Monday, December 10, 2007

Real Deal or Fluke?

Note: This column originally appeared on

The first week without any college football (FBS, at least) didn’t disappoint if you are a college basketball fan. There were plenty of great games to watch, and you might have seen one of the best comebacks of the season (LSU vs. Villanova); a down-to-the-wire finish (Washington vs. Pittsburgh); an undefeated team lose (Butler to Wright State); and a variety of major upsets (East Carolina over NC State, Stephen F. Austin over Oklahoma, Dayton over Louisville, etc.). With conference play starting up around the country earlier than ever, teams with at-large hopes only have a couple of short weeks to boost their NCAA Tournament resumes.

As for individual play, the one-week flukes and one-month sensations are starting to fade away, and the true stars are beginning to separate themselves. However, there are still a myriad of players who remain question marks in terms of consistency for the rest of the season. Who are they, and what should you expect the rest of the way? Read below.

Note: If there’s a player you think I should keep an eye on and/or discuss next week, feel free to e-mail me at


Adrian Joseph, F, Virginia Cavaliers:
Although Sean Singletary gets all the credit and publicity on UVA, it’s his supporting cast that will make the difference come March. Joseph has played a major role in the past two games, picking up back-to-back double-doubles against Syracuse and Longwood. That brings him up to four double-doubles on the season. Joseph is averaging 12 points and 8.9 rebounds on the season, and has shown the ability to score both inside and out. Singletary is going to need help all season, and Joseph could continue to be a solid scorer and rebounder.

James Johnson, F, Wake Forest Demon Deacons: One of the most overlooked freshmen in the ACC this season, Johnson has really burst onto the scene in the past few games. After starting somewhat slow to start the season (if you can call three double-figure scoring games and one double-double “slow”), Johnson has racked up four consecutive double-doubles, averaging over 15 points and 12 rebounds in that span. On the season, Johnson is putting up over 13 points and nine rebounds per contest. Expect his play – and numbers – to continue to improve.

Big East

Joe Alexander, F, West Virginia Mountaineers: Last year, under John Beilein, WVU ran an offense that was difficult to defend, utilizing backdoor cuts and plenty of three-point shots. This season, under Bob Huggins, WVU still uses that, but it’s almost as if the offense is on steroids now. There is more opportunity for players to go one-on-one, and Alexander has taken advantage of it. He is averaging almost 16 points, seven rebounds and nearly three assists per game, boosting his production to exactly 20 points per game over the past five contests. He is primed for a huge year.

Justin Burrell, F, St. John’s Red Storm: Another somewhat overlooked freshman, Burrell has been the main cog in the Red Storm’s 4-1 start. In between an average 12-point, two-rebound performance to start the season and a 10-point, eight-rebound line in his most recent game, Burrell posted three consecutive double-doubles. He averaged over 16 points and 12 rebounds in that span. Although SJU isn’t expected to be very good this season, someone is going to have to score – and it looks like the best bet is clearly Burrell.

Dominique Jones, G, South Florida Bulls:
Yet another productive player on a South Florida team which was expected to finish in the bottom two of the Big East, and nowhere near the Big East Tournament. However, the Bulls have started 7-3 (seven consecutive wins), with victories over UCF, Florida State and UAB. Jones has had a break-out stretch in the past three games, averaging over 28 points, eight rebounds and four assists a contest. Jones is shooting almost 49% from beyond the three-point line, hitting half his attempts in the past three contests. If USF can continue to win, Jones could be a solid option – but that’s a risky proposition.

Draelon Burns, G, DePaul Blue Demons: Like many of the players included in this column on a weekly basis, Burns is basically the lone big-time scorer on a bad team. He is averaging 17 points, 3.2 rebounds, and three assists per game – but take a closer look. Burns had back-to-back 32-point performances against North Carolina A&T and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, including shooting eight-for-eight from three-point range against Corpus Christi. However, aside from those two games, Burns is averaging just seven points per game, hitting only 21% from the field. Burns may have some big games, but he’s not consistent enough to count on.

Big Ten

- Sorry, no surprises this week.

Big 12

James Anderson, G/F, Oklahoma State Cowboys: There’s not really a question as to whether Anderson will continue to put up terrific numbers as a freshman, but I’m not sure if Anderson is going to average almost 21 points and four rebounds per game all season. Those numbers have been even better lately, at over 23 points and exactly four rebounds a contest. He’s not much of a passer and he tends to turn the ball over a decent amount, but he is a legit scorer and he can really shoot the ball, hitting 48% of his threes on the season and 59% in the last three games. I think he will continue to put up very good numbers.


Patrick Christopher, G, California Golden Bears: I’ve had Christopher in this column a few times this season, primarily because I don’t completely trust him yet as an every-week fantasy starter. Sure, he’s averaging 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and two assists per game, but he’s taken at least 14 shots five times and hits only 30% of his three-point attempts. Once Theo Robertson and the rest of the wounded Golden Bears return, I think Christopher’s shots – and points – will drop.

Russell Westbrook, G, UCLA Bruins: Many people probably counted Westbrook out as a major contributor once Darren Collison returned and took Westbrook’s starting point guard spot. However, despite Collison’s return, Westbrook is still starting – he’s just playing off the ball. Westbrook struggled against Texas, but bounced back on Saturday against Davidson, finishing with 14 points, three rebounds and six assists. Westbrook can get to the basket and run the floor, so he will still have plenty of opportunities for points and assists. Don’t run him off your roster just yet.


Marcus Thornton, G, LSU: Just like Anderson, Thornton is putting up very impressive numbers, but there is a question if he can continue to post the outstanding digits he has lately. Thornton is averaging 19.5 points, six rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, numbers that have improved to 20.3 points and almost nine rebounds per game in the last three contests. With Tasmin Mitchell likely out for the year and Terry Martin and Garrett Temple struggling with their perimeter shooting, scoring from the wing is available. Thornton is the guy to pick up the slack.

Jeff Borzello, founder, editor and lone writer of March Madness All Season, also writes a weekly column for Pro Fantasy Sports.

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