This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.
Buckle up, college hoops fans. We could be in store for the wildest season in a long time. Baylor has won 12 games in a row, Butler is 15-1 and Auburn is undefeated. Those schools make up three of the current top five teams in the country, at least according to the rankings. That doesn't include undefeated San Diego State, who we recently profiled, currently sitting just outside. The top teams have been losing (Hi Duke), while rather unconventional programs like the ones mentioned above surging. Could the Big 12 title streak of Kansas be in jeopardy? There appears to be more parity than ever before, including the Big Ten beating up on one another. This week's sign of the Apocalypse? Rutgers is 12-4. Don't sleep on Gonzaga, though, as this could be the year the 'Zags finally cut down the nets and win that elusive title. They have been as consistent and dominant as ever, and in a year in flux, they may be the frontrunners heading into March Madness.
A lot can change between now and then, though. With my incoherent ramblings as the backdrop, let's take a look at some players making noise in this edition of the College Hoops Barometer.
Aamir Simms, F, Clemson – While Monday night's football game did not go Clemson's way, the Tigers have had a historic last week or two on the hardwood. Clemson swept the state of North Carolina, at least the ACC version, an extremely rare feat. After dispatching of NC State, Clemson stopped a 59-game losing streak at Chapel Hill which caused UNC head coach Roy Williams to suggest he should be fired. The streak began in 1926. Simms hit a three-pointer with 3.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and four blocks in a virtuoso performance. In the very next game, the Tigers stunned Duke behind a career-high 25 points from Simms, who also collected nine rebounds and five assists in the victory. In the three-game sweep of the great state of North Carolina, Simms averaged 20.7 points, seven rebounds and 5.3 assists. It would be difficult to have a better three-game stretch than Simms and the Tigers.
Payton Pritchard, G, Oregon – Pritchard is the senior leader for the Ducks who is not talked about in the same breath as experienced guards like Cassius Winston of Michigan State for some reason. That should change. Pritchard is rather quietly putting up some big numbers for an Oregon squad that should be the cream of the crop in the Pac-12. Pritchard is averaging 19.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.8 steals per tilt. He is third in the conference in scoring, second in dishing and fourth in steals. Pritchard has also significantly improved his shot selection and efficiency throughout his time in Eugene. Pritchard is hitting a career-highs of 48.7-percent from the field, including 40-percent from three-point land. He has scored at least 20 points in five of the last nine games. Pritchard should be garnering much more national attention.
David Roddy, G, Colorado State – Since being inserted into the starting lineup five games ago, Roddy has been on a tear for the Rams. During that span, the 6-foot-5 freshman is averaging 18.2 points per contest. He has not scored less than 17 points in any of those games. By contrast, in the previous 13 contests he never reached 15 points in any contest. Roddy has not just been lighting up the scoring column, though. He has also notched two double-doubles in the last five tilts, including a career-high 13 rebounds against Wyoming on Jan. 4. Perhaps not a coincidence, the Rams are 4-1 since Roddy entered the starting five.
Santiago Vescovi, G, Tennessee – The Vols suffered a tough break when Lamonte Turner was ruled out for the year, but received some good news when Vescovi, a native of Uruguay, was granted immediate eligibility earlier this month. The true freshman has responded by averaging 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists through his first three games with the Vols. Vescovi has been particularly potent from long range, where he has hit 10-of-18 (55.6-percent). He is already leading the squad in scoring. With a starting job and minutes to take on, Vescovi should continue to see plenty of opportunity for Tennessee, as the Vols attempt to make their third-straight NCAA Tournament.
Tyrell Terry, G, Stanford – Picked to finish 10th of the 12 teams in the conference, the Stanford has been one of the big surprises of the early season. At 14-2 at the time of this writing, Stanford has only lost to Kentucky and Butler, both currently ranked in the top 15. The freshman Terry and forward Oscar da Silva are two of the biggest reasons for the hot start. While junior Daejon Davis was named Preseason All-Conference Second Team, it has been Terry who has been the catalyst for the squad. The former four-star recruit is averaging 15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. Those numbers place him second on the squad in all three categories. Terry has two double-doubles already this season (points and rebounds, not assists), though he is also more than capable of distributing the ball. Terry and da Silva have formed a potent inside-outside combination on offense, while the defense has been astounding. Stanford is allowing just 58.3 points per game, which is seventh in the country. Terry, Davis and da Silva are all in the top 15 in steals in the conference. The Cardinal have yet to play the likes of Oregon, Colorado and Arizona yet, but it is safe to say Terry and company are not to be taken lightly.
