NCAA Basketball Stars Stumbling out of the Gate in 2013-14

Scott HenryFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2013

NCAA Basketball Stars Stumbling out of the Gate in 2013-14

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    Not everybody can hit the ground running every season. When the college basketball bus begins its trip down the road to the Final Four, there are always several kids running to catch it and one or two who simply slept through the alarm clock.

    Some of the players listed here were expected to be leading lights for their teams, even from Day 1. There's nothing that says they won't round into form as the season moves along, but their early struggles are a bit perplexing.

    The nine players are presented alphabetically.

    Stats from StatSheet.com are accurate through games of November 27.

Tyreek Duren, La Salle

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    As is his usual custom, Tyreek Duren has rarely left the floor for La Salle. A team expected to rise as high as its backcourt can take it can certainly use as much production as Duren can provide.

    While he's second on the team at 14.9 points per game, the usually efficient Duren has been anything but as his senior season begins. The career 46.1-percent shooter is scuffling along below 39 percent so far. He made a bit of a rally from a 9-for-31 start, but then Northern Iowa kept him to 1-of-9 shooting.

    Duren was also a career 37.5-percent shooter from three-point range entering this season. So far, he's missed 22 of 29 attempts, a shaky 24.1 percent success rate.

    The Explorers have played a decent quality schedule, but losses to Manhattan, Penn State and Northern Iowa may not look great on the CV when the selection committee convenes in March. Duren has made 35.6 percent of his shots in La Salle's four losses, including only 4-of-18 from three.

    Duren is still playing good defense (2.3 steals per game) and being safe with the ball (career-best 12.7 turnover percentage). Still, the Explorers need scoring from their talented guards, and that needs to start with Duren.

Keith Frazier, SMU

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    Okay, calling Keith Frazier a star already is stretching the term to its breaking point.

    He is, however, a McDonald's All-American whose commitment to SMU first demonstrated that Larry Brown and his staff were coming to spar with the big boys in recruiting.

    Considering the success that other Burger Boys are having in the early going, is it all that unreasonable to expect more from Frazier?

    He did start well, scoring 18 points in 35 minutes over SMU's first two games. An ankle injury, however, kept Frazier out of the Mustangs' meeting with Arkansas, and he's never found a groove since. In the past three games, Frazier has a total of 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting, 2-of-13 from three-point range.

    One encouraging sign from SMU's last couple of outings: Frazier's demonstrated some impressive passing ability, dishing eight assists in 44 minutes.

    Brown continues to work out his rotation during the nonconference schedule, and Frazier should see expanded minutes once SMU starts conference play in The American. Still, in the year of the freshman, a heralded recruit like Frazier at a middling program like SMU should be a program-changer, not a role player.

A.J. Hammons, Purdue

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    When A.J. Hammons is on the court for Purdue, he's been a dominant defensive presence. Through his first four games after missing one via suspension, the sophomore center swatted 18 shots, an average of 4.5 per game.

    However, that "being on the court" business has occasionally proven problematic.

    Hammons' efforts to go for those blocks have landed him in foul trouble when teammates have lapsed defensively. He was whistled for two fouls within the first three minutes against Rider, then added a third just after halftime.

    Hammons' final line from that game: 12 minutes, four fouls, four rebounds, one point and no field-goal attempts.

    Through those first four games, Hammons has averaged only 17.5 minutes per night, committing 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes. He'll need some help from teammates to stop opponents attacking the rim. If the entire Boilermaker defense can pull together, their big man can stay on the court and begin to realize some of his All-Big Ten potential.

Juvonte Reddic, VCU

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    VCU's "havoc" defense has had its issues adjusting to the officials' mandate for tighter foul calls.

    Through the Rams' first six games, they've averaged 22 fouls per game, and star forward Juvonte Reddic hasn't been immune.

    The Rams' trip to Puerto Rico was a rough one, with losses to Florida State and Georgetown. Reddic was forced to the bench for large amounts of both games, committing nine fouls in 41 minutes. His positive production in those two gamesa combined 15 points and four reboundswas well below his typical averages.

    In VCU's other four games, Reddic has been more himself, averaging 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds. Respectable numbers, but they're still down from what he produced last season.

    From those four games, however, only Virginia could be called a quality opponent.

    When the Atlantic 10 schedule starts, Reddic must be able to stay on the court. Otherwise, a potential Final Four season could fall well short of its lofty expectations.

Glenn Robinson III, Michigan

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    So, who had both Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert ahead of Glenn Robinson III on Michigan's scoring list through six games?

    If you did, go to Vegas and place some bets, because nobody was putting Stauskas or LeVert on All-American ballots.

