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December 7, 2006

SCS.comUpset after upset. Heroic one-man performances. Top teams falling left and right. Overtime classics. The first month of the college basketball season has provided us with all of that, and much more. The “consensus” top three teams heading into the season — Florida, North Carolina, and Kansas — have a combined five losses. It’s pretty much a crapshoot as to which teams look like championship contenders.

There are about fifteen teams nationwide capable of winning six games in a row in March. Moreover, many teams have had surprisingly good seasons thus far, while others have fallen off the map and disappointed. Similarly, there is a host of players that have played very well in the early going, and it is difficult to sift through the group to find the best of the best. However, this is exactly what you want in the college game: parity and balance. With that in mind, let's recap the first few weeks of the season.

First-Month All-American Team

F - Nick Fazekas, Nevada (22.6 ppg, 13.7 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.4 bpg): One of the best frontcourt players in the country, will get more shine in the NCAA Tournament.

F - Jared Dudley, Boston College (19.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.8 apg): Excellent all-around player is overshadowed in the ACC, but can do a little bit of everything.

C - Glen Davis, LSU (18.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 spg, 1.2 bpg): “Big Baby” lost a lot of weight over the summer, but didn’t lose any of his outstanding production.

G - Sean Singletary, Virginia (16.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 6.3 apg): Arguably the best point guard in the country right now, he is part of one of the best backcourts in the nation.

G - Dominic James, Marquette (17.4 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.3 spg): Has carried the Golden Eagles several times this season, and scored final 18 points vs. Valparaiso.

Second Team

F - Jermareo Davidson, Alabama (15.3 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.7 bpg): Came back from his girlfriend’s death to dominate for Crimson Tide; big year in store for him.

F - Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina (18.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.0 apg): Has disappointed against quality big men this season, but is still a POY candidate.

C - Aaron Gray, Pittsburgh (16.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg): Double-double lock every night out, and could carry the Panthers to a Big East title and a #1 seed in March.

G - Brandon Heath, San Diego State (20.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.4 spg): Very good all-around player who is getting more exposure; remember his name in March.

G - Mustafa Shakur, Arizona (12.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 8.3 apg): Finally living up to his potential, he is among the nation’s leaders in assists and runs the potent Wildcats offense.

Other Notable Players

Jarrius Jackson, G, Texas Tech (22.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.0 spg): Carrying the Red Raiders at this point after returning from academic suspension early in the season.

Curtis Sumpter, F, Villanova (19.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg): Has come back from injury and regained his Big East POY candidate form; big-time mismatch.

Mario Boggan, F, Oklahoma State (20.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg): Solid player last year, he is developing into a star in the paint for the Cowboys; he is tough to move around.

Alando Tucker, F, Wisconsin (19.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg): Absolute machine on the offensive end. Is very difficult to stop as he can score in a variety of ways.

Carl Landry, F, Purdue (19.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg): Like Sumpter, returned from injury and regained his pre-injury form. Carrying the Boilermakers to a solid start.

Arron Afflalo, G, UCLA (16.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg): Without Jordan Farmar in the backcourt, he is still playing like a go-to-guy on offense. Also an outstanding defender.

Randolph Morris, C, Kentucky (17.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg): Dominated Tyler Hansbrough in their matchup. Has loads of potential in the paint and could become a star.

Drew Neitzel, G, Michigan State (17.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.2 spg): After the loss of three senior stars, he has become the go-to-guy of the young Spartans.

Chris Lofton, G, Tennessee (18.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.0 spg): Only consistent scorer for the Volunteers, but still finds enough open shots to get nearly 20 points per game.

Josh Heytvelt, C (16.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and Derek Raivio, G (19.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.4 apg), Gonzaga: Inside-outside combo showing rest of country that the Bulldogs won’t miss a beat without Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista.

First Month Mid-Major All-American Team

Trey Johnson, Jackson State (30.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.1 apg): Nation’s leading scorer takes a lot of shots, but has the ability to score against any team he faces.

Rodney Stuckey, Eastern Washington (27.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 2.5 spg): Future NBA player can do everything on the court. Find a way to see this guard.

Reggie Williams, VMI (26.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.2 spg): Versatile forward is the leader of the nation’s most potent offense. Can do a variety of things.

Bo McCalebb, New Orleans (24.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.3 spg): Returning from injury to help Privateers contend for a Sun Belt title. Only six-feet tall, but gets 8 boards per game.

Jared Jordan, Marist (21.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 8.6 apg, 1.6 spg): One of the best point guards in the country, he contributes in so many ways and leads country in assists.

Loren Stokes, Hofstra (23.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.0 spg): Scoring is up from last year for Stokes, who has had to carry the Pride more this season after disappointing start.

