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College Hoops Barometer: Butler's Big Dog

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.

Meet Wes Washpun. Try to say his name three times fast. Besides having an alliterative, tongue-twisting moniker, the senior from Northern Iowa has been at the center of two of the bigger upsets in college basketball this season. In late November, Washpun scored 21 points and dished out eight assists against the No. 1 team in the country at that time, the North Carolina Tar Heels. Less than a month later, Washpun led yet another stunning upset, this time over previously undefeated Iowa State. Washpun nearly collected a triple-double in the 81-79 win, tallying 28 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists. Although the Panthers have lost to a few teams of lesser ilk, they remain a possibly dangerous foe come tourney time. Northern Iowa has been to the Big Dance six times since 2004, including a mammoth upset of No. 1 Kansas in 2010.

Let's look at the rest of the hardwood scene in this week's College Hoops Barometer.

UPGRADE

Brice Johnson, F, UNC -
Johnson has been terrific in the absence of Kennedy Meeks the last few games. The senior forward is averaging 24.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game over his last three contests. In that span, Johnson is shooting a blistering 75.6 percent from the field. Despite notching five double-doubles in his first six games of the season, Johnson failed to score 20 points in any game until this scorching three-game stretch. With Meeks expected to miss to miss at least another week, the hefty production should continue for Johnson.

Kevin Punter, G, Tennessee -
If you need a bucket, Punter is your guy. Punter has scored at least 23 points in seven consecutive games for the Vols. Despite taking more than a third of his shots from beyond the three-point arc, he is still hitting more than 50 percent of his shots from the field as a senior. Punter is also getting to the free-throw line with great frequency. He attempts 8.2 free throws per game, which places him in the top 10 in the nation. Although always considered a capable scorer, Punter has developed a more well-rounded game this season as well, averaging career highs of 3.6 boards and 3.7 assists. No longer a one-trick pony, Punter has been one of the catalysts of the Tennessee offense this year.

Jakob Poetl, F/C, Utah -
Poetl battled Jahlil Okafor in the Sweet 16 last season, making a name for himself in the national spotlight by holding his own against the future lottery pick. Now a sophomore, Poetl has taken his game to even greater heights. Poetl averages a near double-double, posting 19.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He had a 32-point outburst in late November against Temple, then avenged last season's aforementioned tourney loss to Duke with a 14-rebound performance in an 77-75 OT win. Poetl is averaging 10 more points and three more rebounds than last season, playing more minutes yet averaging fewer fouls per game. It is clear Poetl is becoming a more polished center, and his size and skillset are extremely attractive to NBA scouts.

Malcolm Hill, G, Illinois -
The Illini have had a rash of injuries the last six months, losing their starting point guard, power forward and center. That means Hill has been forced to shoulder even more of the load on both ends of the floor. He has responded with 18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and four assists per game. Hill exploded for 34 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals in last Saturday's 91-79 win over South Dakota. He is the undisputed motor for the Illinois offense, and should continue to flex his muscle once conference play begins in the Big Ten. Admittedly, though, the Illini will have a hard time keeping afloat this season, even with Hill in their corner.

CHECK STATUS

Cinmeon Bowers, F, Auburn -
Bowers could be known as the new round mound of rebound. The 6-foot-7 Bowers knows how to use his massive frame, throwing his weight around in the post to get position. As a result, Bowers has been a double-double machine since transferring to Auburn before last season. As a junior, Bowers tallied 14 double-doubles. Through nine games as a senior, Bowers has already racked up six double-doubles, including four consecutive. Bowers has formed a potent duo with graduate transfer Tyler Harris, the younger brother of Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris. The younger Harris is no slouch himself, posting four double-doubles. Even with SEC play coming up, Bowers has the ability to accumulate a double-double each night.

