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January 20, 2011

Sullinger, not Barnes, living up to hype

MORE: Freshman power rankings

North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes began his college career as the first freshman to make The Associated Press' preseason All-America team since voting for that honor began in 1986.

Barnes' relatively slow start has lent at least some credence to the notion that voters jumped the gun by rewarding a freshman so soon, but the mistake wasn't including a freshman at all.

Voters simply may have chosen the wrong newcomer.

Barnes may have required a little time to adjust to the college game, but Ohio State's Jared Sullinger was an immediate success.

In the second game of his college career, Sullinger scored 26 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead the Buckeyes to a 93-75 victory at Florida. Sullinger, rated by Rivals.com as the No. 5 prospect in the 2010 recruiting class, is ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring (17.4) and second in rebounding (9.8).

Duke guard Kyrie Irving also was playing at an All-America level for his first eight games before a toe injury put the rest of his season in doubt. Irving was rated as the No. 4 prospect in this recruiting class.

Barnes also has shown signs that he's ready to live up to his preseason hype. He scored eight points in the final 3 minutes of a 64-61 victory over Virginia Tech last week. He sank a 3-pointer that put North Carolina ahead for good Tuesday in a 75-65 triumph over Clemson.

Although Barnes was a preseason All-America selection, Rivals didn't rate him as the No. 1 prospect in this class. Barnes instead was just behind Kansas guard Josh Selby, who also is still adjusting to big-time college basketball after serving a nine-game suspension to start the season.

We rate how each of the top 27 recruits from the 2010 class are faring thus far in the Rivals.com Five-Star Freshman Tracker. The players are listed in the order in which they were ranked as recruits.

