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College Hoops Barometer: Marching Toward Madness

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 Wichita State Shockers have pushed their regular-season record to 30-0, something that has never been done in college basketball history. The debate will rage on for the next couple weeks as to Wichita State's worthiness of a No. 1 seed, but the Shockers have toppled every team in their path thus far, including a talented Saint Louis squad that is 25-2. It's also interesting to note that while Wichita State plays in a sub-standard Missouri Valley conference, it made the Final Four last season with essentially the same squad. The Shockers certainly will have their chance to prove the doubters wrong come tourney time, and perhaps even take aim at the historical feat of an undefeated season.

Let's look at some more news and notes in this week's "Four on the Hardwood Floor:"

1. Imagine if Wichita State and Kansas are placed in the same bracket as the 1-2 seeds, respectively? It's becoming a very real, juicy possibility.

2. Can anyone catch Creighton's Doug McDermott for Player of the Year Honors? Dougie Buckets has scored at least 25 points in seven-straight games, including two 39-point efforts against St. John's and Villanova over that span.

3. Defending champion Louisville may be playing without the likes of Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and Kevin Ware, but it'd be foolish to count them out of the title hunt. The Cardinals are 23-4 behind the one-two punch of Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell. Louisville is also coming off of a huge road win at Cincinnati.

4. Watch out for the return of Michigan State forward Branden Dawson, who has been sidelined for about a month with a broken hand. He could be back as early as Saturday against Illinois.

Who else has been surging, and whose stock is plummeting? The College Hoops Barometer is on tap.


Rob Loe, F, Saint Louis -
This forward didn't play the villain in "Wayne's World," but is instead a 6-foot-11 big man from New Zealand who has played an integral role in the success of the Billikens this season. Loe has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games for Saint Louis, including a career-high 23 points against George Mason on February 1st. He is also second on the team in rebounding and has relieved some of the burden down low off of star forward Dwayne Evans. The Billikens are on a 19-game winning streak currently, having last lost on December 1st to undefeated Wichita State. Point guard Jordair Jett and the aforementioned Evans may get the pub, but Loe has been a key cog in the winning ways for Saint Louis.

Scottie Wilbekin, G, Florida -
Wilbekin flies somewhat under the radar for the No. 1 Gators, but is the catalyst for the Florida squad. He battled off-court issues as well as an ankle injury earlier in the year; not surprisingly, one of UF's two losses came when Wilbekin did not suit up for the Gators. While Casey Prather has been one of the most improved players in college hoops, and the beastly Patric Young provides rim-shaking dunks, Wilbekin simply leads the team with a steady, even hand. Over his last six games before Tuesday's tilt with Vandy, the floor general was even better than usual, averaging 18.7 points and 4.3 assists per contest. The Gators have a 20-game winning streak of their own, and Wilbekin is where Florida's success starts and finishes.

Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor -
Austin started the season slowly, but has really come on recently. The 7-footer blocked an astounding 21 shots over his last three games, all wins for the Bears as they attempt to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. Austin tallied a double-double against Oklahoma State on Feb. 17 as well, just his third of the season. By contrast, Austin managed 11 double-doubles as a freshman last season. However, the increased defensive prowess as well as greater efficiency shooting the ball could mean that the sophomore has finally turned the corner for the Bears. He has scored in double-digits in five-straight games, shooting more than 53 percent from the field over that span.

Josh Huestis, F, Stanford -
Huestis has had a couple of monstrous games of his own over the past week or so for the Cardinal. In his last game against UCLA, the senior forward tied a career-high with 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor. He also swatted a season-high five shots, while collecting six rebounds and dishing out three assists in the 83-74 victory over a ranked Bruins quad. Huestis was a terror on the glass in the Cardinal's previous game against USC, ripping down 18 boards in the 80-59 rout of the Trojans. The 18 rebounds were also a career-high for the 6-7 forward. The physical Huestis has been an excellent complement in the frontcourt with Dwight Powell for the past four years. Though Powell is a more skilled player overall, the toughness of Huestis has done wonders for Stanford, and he deserves some notoriety for his efforts, particularly of late.