Roosevelt Jones, F, Butler -
RoJo has shown tremendous versatility recently for the Bulldogs. Jones has notched double-doubles in each of the last two games, but in a different manner in each time. Against Tennessee on Dec. 12, Jones had 21 points and 10 assists. In Butler's last game against Purdue, Jones tallied 19 points and 11 rebounds. These numbers are no fluke, though, as Jones impacts the game in a variety of ways. He averages 13.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. The one knock on Jones is his free-throw shooting. Jones is hitting just 58.5 percent of his shots from the charity stripe. He has also failed to develop any semblance of a long-range jumper; despite being 6-4, Jones does most of his damage inside the arc. Still, Jones is averaging career highs across the board, and the Bulldogs would not be 9-1 without him.

Eron Harris, G, Michigan State -
The loss of Denzel Valentine, even for just a few weeks, is devastating for the undefeated Spartans. Harris is the most likely candidate to fill the void. The transfer from West Virginia does not quite possess the same versatility of Valentine, though few do. Harris was known mostly as a scorer during his lone season for the Mountaineers, scoring 17.2 points per game. It remains to be seen what kind of impact he will have in the absence of Valentine, though it will likely take more than one player to fill his productiveness. Still, Harris managed 27 points, five rebounds and five assists in MSU's first game without DZ.

Gavin Ware, F, Mississippi State -
Ware has been one of the few bright spots in what has already been a trying season for the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, he bruised his knee in MSU's last game, and his status remains in the air. Although the injury is not considered serious, the loss of Ware for any time would be borderline catastrophic. Ware has always been a terrific rebounder, but he has shown vast improvement in his scoring as a senior. Ware averages 17.7 points per game, shooting 69.4 percent from the field, blowing away both of his previous career highs. The 5-5 Bulldogs will be in rough shape if Ware is unable to suit up, or even banged up, heading into SEC conference play, as he is both the squad's leading scorer and rebounder.

DOWNGRADE

Julian Jacobs, G, USC -
Jacobs has done it all for the Trojans during his senior campaign. He leads the squad in assists at 6.1 per game. He is second on the squad in rebounding at 5.8 per game. Likewise, he is the third-leading scorer for USC, racking up 12 points per game. However, he has missed two of the last three games due to tendinitis in his left Achilles' heel. The Trojans happen to be extremely deep at guard with Jordan McLaughlin, Katin Reinhardt and Elijah Stewart, but Jacobs has still been the most indispensable part of the squad this season. It remains to be seen if the injury will linger, if Jacobs will attempt to push through the issue or if he will eventually be forced to sit out and rest.

Reid Travis, F, Stanford -
A stress fracture will sideline Travis indefinitely. Travis was the leading the team in rebounding as well as shooting percentage before the injury. After showing flashes as a freshman, Travis was becoming much more consistent as a sophomore. He had scored in double figures in all but one game and had tallied at least six rebounds in seven of the first eight games for the Cardinal. Without him, the Cardinal will be forced to rely even more heavily upon Rosco Allen and Michael Humphrey. Allen had a double-double in Stanford's last game, while Humphrey had 21 points and nine rebounds.

Mangok Mathiang, C, Louisville -
The center and defensive anchor for the Cardinals broke a bone in his foot and required a screw to be put in via a surgical procedure. As a result, Mathiang will miss about 6-8 weeks. After making a surprise showing in last year's NCAA Tournament, Mathiang has been more of a staple this season for the Cards on the interior. He is averaging 7.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Mathiang has also been looking for his shot more, hitting 56.3 percent of his looks after managing just 38.8 percent last season. The reliance on sophomore Chinanu Onuaku will become even much more pronounced without Mathiang, and Onuaku will need to stay out of foul trouble with the lack of depth for the Cardinals in the frontcourt.

Amida Brimah, C, UConn -
Another defensive stalwart who will be sidelined for at least a month, Brimah suffered a broken finger on his right hand. He was also battling a groin injury at the time. A shot-blocking extraordinaire, Brimah was averaging three swats per contest, which was tied for eighth in the country. Brimah also contributed 7.8 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Huskies, but his interior presence will be what is missed the most. The Huskies have played small in Brimah's absence, relying on Cornell transfer Shonn Miller and sophomore sensation Daniel Hamilton to hold down the fort.