Mark Zoller, Penn (22.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.6 apg, 2.0 spg): Finally stepping out of the shadow of teammate Ibrahim Jaaber, he is a nice inside-outside option for Quakers.

Kyle Hines, UNC-Greensboro (22.1 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 1.6 spg, 2.8 bpg): Very underrated player on a national level, can produce against all levels of competition.

Morris Almond, Rice (29.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.7 spg): Struggled against Gonzaga, but is filling up the stat sheet every night out. Will be a nightmare in C-USA.

Courtney Bradley, Jacksonville State (21.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.8 spg): Best player in the Ohio Valley, Bradley is athletic and can score in a variety of ways.

Jamar Wilson, Albany (19.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.6 spg): Extremely quick guard is difficult to stop one-on-one. Can also rebound and play defense.

Torrell Martin, Winthrop (17.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.6 spg): Lit up both Wisconsin and North Carolina. Can get hot from long-range and carry the Eagles.

A.J. Graves, Butler (18.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 spg): Performed at his best on a national stage. Can he keep it up during the Horizon League season?

Jason Thompson, Rider (21.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.4 apg): Overshadowed in MAAC by Jared Jordan, Thompson is a 20-10 threat who can also pass the ball.

Caleb Green, Oral Roberts (21.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 2.1 spg): One of the best big men in college basketball, Green also averages about 38 minutes per game.

Who Are These Guys?
(Players putting up numbers in relative obscurity)

Kyle Visser, Wake Forest (19.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg): Finally leaving his shell during his senior season, Visser is carrying young Demon Deacons to a decent start.

Gavin Grant, North Carolina State (17.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.5 apg): Very similar to former Wolfpack star Julius Hodge, Grant is very versatile and can do everything.

Jack McClinton, Miami (Fl.) (21.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 56% 3PT): Siena transfer is lighting it up in the ACC. Outstanding long-range shooter could lead Hurricanes to a couple of wins.

Melvin Buckley/McHugh Mattis, South Florida (22.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg/17.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.3 spg, 5.5 bpg): Very impressive forward tandem for undefeated USF. Buckley is a very good scorer, while Mattis fills up the stat sheet in several ways.

Geoff McDermott, Providence (9.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 5.4 apg): Extremely underrated player on a national level. Averages nearly a double-double and also racks up assists...and he’s 6-6.

Ron Lewis, Ohio State (17.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg): Overshadowed by the glut of impressive freshmen for OSU, Lewis nearly led Buckeyes to upset win at North Carolina.

Ivan Radenovic, Arizona (18.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg): Least heralded of Arizona starters, Radenovic can score inside and outside and is also holding down the fort inside defensively.

Marcel Jones, Oregon State (18.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg): Combo forward has come out of nowhere to put up big numbers for Beavers. Too bad OSU is going to be at the bottom of the Pac-10.

Maarty Leunen, Oregon (11.2 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 2.6 spg): With all the perimeter talent that the Ducks have, all they need is a solid post player. Leunen fits that mold perfectly.

Mike Mercer, Georgia (18.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 3.0 spg): Very good freshman last year, Mercer has developed into an outstanding sophomore. Can do it all at both ends.

Paul Delaney, UAB (19.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.6 spg): Under new coach Mike Davis, Delaney has flourished. Has become go-to-guy for the Blazers and can contribute in many ways.

Rob McKiver, Houston (24.3 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.2 spg): JC transfer is flying under the radar as a scorer in Tom Penders’ system. Can absolutely fill it up offensively.

Stefon Jackson, UTEP (19.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.1 spg): Miners not ready to give up winning ways just yet, and Jackson is a main reason why. Versatile wing can score.

Brandon Ewing/Brad Jones, Wyoming (22.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.0 apg/18.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.4 spg): Extremely underrated backcourt in the Mountain West. Both can score and pass, and also are quick defensively.

Jaycee Carroll (22.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Utah State: Outstanding three-point shooter is overshadowed in the WAC, but he is a very good scorer who needs to be seen.

Top Twelve Freshmen

Brandan Wright, North Carolina (15.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg): Combining with Hansbrough down low to form excellent post tandem. Long wingspan helps at both ends of the floor.

Ishmael Smith, Wake Forest (11.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 7.9 apg): Underrated point guard is one of the top assist men in the country; will be interesting to see if his numbers keep up.

Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech (14.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 2.3 spg): Extremely quick guard needs to run Tech’s offense better, but he can score on anyone and is solid defensively.

Kevin Durant, Texas (23.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg): Arguably the best freshman in the country, Durant will get votes for All-American honors by the end of the season.

Darrell Arthur, Kansas (14.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg): Was one of the main reasons for Jayhawks’ victory over Florida, Arthur is versatile and can run the floor or score inside.