    Last season's hyper-efficient Robinson, the guy who was a 57 percent shooter, has been replaced by this season's Robinson and his 44.5 effective field-goal percentage (eFG%). The man who averaged 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals over the Wolverines' first three games has likewise disappeared. GR3 managed only 3.3 boards and one steal per game in Puerto Rico.

    As a whole, Michigan's offense has missed Trey Burke's creative genius, settling for a lot of three-point shots when it can't create closer looks. Robinson can't shoot the long ball well, so it's logical that his efficiency would suffer.

    NBA scouts want to see Robinson establish himself as a creative force on the perimeter who can take over a game. So far, Stauskas has proven himself more assertive than Robinson.

    Which one would you be more likely to vote All-American right now?

LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    This was supposed to be the year LaQuinton Ross rode the wave of NCAA tournament heroics and blossomed into stardom.

    Unfortunately for him, the tide has rolled out and left him floating.

    All looked okay after a season-opening double-double against Morgan State. Then Ross scored 10 in a win over Ohio University. His 8-of-24 shooting in that span, however, looked like an ominous sign.

    Those are highlights, though, compared to what he's done over the last three games. His playing time has dwindled to less than 19 minutes per game. He's made only 2-of-20 shots and scored a total of seven points.

    Total.

    Ugly work for a player who drew an All-American vote from B/R's panel of experts.

    OSU coach Thad Matta told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "You can’t make the same mistake over and over again without saying, ‘Wait a minute, this isn’t working, let me try something different.'" Matta's taking his own advice by scaling back Ross' playing time.

    How long will it be before Ross earns those minutes back?

Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee

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    In all the excitement over the prospect of Tennessee having both Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon to terrorize opposing low-post players, one important piece of information was lost: Stokes and Maymon have played all of 17 games together, and those were two seasons ago.

    The pair combined for 11 points in a season-opening loss to Xavier, but it also added seven turnovers and nine fouls. Stokes fouled out with only four points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.

    A 17-point, 18-rebound double-double in the next game would have been a great harbinger of Stokes getting back on track had the opposition been a bigger fish than USC Upstate. Stokes still missed 12 of his 17 shots in that matchup.

    Outside of the Upstate game, the potential All-American is averaging fewer than 10 points and five rebounds per game.

    Tougher opposition will help, as Stokes' minutes were limited in a blowout win over the Citadel. Tennessee's showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis will prove a lot more about the outlook for Stokes' junior year.

Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Even with Jabari Parker coming in, hopes were high for Duke sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon. Athlon Sports even named him to its All-American third team.

    Two games into the season, the expectations looked very rational. Sulaimon struck for 33 points on 58 percent shooting in a win over Davidson and the Champions Classic loss to Kansas.

    In the five games since, Sulaimon has put up a total of 16 points on 20 percent shooting. He's lost his starting spot as coach Mike Krzyzewski tries out a more defense-oriented lineup. That look should remain in effect for the near future; three of Duke's next four opponents are Top 25 squadsArizona, Michigan and UCLA.

    StatSheet ranks the Blue Devils 13th in the 15-team ACC with a defensive efficiency of 103.8. They're also 11th with an opponents' eFG% of 47.6. Remember, this is a team that's taken on such juggernauts as Florida Atlantic, UNC Asheville, East Carolina and Vermont.

    If Sulaimon were at least contributing on offense, that would be something. If he's not scoring, though, his minutes will continue to disappear, since he's not close to Tyler Thornton's equal defensively.

Patric Young, Florida

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    Patric Young's entire Florida career has been a story of misspent potential.

    Now a senior, Gator fans are seeing absolutely nothing they haven't seen before from the former McDonald's All-American.

    Young's 10.2-PPG average is right in line with his previous two seasons, but his shooting efficienciesincluding 49 percent from the floorare the worst he's ever recorded. His offensive rebounding percentage (9.7) is the lowest since his freshman year, and his defensive rate (15.6) is his weakest ever.

    His numbers are weighed down by a poor start, with 10 points total in his first two games. Unfortunately, one of those two games was against Wisconsin, Florida's one true quality opponent so far. Young put up eight points and six rebounds in that game, but he was played to a standstill by previously unheralded Badger big man Frank Kaminsky.

    Since the Wisconsin game, Young is averaging approximately 13 points and eight boards, but once again, those stats have been accumulated against overmatched opposition.

    As Young rapidly approaches the end of his career, he still needs a consistently strong season to validate his largely disappointing career. An upcoming string of dangerous opponentsincluding Florida State, UConn, Kansas and Memphisprovide his golden opportunity.

     

    For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.