Season averages: 12.1 points, 3.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 27.4 minutes
Buzz: After serving a nine-game suspension to start the season as punishment for accepting illegal benefits, Selby scored 21 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer to lift Kansas to a 70-68 victory over USC in his debut performance. He scored at least 16 points in four of his first five games, but he has averaged just 8.5 points in his last four contests and has more turnovers than assists.
Season averages: 11.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 27.3 minutes
Buzz: The first freshman to be selected as an Associated Press preseason All-American has struggled to live up to expectations. He hasn't scored more than 19 points in a single game all season and is shooting just 37.4 percent from the floor, though he has come on strong down the stretch in recent victories over Virginia Tech and Clemson.
Season averages: None
Buzz: Kanter was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for receiving more than $30,000 above his actual and necessary expenses while playing for a professional team in Turkey.
Season averages: 17.4 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 28.9 minutes
Buzz: Irving was playing at an All-America level before suffering ligament and bone damage to his big right toe in Duke's eighth game of the season. Irving will have the cast removed from his foot Feb. 4, but his status for the rest of the season remains uncertain.
Season averages: 17.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.0 steals, 29.9 minutes
Buzz: Sullinger has wasted no time emerging as one of the nation's top big men. In the second game of his career, Sullinger compiled 26 points and 10 rebounds in a triumph over Florida. He also contributed 40 points and 13 rebounds in a win over IUPUI, and he produced 30 points and 19 rebounds in a win over South Carolina.
6. Kentucky G Brandon Knight
Season averages: 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 34.8 minutes
Buzz: Knight has scored in double figures in all but one game and has shown no hesitation about taking the big shot. Knight struggled with turnovers early in the season, but he has taken care of the ball a little better over the last two weeks.
Season averages: 15.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 blocks, 28.4 minutes
Buzz: Harris ranks second on his team in scoring and rebounding. He delivered three consecutive double-doubles earlier this month against Memphis, Arkansas and Florida. He compiled a career-high five blocks Tuesday in a 59-57 victory over Georgia.
Season averages: 11.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.1 steals, 32.2 minutes
Buzz: Joseph has provided a solution to the instability that had marked Texas' backcourt for the last couple of seasons. He made a winning basket with 1.4 seconds left in a victory over North Carolina last month. Joseph has produced more than twice as many assists as turnovers.
Season averages: 13.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 32.0 minutes
Buzz: Although his team hasn't lived up to expectations so far this season, Jones has emerged as a force in the paint. He has scored at least 20 points in three of his last four games, including a 25-point outburst last week in a 74-61 victory over Oklahoma.
10. North Carolina G Reggie Bullock
Season averages: 7.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 14.2 minutes
Buzz: Bullock delivered the best performance of his young career Tuesday, as he scored 18 points and pulled down five rebounds in a 75-65 victory over Clemson. Bullock scored 16 points in the first half alone. He had compiled a total of eight points in the three games leading up to Clemson's visit.
Season averages: 12.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals, 29.2 minutes
Buzz: Barton leads Memphis in scoring and ranks second on the team in assists and is tied for second in rebounds. He scored at least 20 points in three of Memphis' first six games, though he hasn't produced a 20-point performance since.
Season averages: None
Buzz: Missouri is awaiting a final ruling on Mitchell's academic eligibility. His status remains up in the air as the NCAA investigates whether he took enough core courses in high school to play college basketball.
13. Kentucky F Terrence Jones
Season averages: 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.8 blocks, 29.4 minutes
Buzz: Jones set a school freshman single-game scoring record last week by compiling 35 points in a 78-54 rout of Auburn. He also produced noteworthy performances against Oklahoma (29 points, 13 rebounds), Washington (16 points, 17 rebounds), Notre Dame (27 points, 17 rebounds) and Georgia (24 points, 10 rebounds). He is ranked second in the SEC in rebounding and is tied for second in the conference in scoring.
Season averages: 11.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 24.8 minutes
Buzz: Leslie has produced three double-doubles this season, with one of them coming against Syracuse. He has averaged 15.2 points and 8.2 rebounds over his last five contests.
15. Memphis F Jelan Kendrick
Season averages: None
Buzz: Memphis coach Josh Pastner dropped Kendrick from the team in the preseason. Kendrick had been suspended and reinstated in the preseason before Pastner decided to dismiss him for good. Kendrick has transferred to Ole Miss and will be eligible to play for his new school next December.
Season averages: 2.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 10.7 minutes
Buzz: Melo compiled six points, four rebounds and four blocks in 15 minutes of action Saturday as the Orange defeated Cincinnati 67-52, but that marks the only time in Syracuse's last seven games that he has played more than 11 minutes.
17. Texas F Tristan Thompson
Season averages: 13.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.1 blocks, 29.9 minutes
Buzz: Thompson's well-rounded game has helped him emerge as one of the Big 12's top "stat stuffers" in his freshman season. He has averaged 17.0 points and 8.1 rebounds over his last seven games. He collected 18 points and four blocks Wednesday in an 81-60 victory over Texas A&M.
18. Memphis G Joe Jackson
Season averages: 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, 24.7 minutes
Buzz: Jackson has emerged as one of Memphis' key players this season, though he also has struggled with consistency. He hasn't scored in double figures in back-to-back games since the first week of December.
19. North Carolina State G Ryan Harrow
Season averages: 11.4 points, 3.4 assists, 1.2 rebounds, 22.9 minutes
Buzz: Harrow has in double figures in six of his last seven games. His .930 free-throw percentage as of Wednesday afternoon led the ACC. He also has more than twice as many assists as turnovers.
Season averages: 2.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 8.9 minutes
Buzz: Payne collected 10 points and seven rebounds against Eastern Michigan in his collegiate debut, but he hasn't exceeded either total since. Payne has played more than 10 minutes in just one of his last seven games.
21. Kentucky G Doron Lamb
Season averages: 13.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 29.1 minutes
Buzz: Kentucky's suspect 3-point shooting kept the Wildcats out of the Final Four last season, but Lamb's arrival has made the Wildcats much more accurate from long range this year. Lamb has gone 37-of-76 from beyond the arc and leads the SEC with a 3-point percentage of .487.
22. Ohio State F Deshaun Thomas
Season averages: 9.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 16.2 minutes
Buzz: Thomas has made the most of his opportunities thus far, though his production has tailed off lately. He averaged 16.7 points and 8.0 rebounds during a three-game stretch against UNC Asheville, Oakland and Tennessee-Martin in late December, but his playing time has dipped since Ohio State began Big Ten competition.
Season averages: 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 20.4 minutes
Buzz: Smith has recorded only two double-doubles so far -- against Kansas and Cal Poly -- but he has stepped up his production lately. He averaged 12.5 points and 9.0 rebounds during a recent two-game trip to Oregon State and Oregon. Foul trouble remains a concern.
Season averages: 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals, 24.4 minutes
Buzz: After going scoreless and playing just five minutes Saturday in a 71-70 loss to Louisville, Blue bounced back three days later by collecting 12 points and playing 22 minutes in a 94-64 rout of DePaul. That ended a string of five straight games with single-digit scoring.
Season averages: 8.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 24.6 minutes
Buzz: Powell has stepped up his game since Stanford began conference play. He collected 20 points and seven rebounds in an 82-68 victory over California on Jan. 2. In his last two games, Powell has averaged 10 points and 8.5 rebounds.
Season averages: 2.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 12.5 minutes
Buzz: King has not scored in a game since collecting five points Dec. 23 in a 56-50 victory over North Carolina A&T. King compiled 13 points against Houston Baptist in the third game of his career, but he has scored only 17 points since.
Season averages: 3.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 15.8 minutes
Buzz: Young has added to Florida's frontcourt depth and has seen his laying time increase over the last few weeks. He collected 12 points -- his first game with double-digit scoring since Nov. 18 -- and pulled down five rebounds Saturday in a 72-69 loss to South Carolina.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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