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January 21, 2010

Analysis: Under-the-radar seniors

This season could be a comeback year for the college senior.

Kentucky freshman guard John Wall may win national player of the year honors, but he could be joined on All-America teams by seniors Jon Scheyer of Duke, Luke Harangody of Notre Dame and Damion James of Texas.

As a comparison, only four seniors were on Rivals.com's three All-America teams last season.

And it's not just the superstar seniors who are making their mark. Here's a list of 10 seniors college basketball fans may have overlooked this season.

G Ryan Brooks, Temple
: Going into the season, Temple needed someone to replace the scoring provided by Dionte Christmas. Brooks, coach Fran Dunphy's first signee at Temple, has responded by averaging 16.4 points for the Owls (16-3). Brooks struggled early in the season, but he led Temple in its signature win over Villanova by scoring 20 points in a 75-65 victory in December.

C Jordan Eglseder, Northern Iowa
: The combination of Adam Koch and Eglseder gives Northern Iowa (16-2) the top frontcourt in the Missouri Valley Conference. Eglseder, a 7-footer, is in the best shape of his career and has responded with the best basketball of his career. He leads the MVC at 8.4 rebounds per game and is second on the team behind Koch in scoring (12.7 ppg).

G Kyle Gibson, Louisiana Tech
: The Bulldogs are one of the nation's biggest surprises. They're 17-2 and already have won more games than last season (15). Gibson, from Los Angeles, has become one of the top scorers in the country at 21.7 points per game. He turned in perhaps his best performance of the season with 32 points, including seven 3-pointers, against Fresno State last Thursday. The Bulldogs are seeking their first NCAA tourney appearance since 1991, and Gibson is the main reason.

F Damian Johnson, Minnesota
: Minnesota has struggled a bit despite five returning starters from an NCAA tournament team. Still, Johnson has played well and is one of the top defensive players in the Big Ten. He's second in the conference in steals (teammate Al Nolen) is first) and fourth in blocked shots. He's also averaging 10.5 points per game and is the third-leading scorer on the team.

F Landon Milbourne, Maryland
: Maryland snuck into last season's NCAA tournament as a result of the play of guard Greivis Vasquez. Maryland remains Vasquez's team, but at least the Terrapins are a little more balanced thanks to Milbourne. He was the team's second-leading scorer a year ago, at 11.4 points per game. That average would rank fourth on this season's team. Milbourne has increased his scoring average to 14.3 points per game this season while shooting 52.8 percent from the floor, a career high by a comfortable margin.

C Omar Samhan, St. Mary's
: If you don't know about Samhan, you should; he could be the best player outside of the six major conferences. He spent last season in guard Patty Mills' shadow, but he has become an All-America candidate in his own right this season. He and Radford senior center Artsiom Parakhouski are the only players in the country averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds. For good measure, Samhan also averages 2.4 blocks per game. In a losing effort against West Coast Conference rival Gonzaga last week, Samhan had 31 points (on 13-of-22 shooting) and 12 rebounds. He followed that with a 28-point, eight-rebound performance in a key victory over Portland.

G David Schneider, William & Mary
: Picked to finish at the bottom of the Colonial Athletic Association standings, William & Mary has stunned its league brethren by getting off to a 14-4 start. Schneider was a workhorse on three lackluster teams before seeing the Tribe's fortunes turn this season. Schneider is averaging 17.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, both career- and team-highs. Schneider, who is 6-3, had a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) in a huge road win over Wake Forest in November.

G Ishmael Smith, Wake Forest
: The Demon Deacons needed to find a way to replace Jeff Teague if they wanted to contend in the ACC this season. Smith turned out to be the answer. His numbers dwindled in 2008-09 because of Teague's presence, but Smith is making up for lost time this year. He's averaging in double figures (13.1 ppg) for the first time in his career while also coming up with nearly six assists and two steals per game.

G Mikhail Torrance, Alabama
: The non-Mississippi teams in the SEC West are struggling this season, but it's not because they lack go-to scorers. Torrence has scored in double figures in all but two of the Tide's 18 games this season. It's hard to see the Tide making the NCAA field this season, but a Torrence performance could end up knocking a team out of the field. He scored 26 points in a win over Providence and 20 in a win over Baylor. Though the Tide lost, Torrence caused problems for Purdue (18 points), Kansas State (20) and Vanderbilt (23).

C Brian Zoubek, Duke
: The 7-1 Zoubek is making the most of his minutes. Zoubek is Duke's second-leading rebounder after Kyle Singler. The feat is more impressive considering he averages seven rebounds in 16 minutes per game. Alas, he also collects his share of fouls in that short amount of time. He has fouled out or picked up four fouls in 11 games this season. Still, rebounding was a problem going into the season, and Zoubek's performance has been a big surprise.

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.

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