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College Hoops Barometer: Rozier's Role Growing for Cardinals

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.

While teams will not show their true identities until conference play begins in earnest, several squads are already exceeding expectations. The Miami Hurricanes have been one of the biggest surprises of the young season. The Canes are 8-0 behind transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. Miami already has signature wins against Florida and Illinois. Meanwhile, TCU's football team is getting all the publicity these days, but the hardwood heroes for the Horned Frogs haven't been too shabby, either. At 7-0, TCU is led by senior guard Kyan Anderson, who averaged 17.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists last season. Likewise, in the ever-changing Big East, the Seton Hall Pirates are 6-0 behind the hot shooting of Sterling Gibbs. The junior is hitting a blistering 58.3 percent of his shots from three-point range.

Who else is surging, and who still leaves something to be desired? Let's take a peek in this week's edition of the College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Levi Randolph, G, Alabama -
Randolph has really taken his game to another level this season. The senior swingman has seen an uptick in statistics across the board, most notably in the shooting department. Randolph is shooting 53.6 percent from the field, 41.2 percent from three-point land and an outrageous 97.3 percent from the charity stripe. Randolph is getting to the line more than six times per game, and making the opposition pay for their transgressions. He has hit 36-of-37 free throws this season. As a result of these improvements, Randolph is averaging 19.5 points per game, nearly 10 points more than last season. Through six games, Randolph is also averaging career highs in rebounds (6.2) and assists (2.5). The senior has clearly taken over the lead-dog role from the departed Trevor Releford.

D'Angelo Russell, G, Ohio State -
Russell appears to have been lost in the shuffle in this year's freshman class, but he's quickly making a name for himself as a member of the Buckeyes. Without much fanfare, Russell is off to a sizzling start to his collegiate career. The 6-foot-5 guard is averaging 17.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists through six games. Russell showed his scoring prowess with 32 points against Sacred Heart on Nov. 23. The shot selection for the freshman has been extremely impressive, as Russell is connecting on 47.1 percent of his shots from the field, including a crisp 40 percent from long range. Russell is no slouch dishing the rock, either, as he has notched at least four assists in every game this season. The Buckeyes may have lost their leader in Aaron Craft, but Russell looks like he'll be a more than capable replacement.

Terry Rozier, G, Louisville -
Rozier had to deal with the presence of Russ Smith last season, and the ball domination by "Russdiculous" meant Rozier was more of a role player as a freshman. Smith is no longer on the squad, though, and more playing time has suited Rozier well so far as a sophomore. Rozier is averaging 13.2 points, 6.0 boards and 3.0 assists per game this season. He stuffed the stat sheet against Ohio State on Tuesday, tallying 11 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, one block and three steals in the 64-55 win over the Buckeyes. The versatile Rozier already has an 11-rebound game to his resume this season, despite being 6-1. He is a superior rebounder for his size with a great court instincts, along with the ability to can the open jumper. Montrezl Harrell is the star for the Cardinals, but Rozier is an important cog for coach Rick Pitino.

Chris McCullough, F, Syracuse -
McCullough is another freshman who is making waves in his first year in campus. The Bronx native did what most highly touted recruits coming out of New York City are doing these days, spurning offers to stay in the city and instead joining the traditional powerhouse programs. McCullough has provided a much-needed boost for a Syracuse squad that lost Jerami Grant to the NBA and C.J. Fair to graduation. The freshman has responded with three double-doubles in seven games, including two in his last two games. McCullough also nearly missed another double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds in a win over Iowa on Nov. 21. Overall, McCullough is managing 14.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. The 6-10 big man has also made his presence felt on the defensive end, swatting 2.3 shots per game. The back end of the 2-3 zone looks pretty fierce with McCullough and senior Rakeem Christmas.

CHECK STATUS

Cinmeon Bowers, F, Auburn -
Coach Bruce Pearl has returned to the sidelines with the Auburn Tigers, and he brought with him the top ranked JUCO transfer in Bowers. All Bowers has done to begin his Auburn career is average a double-double. The 6-7 junior is a load down low, weighing in at close to 280 pounds. Bowers knows how to use his width to his advantage. He notched double-doubles in each of his first four games at Auburn. Overall, Bowers is averaging 15.2 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. Bowers can be a little undisciplined at times, though, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to put up stellar numbers against stiffer competition. For now, however, Bowers has been a man among boys in the paint.

