare, the 6-3 Summers is actually a more well-rounded basketball player than the Landshark. Summers is averaging 16.8 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. He is bigger, stronger and more athletic than his backcourt counterpart. Likewise, Summers is shooting a superb 54.6-percent from the floor. By contrast, Henderson is hitting just 36.1-percent of his shots from the field. The Rebels were an NCAA Tournament squad last season, and while Henderson gained notoriety for his outrageous antics, Summers may be the key to the 2013-2014 season for Ole Miss. He certainly provides more than just scoring for fantasy owners as well.
Wesley Saunders, G/F, Harvard - If not for the improbable run by Florida Gulf Coast in last season's NCAA Tournament, the Crimson would have been the darlings of March Madness in 2013. Saunders led the charge with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in the second round victory over New Mexico, leading the #14 Crimson to a stunning upset victory over the #3 Lobos. Now a junior, Saunders has picked up right where he left off last season. Saunders is averaging 15.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for Harvard to begin the 2013-2014 campaign. Harvard crushed BC on New Year's Day, beat TCU on a neutral floor, and narrowly lost to likely NCAA Tournament squad Colorado in the only loss of the season thus far for the 12-1 squad. Saunders is Harvard's leader, and the Ivy League frontrunner could make noise once again in this year's Big Dance.
Marcus Foster, G, Kansas State - Foster is a highly-touted freshman for the Wildcats that came to Manhattan with the unenviable task of replacing K-State star Rodney McGruder. While Foster has had his ups and downs thus far, he has done a pretty decent job. The 6-2 guard is averaging 13.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists per contest. Foster likes to bomb shots from long range, attempting six treys per tilt. He'll have to work on his shot selection moving forward, as he is hitting just 38.3-percent of his attempts from the field. Though there's certainly room for improvement, Foster is still off to a stellar start for the Wildcats as a freshman.
Neil Watson, G, Southern Miss - The Golden Eagles are off to a hot start, and much of the credit has to be given to Watson, the senior point guard for USM. Watson is managing 12.5 points, 2.4 boards and 3.8 assists per contest. Watson has been the closer for USM, hitting an absurd 91.2-percent from the free-throw line. He's not a bad three-point gunner either, as Watson is connecting on 42.1-percent of his shots from way downtown. Effectively playing the two-man game with fellow senior Michael Craig has catapulted the Golden Eagles to a 12-2 record to begin the year. Watson has also played an integral role on defense with 1.5 thefts per contest. The Golden Eagles could be a sleeper in C-USA this season, with Watson leading the charge.
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky - The consistency has been missing from Randle's game of late. He started off the season on a tear, but has been up and down over the last month or so. Randle began his Kentucky career with seven-straight double-doubles, but has just two in his last six contests. That included just 11 points on 3-for-9 shooting in a December 14th loss to North Carolina. Randle is still among the elite talents in college basketball, but he appears to have hit a bit of a wall, his first resistance as a freshman. He'll right the ship, but it's not going to be all smooth sailing after all for Randle and the rest of the Wildcats this season.
Brenton Williams, G, South Carolina - A 5-11 guard, Williams has been on a scoring binge recently. He has scored in double figures in each of the last four games for the Gamecocks, including a season-high 24 points against Akron on December 28th. Williams has shown a knack for putting the ball in the bucket over his South Carolina career, as he poured in 38 points against Mississippi State in a game late last season. However, he is still averaging just 10.5 points per game as a senior, and only provides limited production in the rebound and assist departments. Likewise, with the college football season coming to a close, two-sport star Bruce Ellington may make his way back to the basketball squad as well. Ellington is coming off a three-touchdown performance in the Capital One Bowl victory over Wisconsin. As a result, Williams is playing well right now, but his success may be short-lived.
Mitch McGary, F/C, Michigan - After last season's breakout performances en route to the NCAA Title game with the Wolverines, McGary was considered one of the better big men in the nation heading into the 2013-2014 year. However, he battled back issues throughout the offseason, and it never improved enough to make McGary much of a force this season. He's been shut down for the rest of the year, and will undergo back surgery in an attempt to fix the bothersome problem. McGary managed to play in just eight games for Michigan this season, notching two double-doubles in the process. The back is fickle, however, so while the Wolverines are hoping McGary will be ready for next season, there's no guarantee. He's certainly done for this year, though.
Chane Behanan, F, Louisville - The Cardinals and coach Rick Pitino gave Behanan plenty of chances, but he couldn't stay out of trouble. It ultimately caused his dismissal from the team. Behanan was suspended at the beginning of the year for violating school policy, but missed just one game. He played in the subsequent 12 games for Louisville, but averaged career-lows in points (7.6) and rebounds (6.3). Yet another misstep forced the school to end Behanan's time in Louisville prematurely. With Gorgui Dieng already in the NBA, the void on the glass will be even more difficult to fill for the Cardinals. Montrezl Harrell will have to continue his dominance on the interior; the sophomore is averaging 12.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Harrell is shooting a blistering 65.1-percent from the field, and will be relied upon even more heavily in the absence of Behanan.
Michael Cobbins, F/C, Oklahoma State - The Cowboys and Player of the Year candidate Marcus Smart will have to make their run towards an NCAA Championship without their big man, Cobbins. The junior ruptured his left Achilles tendon against Robert Morris, will require surgery and miss the remainder of the 2013-2014 campaign. Cobbins was having a down season for OSU, though, averaging 4.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. By contrast, he averaged 6.9 points and 6.1 boards per contest last year. Still, Cobbins provided a defensive presence and will be missed on the glass as well.
Gary Bell, G, Gonzaga - Bell suffered a broken hand in the ‘Zags last game against Santa Clara, and will be sidelined for 4-6 weeks. A 6-1 junior guard, Bell was averaging 12.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game for the Bulldogs. He was shooting a career-high 50.9-percent from the field, including an outstanding 47.6-percent from three-point range. Fellow backcourt mates Kevin Pangos and David Stockton have already been playing extremely well in heavy minutes this season, but will be relied upon even more so in the absence of Bell for about the next month or so.