Andrew Platek, G, North Carolina – The above-referenced loss to Clemson for the Tar Heels is just the tip of the iceberg for a North Carolina squad that has been ravaged by injury this season. Platek barely saw the court during his first two seasons in Chapel Hill. He played double-digit minutes in the first 11 games of this season for the Tar Heels, before succumbing to his own ankle injury, which caused him to miss two games. Platek is healthy now, and registered eight points, eight rebounds and six dimes in the loss to Clemson last weekend. He played 39 of a possible 45 minutes. With Cole Anthony and Jeremiah Francis still sidelined, Anthony Harris lost for the season, and Brandon Robinson not cleared for contact after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, Platek may be thrust into an extremely prominent role for the extremely shorthanded Tar Heels.
Breein Tyree, G, Mississippi – A minor back injury sidelined Tyree for Tuesday's loss to Florida. The leading scorer for Ole Miss, Tyree is averaging 17.8 points per contest. That is fifth in the entire SEC. A volume scorer, Tyree averaged 26.5 points in the two games prior to being injured. Unfortunately for the Rebels, even with Tyree they were struggling. Ole Miss is 0-3 to start conference play, and just 9-7 on the season overall. Blake Hinson and KJ Buffen were the only two members of the squad to score in double figures in the 71-55 loss to the Gators. Tyree should be back shortly, but his presence will be sorely missed until his return.
Aaron Nesmith, F, Vanderbilt – One of the best players not only in the SEC but in all of college basketball, Nesmith suffered a foot injury that will unfortunately sideline him for the remainder of the season. The sophomore had jumped from good to great between his freshman and sophomore campaigns, as he was sixth in the nation in scoring with 23.0 points per game. Unsurprisingly, he led the SEC in scoring, and by a wide margin. The next closest player, Mason Jones of Arkansas, is averaging almost four fewer points per contest. In 14 games prior to injury, he scored at least 25 points on six occasions. He scored at least 30 points twice. Junior point guard Saben Lee should get even more shots for the Commodores in the absence of Nesmith, as Vandy's season continues to spiral downward.
Tyler Polley, F, Connecticut – The junior forward suffered a torn ACL in practice recently, and will miss the remainder of the season for the Huskies. Polley was coming off arguably the best game of his career, too, as he tallied a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds in last week's win over Tulane. Polley was one of five Connecticut players averaging at least nine points per game, and he was fifth on the team in rebounding as well. Center Josh Carlton and freshman Akok Akok (not a typo) will gobble up some of the rebounds vacated by Polley.
Jeremiah Tilmon, C, Missouri – A good (big) man is hard to find, but the 6-foot-10, 260-lb junior had been serviceable for the Tigers this season. Tilmon was averaging 9.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 rejections per contest. However, he initially injured his foot against Illinois before Christmas, missed one game, then tried to come back too early. Tilmon has now missed the past three contests for Mizzou. He was seen at the last game still in a walking boot and using crutches, so there's no telling when he will return to the floor. The Tigers have used a hodge-podge of forwards to attempt to take Tilmon's place, with limited success.
Chaundee Brown, G, Wake Forest – A lower leg injury has left Brown riding the pine for the past three games, and it is unclear when he will be able to return to the floor for the Demon Deacons. The injury could not have come at a worse time for Brown, who had registered over 25 points in two of three games for Wake Forest prior to injury. That included a monstrous double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds versus North Carolina A&T on Dec. 21. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Demon Deacons won the last three games in which Brown appeared, then lost the subsequent three games with brown on the shelf. All of those defeats were by double-digits. Wake Forest needs Brown to return, and fast, before the season falls completely off the rails.