Kyle Wiltjer, F, Gonzaga -
Wiltjer was a chic pick to put up video game numbers this season. A former McDonalds All-American and member of the Kentucky Wildcats, Wiltjer decided to transfer to Gonzaga for more playing time. The Wildcats have been so stacked in recent years, that Wiltjer felt his game would not grow sitting on the bench. He sat out last season, and the early returns in 2014-15 have been pretty decent. Wiltjer averages 16.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game for the Zags. Wiltjer's greatest talent remains his shooting touch. He shot 14-of-26 from the field in a 32-point onslaught against Georgia on Nov. 26. However, he does have a tendency to fall in love with the three-pointer. Wiltjer is also more of a finesse player at 6-10, meaning that his rebounding and defense needs some work. In other words, there is still room for improvement in his game, but the talent is certainly evident.

Sam Dekker, F, Wisconsin -
Dekker has been nursing a bothersome left ankle injury to begin his junior campaign. While he has played in every game for the undefeated Badgers, Wisconsin has so many weapons that he has appeared to take a back seat at times. Dekker averages 12.7 points per game, but his rebounds are down by almost three this season, perhaps showing an unwillingness to bang down low with the injured wheel. The 6-9 junior has also seen his three-point shooting decline; in fact, Dekker has hit just 6-of-21 treys (28.6 percent) to start the year. Curiously, however, Dekker is shooting a career-high 53.2 percent from the floor. It remains to be seen whether the game plan has changed for the Badgers, or Dekker is simply altering his game due to the injury or otherwise.

Robert Upshaw, C, Washington -
It's a block party, and Upshaw says you're invited. The Fresno State transfer has shown his value on the defensive end during his brief time with the Huskies. Upshaw is swatting four shots per game for UW. This includes two seven-block bonanzas against South Carolina State and San Jose State. The seven-footer also has been capable around the rim, hitting 61.5 percent of his shots while also pulling down 5.5 rebounds per game. He's still a work in progress, but the undefeated Huskies have to be happy with what they've seen thus far. Upshaw is proving an excellent complement to forward Shawn Kemp Jr. and the talented backcourt of Andrew Andrews and Nigel Williams-Goss.

DOWNGRADE

Dez Wells, G, Maryland -
Wells is a fearless swingman who can impact the game in a variety of ways. The leading scorer for the Terps, Wells is also the team leader, an above-average rebounder for his size and an able passer as well. Wells averaged 16.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists through the first four games of his senior season. However, during an impressive win over a ranked Iowa State squad last week, Wells suffered a broken wrist. He will miss at least a month for Maryland. The Terps are still undefeated at 6-0, but may not have Wells for crucial games against Virginia, Oklahoma State and Michigan State in the next 30 days. It will be interesting to see how Maryland responds without its floor general.

Aqeel Quinn, G, San Diego State -
The ranked Aztecs will be without the services of their second-leading scorer for the time being. Quinn broke his hand in last week's loss to Arizona. The injury required surgery, and there is no timetable for his return. However, Quinn will almost certainly be out at least a month. The senior was averaging 9.7 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, but had a 22-point effort in a double OT victory over BYU earlier this season. While his numbers may not look tremendous, coach Steve Fisher plays a particular kind of basketball, based on team defense, ball movement and efficiency. The Aztecs only average 68 points per game as a unit, which is 187th in the nation. As a result, Quinn's absence will hurt a bit more than the numbers suggest.

Jordan Loveridge, F, Utah -
Loveridge is off to a sluggish start for the Utes. He averaged 14.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore last season. He started off his sophomore campaign with three straight double-doubles. For some reason, Loveridge hasn't quite lived up to those numbers as a junior. Loveridge is managing 11.5 points and just 2.5 rebounds per game. However, he also played in just four games before injuring his hamstring. As a result, Loveridge hasn't even seen the court in Utah's last two tilts. In Loveridge's absence, Mr. Everything Delon Wright has picked up the slack. In Saturday's win over Alabama State, Wright collected 24 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal. Still, the Utes are not whole without Loveridge, and would like Loveridge to regain his double-double form upon return from injury.

Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky -
From purely a fantasy perspective, the depth that the Kentucky Wildcats have, paired with coach John Calipari's two-squad system, limits the upside of the individual player. Take Harrison, for example. One of the breakout stars of the last season's NCAA Tournament, his numbers are down across the board to begin the season. Perhaps this will change when the competition gets tougher and Coach Cal goes with whom he trusts. Or maybe it won't. The Wildcats are so talented that Harrison does not need to put up 20 points per game for the team to win. Things may change, but for now, Harrison is averaging 10.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game as a sophomore. Last season, Harrison averaged 13.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists during his freshman campaign. Those expecting an upsurge from Harrison this season have likely been sorely disappointed.

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