This article is part of our College Hoops Barometer series.
One of the best players that almost nobody talks about is West Virginia senior guard Juwan Staten. Last season, Staten was forced to shoulder the burden of a mediocre squad. He responded by playing an outrageous 37.3 minutes per game, averaging 18.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per contest for the Mountaineers. West Virginia finished the season at 17-16, losing in the first round of the NIT against Georgetown. Staten should finally have some help this year with former Rhode Island Ram Jonathan Holton in the fold, along with fast-improving sophomore Devin Williams. Although Staten's numbers are down a bit to begin his senior campaign, it is a result of the improved all-around play of the Mountaineers. West Virginia is 5-0, coming off a 78-68 upset over defending champion UConn. Still, it was Staten who paced the Mountaineers with 21 points in that victory, and he will continue to be their go-to option.
Let's take a gander at the rest of the College Basketball landscape in this week's Barometer.
Trevon Bluiett, G-F, Xavier - The former UCLA Bruin commit has been a scoring machine for the Musketeers to begin his career. Bluiett has been white-hot out of the gate, averaging a team-leading 18.3 points per game. The 6-foot-6 swingman is shooting a blistering 65 percent from the field, including an impressive 52.6 percent from beyond the three-point line. Bluiett has also hit 11-of-12 from the charity stripe, as well. Scoring is not all the freshman can do, though. Bluiett also averages 5.3 boards and 2.5 assists per game, showing an extremely polished repertoire for his age. He should form a potent inside-outside combination with experienced center Matt Stainbrook this season.
Jordan Mickey, F, LSU - Mickey will be an explosive interior player for the Tigers as a sophomore. Paired with improving forward and fellow sophomore Jarell Martin, the tandem has the chance to put up some gaudy numbers in the frontcourt. After averaging a respectable 12.7 points and 7.9 rebounds as a freshman, Mickey has exploded with three double-doubles in his first five games this year. Those numbers were punctuated by a dominating 27-point, 14-point effort last Saturday against Weber State. He is shooting 55.6 percent from the floor. Lack of consistent guard play may cause the Tigers to falter this season, but Mickey should remain a bright spot.
Rakeem Christmas, C, Syracuse - Forgive the brain cramp in last week's edition of the Barometer. Rakeem Christmas has not departed Syracuse just yet, and instead the senior has been dominating the middle of the 2-3 zone for the Orange. With Jerami Grant in the NBA, C.J. Fair graduated and DaJuan Coleman on the shelf, Christmas has been the entirety of Cuse's interior presence this season. He has responded with averages of 16.0 points, 9.2 boards and 2.2 blocks per game, all career highs. The increased opportunities are evident; Christmas took just 3.6 shots per game as a junior. This year, he is shooting the rock 11.6 times per game through the first five games of the season. Christmas has also has gotten to the free-throw line regularly, something he had not been asked to do in seasons past. Even when Coleman returns, the numbers should still remain for Christmas, whose offensive game has improved by leaps and bounds during his time at Syracuse.
Sheldon McClellan, G, Miami - Transfer Angel Rodriguez has gotten the pub for Miami through the squad's blazing 6-0 start to the season. However, another transfer in McClellan has been just as much of an integral part of the Miami renaissance under coach Jim Larranaga. McClellan averages 16.7 points, 6.8 bounds and 3.2 dimes per game. The Texas transfer poured in 31 points in Tuesday's win over Charlotte, hitting five three-pointers. Over his last three games, the surging McClellan is managing 22.3 points and 8.3 boards. The Canes appear to be in good hands with McClellan and the aforementioned A-Rod.
Bryce Alford, G, UCLA - The coach's son barely played last season, but the first four games of the 2014-2015 campaign have been a different story. Alford averages 20 points and 9.8 assists, including a 28-point, 13-assist outburst against lowly Nicholls State on Nov. 20. The younger Alford is shooting 47.1 percent from the field, 41.4 percent from the three-point arc and 90.9-percent from the foul line. It remains to be seen if the sophomore can keep this up against stiffer competition, though. The Bruins have played four cupcakes to begin the year. As a result, wait to see if Alford can handle more athletic guards on better squads before going all-in.
Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson - Not only does the sophomore have one of the better last names in college hoops, but he has improved on last season's numbers in 2014. Blossomgame averages 10.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, nearly doubling both statistics from a season ago. He has two 10-rebound games in his last three outings. However, Blossomgame's shooting remains a work in progress. The 6-7 forward is hitting just 40.8 percent from the field. He is 1-of-12 from three-point land and has only hit 50 percent of his free throws. He shot 4-for-16 against LSU on Monday. The upside for Blossomgame is promising, but his offensive game is certainly lagging behind at this point.
Juan Anderson, F, Marquette - Is Anderson the answer for the Golden Eagles? The senior was nothing more than a bench player the first three seasons of his Marquette career. However, under new coach Steve Wojciechowski, Anderson has taken a starring role early on for the club. The 6-8 forward averages 16.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per tilt. He is playing 32.3 minutes per contest. By contrast, Anderson averaged 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game last season. Will Anderson continue his production, or will his statistics falter as the season wears on and he is not used to playing heavy minutes? Stay tuned to find out.
Marcus Paige, G, North Carolina - The sample size is small, but Paige has not had a good start to his season. Paige is averaging 12 points, one rebound and three dimes through three games. Despite playing inferior competition and logging 29 minutes per game, Paige has been unable to dominate the lesser opponents. By contrast, he averaged 17.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a sophomore last season. Perhaps Paige is just getting into the swing of the season, perhaps he has not been challenged by the level of competition. The season is still young, but it is worth monitoring Paige's numbers, as he was projected to be one of the stars at guard for the 2014-15 season.
Isaiah Taylor, G, Texas - The Longhorns suffered a major blow when Taylor broke his wrist last Thursday against Iowa. There is no timetable for his return, though he is expected to be sidelined until 2015 at the earliest. On the bright side, Taylor does not need surgery, and the injury is not season ending. Still, the Longhorns will certainly miss Taylor's presence. The sophomore guard averaged 15.0 points, 4.0 boards and 2.3 assists per game. The short-handed Longhorns will continue to rely heavily on their frontcourt of Cameron Ridley, Connor Lammert, Jonathan Holmes and freshman sensation Myles Turner.
Cullen Neal, G, New Mexico - The Lobos will be without the services of their leading scorer for the near future. Neal severely sprained his ankle against Boston College, and it is unknown when he will return. Neal averaged 24.5 points in the first two games of the season, prior to the contest in which he went down with the injury. Even worse for the Lobos, backup Arthur Edwards subsequently broke his finger and will be out 4-6 weeks. That leaves New Mexico extremely shorthanded for the next couple weeks. Expect the offense to now revolve around senior point guard Hugh Greenwood.
Zavier Turner, G, Ball State - The reigning MAC Freshman of the Year was suspended indefinitely by the Cardinals for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Much was expected of the lightning-quick, diminutive Turner as a sophomore this season. He averaged 12.1 points and 3.7 assists per game during his first year at Ball State. Although his mid-range game remains a work in progress, he shot 40.9 percent from three-point land. There has been no word on if/when Turner will be reinstated, but it may be best to cut bait at this point, particularly in leagues with a larger player pool.
Amir Williams, C, Ohio State - This may just be a blip on the radar, but Williams has been battling a bruised knee and missed OSU's last game against Sacred Heart on Sunday. He is listed as day-to-day, and perhaps coach Thad Motta is merely resting Williams as a precautionary measure, making sure the big man is ready for Big Ten competition. The senior center was expected to be a force in the post for the Buckeyes this season, particularly due to the recent exodus of veteran leadership. It remains to be seen whether this injury is minor or if it will linger as the season progresses.