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College Hoops Barometer: A Wreck, But Not Ramblin'

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 undefeateds are dwindling in college basketball, as conference play has handed teams like Ohio State their first loss of the season. Of the five remaining unblemished teams, the Iowa State cyclones are perhaps the most surprising. Coach Fred Hoiberg lost talented players in Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious and Chris Babb from last season's starting five, yet the Cyclones haven't missed a beat. Hoiberg continues to shine in attracting transfers, adding junior-college transfer Dustin Hogue and former Marshall star DeAndre Kane to the fold this season. Hogue leads the Big 12 in rebounding, while Kane has been simply marvelous for the Cyclones. He nearly recorded a triple-double in his last game against Baylor. Kane stuffed the stat sheet with 30 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and five steals. With holdovers Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang playing vital roles as well, ISU looks poised for a deep run come tourney time.

Let's move on to this week's "Four on the Hardwood Floor:"

1. The rise of Kansas center Joel Embiid has been incredibly quick. The 7-footer from Cameroon has been compared to a young Hakeem Olajuwon, quite a compliment. That upside has led to many predicting that the freshman could go as high as No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft, should he decide to enter the professional ranks. Embiid averages 10.5 points, 7.2 boards and 2.4 blocks per contest, with double-doubles in two of his last three games for the Jayhawks. He also had a seven-block game earlier in the season against UTEP.

2. The UCLA Bruins need more production out of freshman Zach LaVine. He has been mentioned as a possible lottery pick should he decide to go pro after the season but has not played well in big games this year. He shot a combined 6-for-22 against Duke and Arizona, both losses for the Bruins. He also collected just two rebounds and three assists. LaVine is athletically gifted, but needs to be more assertive.

3. Call it the Curse of the Barometer. Just one week after singing the praises of Harvard leader Wesley Saunders, the junior forward injured his knee and is out indefinitely. Sorry, Wes.

4. It was great to see Kevin Ware back on the court for the Cardinals, but it's probably the smart thing to have him sit the remainder of the season, particularly after re-injuring the same leg he broke in the NCAA Tournament last season. Russ Smith and freshman Chris Jones will continue to dominate the backcourt for Louisville.

Up next? A brand new edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Kellen Dunham, G, Butler -
Dunham has really stepped up his game for the Bulldogs this season. The three-point assassin is hitting 42.5 percent of his shots from downtown en route to averaging 18.7 points per game to lead the squad. He canned six treys against DePaul on Thursday, notching his second 30-point outing of the season. Dunham has also upped his rebounding and assist totals from a season ago, managing 3.8 boards and 2.1 assists per game. The improvement in his all-around game is evident, and the 6-foot-6 sophomore should continue to light it up as the season progresses.

Nigel Williams-Goss, G, Washington -
Williams-Goss is a 6-3 freshman who has been overshadowed by the hype surrounding this season's sensational class. However, the point guard has more than held his own for the Huskies, averaging 12.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per contest. The freshman is shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, though his outside shot still remains a work in progress. Likewise, he needs to cut his turnovers, though this development is not that surprising for a first-year starter. Williams-Goss has scored in double figures in 12 of U-Dub's 16 games this season, grabbed eight rebounds in a game in late December and dished out six assists to start the 2013-2014 campaign. In other words, he is extremely versatile, and should only get better.

Buddy Hield, G, Oklahoma -
Hield and teammate Cameron Clark have been able to take their respective games to new heights for the Sooners this season. Oklahoma lost nearly its entire starting squad from a season ago, leaving Hield and Clark to pick up the pieces. Hield has doubled his points production from 7.8 points per game as a freshman, to 16.4 points per contest as a sophomore. The 6-4 guard continues to prove an above-average rebounder for his size as well, snatching 4.5 boards per tilt. With 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals per contest as well, it is clear Hield has been one of the catalysts for OU's surprising 12-3 start. The performances of the aforementioned Clark, Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler and freshman point guard Jordan Woodard certainly haven't hurt either.

Caris LeVert, G, Michigan -
The Wolverines lost their starting backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke to the NBA, leaving a huge scoring void. Along with teammate Nik Stauskas, LeVert has provided a lift in that department. LeVert played more of a complementary role on last season's squad that went to the national championship but is averaging more than 32 minutes a game as a sophomore. He has responded with 11.9 points per contest, more than quadrupling his production from his freshman campaign. LeVert has also contributed 3.7 boards and 2.7 dimes per contest, helping the Wolverines to five consecutive wins and an 11-4 record overall. Even with starting center Mitch McGary done for the season due to back surgery, Michigan should still be dangerous in the Big Ten due to the ascension of Stauskas and LeVert.