Paul Harris, Syracuse (12.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.4 spg): Extremely versatile wing can play the point or up front. Has contributed in all sorts of ways for the Orange.

Daequan Cook, Ohio State (17.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.3 spg): Making the biggest impact of any of the OSU freshmen. Is making an impact at both ends of the floor with his athleticism.

Quincy Pondexter, Washington (16.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg): Is more impressive than heralded recruit Spencer Hawes at this point. Can run the floor and is playing well in the halfcourt.

Chase Budinger, Arizona (19.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.3 apg): Has been one of the best freshmen in the country. He can score in a variety of ways and uses his athleticism to create mismatches.

Tajuan Porter, Oregon (21.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 3.5 apg): Surprising guard is a 5-6 sparkplug for the Ducks. Excellent three-point shooter that adds to Oregon’s perimeter depth.

Ryan Anderson, California (18.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg): Inside-outside player that is doing his best impersonation of Leon Powe in terms of stats for California.

Jerome Dyson, Connecticut (14.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.4 apg): Has become the go-to-guy on the wing for the undefeated Huskies. Can really score the ball offensively.

Surprise Teams

Butler: Undefeated Bulldogs ran through the NIT Season Tip-Off, defeating Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee, and Gonzaga. Enough said.

Clemson: Tigers annually start off hot, but falter late in the season. This version is different, though. Deep perimeter and James Mays down low make this a tough team.

Maryland: Started out very impressively before falling to Notre Dame this weekend. Their pressure defense creates havoc, and athletes create mismatches on offense.

Missouri: Mike Anderson has made his mark on the Tigers already. They have the look of an NCAA Tournament team with their pressure defense and versatile offense.

Notre Dame: Other than close loss to Butler, Irish have been very impressive. Could be sleeper in the Big East if Rob Kurz continues to play well down low.

Oregon: Looked very solid without star Malik Hairston, and will be even better without him. Needed to find a solid post player, and the Ducks found him in Maarty Leunen.

Washington State: Completely different WSU from last year. More up-tempo and same stout defense, and they just knocked off Gonzaga. Derrick Low is a big-time player.

Georgia: Have a plethora of solid perimeter players, and Takais Brown down low. Could contend for an NCAA berth out of the SEC.

Arkansas: Lost top two scorers, including NBA Draft pick Ronnie Brewer. However, the additions of Patrick Beverly, Sonny Weems, and Gary Ervin have kept Razorbacks in the hunt.

Providence: Loss to Brown early was ugly, but they have bounced back with impressive wins over Boston College and George Washington. Sharaud Curry is an underrated point guard.

Disappointing Teams

Georgetown: Came into this season with high expectations, but have not lived up to the hype. Neither Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green has become the go-to-guy the Hoyas need, and the perimeter play has been sporadic.

Louisville: Looks like another potentially disappointing season for the Cardinals. Loss to Dayton and 2-2 record thus far leaves Rick Pitino's squad in a hole early.

Virginia Tech: Hokies were expected to bounce back after tough season last year. However, Coleman Collins has played horrible and VT is looking like one of the worst teams in the ACC.

Michigan: This was supposed to be the year that Tommy Amaker and the Wolverines broke through the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t look like that so far, without loss to NC State.

Kansas State: Not a good start for Bobby Huggins in Manhattan. The Wildcats look awful right now, and the arrival of Bill Walker in a couple of weeks might not be enough for them.

DePaul: Did beat Kansas at home this weekend, but they lost to Bradley and Northwestern to open the season. Talented Blue Demons need more consistency.

Hofstra: Pride started out very poorly at 0-3, with losses to Charlotte, Manhattan, and Hawaii. Have righted the ship with 5 straight wins, but something still seems wrong with CAA favorite.

Tennessee: The Volunteers don’t have the look of an NCAA Tournament team right now. Chris Lofton is the only consistent scorer, and UT has been inconsistent in a variety of ways.

Kansas: Has shown they have the talent to beat anyone in the country with win over Florida, but also the ability to lose to anyone with losses to DePaul and Oral Roberts. Another first-round upset could await Jayhawks.

Indiana: The Hoosiers just don’t look like a potential Big Ten contender. D.J. White has been extremely inconsistent down low, and no perimeter scorers have really stepped up to become a go-to-guy.

Top 10 Teams

1. UCLA 2. Pittsburgh
3. North Carolina
4. Texas A&M
5. Ohio State
6. Wichita State
7. Alabama
8. Washington
9. Arizona
10. Florida

Top 10 Mid-Majors (Non-“Big Six” Conference Teams)

1. Wichita State
2. Butler
3. Gonzaga
4. Nevada
5. Southern Illinois
6. Memphis
7. Missouri State
8. Air Force
9. Winthrop
10. Marist

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