Damyean Dotson, G, Oregon -
Dotson was cited by police in Eugene for using a fake ID, and sat the last game against Washington State. A superior defender, the 6-5 sophomore has also contributed on the offensive end this season for the Ducks. Dotson is shooting 47.2-percent from the field en route to a 10.7 point per game average. Dotson could be back as soon as Oregon's next game at UCLA, and the Ducks could use his services during a pivotal stretch of Pac-12 play. Oregon would receive a huge boost in its quest for an NCAA Tournament berth if they can knock off either the Bruins or the highly-ranked Arizona Wildcats, who they face on March 8th.

Melsahn Basabe, F, Iowa -
The Hawkeyes missed Basabe's presence in Tuesday's 95-89 loss at Minnesota. In fact, the Hawkeyes have now lost two games in a row in which Basabe has played little or no role. He played just one minute on February 22nd in a loss to Wisconsin. Basabe has been battling the flu and has been unable to get his feet under him. He should come back shortly, and his return can't come soon enough for Iowa. The senior forward averages 7.8 points and 6.3 rebounds despite playing less than 19 minutes per contest.

Kennedy Meeks, F, North Carolina -
Meeks suffered a hyperextended knee as well as an ankle injury Saturday against Wake Forest, and he is likely to be bothered by the ailments in the short term. The freshman starter has been a load to handle in the post, standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing 290 pounds. He has a soft touch for his size, though, and had a career-high 23 points on 11-of-12 shooting at Florida State on February 17th. Overall, the freshman big man is averaging 7.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per tilt for the Tar Heels, and has been a vital component of the current nine-game winning streak for UNC.

Anthony Lee, F, Temple -
The leading rebounder for the Owls has been bothered by knee and toe injuries and has been in and out of the lineup recently. The 6-9 junior is averaging 8.8 boards per contest for Temple. He's not just a bruiser, though, as Lee is also managing 13.8 points per game as well. He has notched 10 double-doubles this season. Lee missed a February 16th win over SMU, returned for a 68-55 loss to UConn on February 20th, then was sidelined again on February 22nd at Memphis. Monitor his status as regular season conference play draws to a close, as the Owls do not have much left to play for in what has been an abysmal 7-19 season thus far.


Amric Fields, F, TCU -
It's been a rough year for the Horned Frogs, who lost three players to season-ending injuries in November, including expected starting forward Devonta Abron. Fields played just three games last season due to injury issues of his own, but had been playing fairly well in 2013-2014. However, Fields suffered yet another knee injury and has missed the last two games for TCU. He is averaging 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, second on the squad in both categories. The already short-handed Horned Frogs will have to rely even more heavily on 6-10 freshman center Karviar Shepherd while Fields attempts to make a comeback. TCU is 0-15 in Big 12 conference play. Yes, you read that correctly.

James Kelly, F, Miami -
Kelly, a reserve forward for the Canes, has been suspended indefinitely by coach Jim Larranaga due to a violation of team rules. Kelly was a JUCO transfer, and has already missed two games for the Hurricanes. The status of his return is unknown. Kelly was averaging seven points and four rebounds per game during his first season in Miami, shooting over 50-percent from the floor. Seven-footer Tonye Jekiri should see a slight uptick in production during Kelly's absence.

Evan Smotrycz, F, Maryland -
A hot start has gone by the wayside for Smotrycz. The Michigan transfer has seen his season field goal percentage dip below 40-percent, and he has failed to score in double figures in four of the Terps' last five games. In fact, he has shot a putrid 24.4-percent over that span. By contrast, Smotrycz scored at least 10 points in eight of his first nine contests for Maryland to begin the 2013-2014 campaign. The non-conference schedule was clearly more kind to Smotrycz than the ACC portion, as he has found it tough to get going during ACC play.

Dakari Johnson, C, Kentucky -
It's been a rollercoaster season for the young Wildcats, and the freshman class has not performed as coach John Calipari likely had hoped they would. Johnson has been no exception. Despite having to deal with the presence of sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein ahead of him, many felt that Johnson would eventually supplant Cauley-Stein as the starter due to his size. However, that has not materialized, as Johnson is averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in just 11.9 minutes per game. Cauley-Stein's length and athleticism has made him a superior shot-blocker, and while the sophomore has had his ups and downs as well, Cauley-Stein has been slightly more reliable than Johnson. The time may come when Johnson is a star, but it doesn't appear that will happen this season.