CHECK STATUS

Casey Prather, F, Florida -
Prather has been the surprise leading scorer for the Gators this season. He played more of a complementary role during his first three seasons in Gainesville, averaging 6.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per contest as a junior. He has taken his game to another level as a senior, though, averaging 17.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. Just 6-6, Prather does most of his damage in the lane. He is a superb slasher and finisher, while also possessing a unique post game for his size. Prather has been extremely efficient, hitting a blistering 62.4 percent from the floor. Prather tweaked his knee, however, and is questionable heading into Florida's next game. Likewise, the development of a consistent jump shot is next on his agenda, and it will be interesting to see how Prather fares once SEC conference play begins. He's been fantastic for the Gators and will look to continue that positive trend.

Doug McDermott, F, Creighton -
McDermott is certainly in the conversation for NCAA Player of the year, as the senior is second in the nation in scoring at 24.3 points per game. By now, McDermott's game is well known; he can score from anywhere on the court, has polished post moves and can also hit the three. McDermott is shooting higher than 90 percent from the foul line, as well. However, he suffered a sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder and will miss at least a few days. Supposedly, McDermott fought through the pain in the last game against DePaul, even though he could barely lift the arm above his head. Averaging 7.4 rebounds per game, McDermott is obviously among the nation's elite players and will be difficult to replace. Hopefully for the Bluejays, his absence is short-lived.

Ronald Roberts Jr., F, St. Joseph's -
Roberts has been reliable for the Hawks throughout his collegiate career. He has gotten better each season, averaging a career-high 14.6 points as a senior with 7.4 boards per game. However, Roberts has hit a bit of a snag recently, failing to score in double-digits in each of the last three games for St. Joe's. His struggles were compounded by back spasms at UMass on Wednesday, which actually forced him to leave the game. Roberts may have been bothered by the back prior to Wednesday's tilt. As such, it would be wise to monitor his production as the season wears on, since these types of ailments tend to linger.

Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina -
Consistency is the only thing missing from Paige's game. He can look like a superstar one game, and then struggle mightily the next time on the floor. For example, he is having a standout season from a statistical standpoint with 17.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists game. However, he shot a putrid 5-of-27 from the floor in UNC's last two games. Not surprisingly, both matchups resulted in losses for the Tar Heels. Paige continues to fall in love with the three-ball. While he is not a bad three-point shooter (35.4-percent), he hit just 3-of-19 over the last two games from downtown. That is also way too many treys for a player with such a unique ability to get to the rim. Paige needs to work on his shot selection and decision making to truly become an elite player.

DOWNGRADE

DaVonte Lacy, G, Washington State -
Lacy will likely miss a second-straight game against Utah due to what has been deemed a rib injury. However, the leading scorer for Wazzu had an appendectomy at the end of December and has now missed three of the Cougars' last four games. Lacy had been averaging 17.7 points, making his mark mostly from long distance. Lacy was attempting 7.8 treys per contest, connecting on 39.8 percent. However, he hasn't scored in double-digits since Dec. 18 against lowly San Francisco State, and it remains to be seen what kind of game shape he will be in upon his return. Lacy started the season off with a bang, but has clearly hit a wall due to his inability to stay on the floor.

McKenzie Moore, G, UTEP -
An interesting story developed with the Miners when three players on the UTEP basketball squad, including Moore, were investigated by the FBI in a possible point-shaving scandal. Although the three were eventually cleared from the allegations, they were caught gambling on other sports and were suspended for a year by the NCAA. Moore was the best player of the trio, leading the Miners in scoring and assists. Moore averaged 13.1 points, 4.5 points and 2.7 assists per game before being dismissed from the team. Look for the Miners to rely on junior swingman Julian Washburn to lead the team with Moore no longer in the fold.

Eric McClellan, G, Vanderbilt -
The Commodores will have to finish the 2013-14 campaign without the services of McClellan, who has been suspended for the spring semester due to a violation of academic policy. The leading scorer for Vandy, McClellan averaged 14.3 points per game. The sophomore was also no slouch in other facets of the game as well, managing 4.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest. A transfer from Tulsa, McClellan sat out last season due to NCAA rules. The Commodores will turn to forward Rod Odom to pick up the slack in the scoring column, and guards Kyle Fuller and Dai-Jon Parker to chip in with additional assists.

Robert Carter Jr., F, Georgia Tech -
Carter suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and will require surgery, ending his season. A double-double threat each time he took the court, Carter averaged 10.3 points and 9.3 boards per game as a sophomore. In fact, he tallied four double-doubles prior to getting hurt. Georgia Tech will expect even more production out of center Daniel Miller, who is having his best season as a member of the Yellow Jackets, though he has not become the superstar that Tech had hoped. Miller is second on the team in rebounding with 7.9 boards per contest.

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