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Triple Threat: Mid-year transfers ready to make an impact

By Jon Rothstein | CBS Sports

DeAndre Mathieu (USATSI)
JUCO transfer DeAndre Mathieu has fit in nicely with Minnesota. (USATSI)

Which games are worth checking out during finals week? Which teams have key transfers coming in at mid-year? All those answers and more in this week's Triple Threat.

Three quick hits

1. What is VCU's best lineup?

It's still incredibly early, but when the Rams pair freshman point guard JeQuan Lewis next to Briante Weber in the backcourt, the pace of the game drastically changes on both sides of the ball. Lewis is averaging 11.0 points per game in 18.0 minutes per game in VCU's last three games and should see more of an expanded role as this team inches closer to the start of conference play. With Lewis on the floor, Weber doesn't have to be as concerned with initiating the Rams' offense and can just focus on, well --- creating HAVOC.

2. Is Memphis at its best when it goes with a conventional lineup?

Without question. So much preseason chatter centered around the Tigers using a four-guard alignment with Joe Jackson, Michael Dixon, Chris Crawford, and Geron Johnson, but this team has been most productive with Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin up front. "That's been our best lineup by far," Memphis coach Josh Pastner told CBSSports.com on Tuesday. "The thing about Austin and Shaq is they're both really good passers. They help open up the floor." Through seven games Goodwin is averaging 13.1 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game while Nichols is tallying 11.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Memphis is 6-1 and plays host to Arkansas-Little Rock on Saturday.

3. How good is New Mexico's Cameron Bairstow?

Good enough to be regularly mentioned among the elite power forwards in the sport. The 6-9 senior torched Cincinnati for 24 points and 13 rebounds Saturday and is averaging 19.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game after tallying 9.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game last season. Noticeably bigger, stronger, and meaner, the Australia native is one of the last people any team is going to want to face this year on the interior.

Three games to keep an eye on during finals week

1. Boston University at George Washington (Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET)

This is a dangerous game for the Colonials. Mike Lonergan's team is coming off an emotional win over Maryland on Sunday and could be primed for a letdown. The Terriers meanwhile, just took Harvard to overtime on Saturday and look like the clear-cut favorite in the Patriot League. Joe Jones' team has a solid trio of Maurice Watson, D.J. Irving, and Dom Morris but may struggle inside against George Washington's interior duo of Kevin Larsen and Isaiah Armwood.

2. New Mexico State at Arizona (Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET)

How will the Wildcats respond in their first game being ranked No. 1 in the country? The Aggies represent a solid challenge and possess a roster that makes them the odds-on favorite in the WAC. Combo guard Daniel Mullings is a solid mid-major talent, and Tshilidzi Nephawe is an active rebounder at 6-10 (6.8 rebounds per game). This was a good RPI game for Arizona, which could see a team like New Mexico State in the early rounds of the NCAA Tournament as a 14 or 15 seed.

3. Maryland at Boston College (Thursday, 7 p.m. ET)

Two desperate teams hook up in an early ACC showdown. The Eagles are 3-6 and easily one of the nation's most disappointing teams while Maryland is 5-4 and struggling. This is a huge game for two programs that both entered the season with their sights set on making the NCAA Tournament.

Three transfers eligible in December to keep an eye on

1. John Johnson, Penn State

The 6-1 combo guard will add another dimension to the Nittany Lions' already talented backcourt. Johnson instantly gives Pat Chambers another scoring threat on the perimeter and could help Penn State become an incredibly tough team to match-up with in the Big Ten. Don't be surprised to see Chambers regularly use four-guard sets once conference play begins with Johnson, Tim Frazier, and Allen Roberts along with D.J. Newbill as an undersized power forward at 6-4.

2. Brandan Kearney, Arizona State

The Sun Devils could use more athleticism and that's just what Kearney will bring. At 6-5, the transfer from Michigan State will give Herb Sendek a legitimate defensive option against some of the elite perimeter scorers in the Pac-12. Arizona State has already had moments where they've looked promising this season and Kearney's presence will only enhance the Sun Devils' capabilities.

3. Freddie Wilson, Drexel

Bruiser Flint's team is 6-2 after eight games and looks like the team to beat in the CAA. Why is Wilson such an important piece for the Dragons? He'll immediately step in and inherit Damion Lee's minutes that were vacated after Lee tore his ACL in the Preseason NIT against Arizona. The 6-3 Wilson started his career at Seton Hall but will now be looked at as more of a scorer rather than a facilitator. His ability to provide consistent offense will be a critical element if Drexel is to have a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament and be a team no one wants to play as a 14 or 15 seed.

Three under-the-radar junior college transfers having a major impact

1. Delon Wright, Utah

The 6-4 guard is one of the main reasons for the Utes' 8-1 start. Wright is essentially Utah's version of a Swiss Army Knife because he can do a little bit of everything. In the Utes' first nine games, Wright is averaging 16.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 3.1 steals per contest.

2. Deandre Mathieu, Minnesota

The lightning-quick floor general has had a major hand in the Gophers' 9-2 start. A blur in the open court, Mathieu has allowed both Andre and Austin Hollins to slide off the ball on both sides of the floor. Through 11 games, the 5-9 point guard is averaging 10.5 points and 4.9 assists per game.

3. Chad Frazier, UAB

Frazier hasn't just been impressive, he's shown flashes of being dominant. The 6-4 guard is averaging 19.2 points, 5.0 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game through the Blazers' first nine outings and had 25 points in UAB's upset of North Carolina. This was a major steal for Jerod Haase and company.

Three under-the-radar players that have drastically improved since last season

1. Kethan Savage, George Washington

People won't be sleeping on Savage anymore. After a freshman season that saw him average just 3.1 points per game, Savage has exploded as a sophomore. The 6-3 guard is averaging 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game for the 8-1 Colonials. In Sunday's upset of Maryland, Savage scored 14 points and added four steals for George Washington, which looks like an upper tier team in the Atlantic 10.

2. Brad Waldow, Saint Mary's

The 6-9 big man is leading the Gaels in scoring and rebounding. Waldow has already posted two double-doubles and is averaging 18.6 points per game after tallying just 10.2 points per game a year ago. His presence is one of the main reasons why Randy Bennett's squad should be very competitive in the WCC post-Matthew Dellavedova.

3. Gabriel Olaseni, Iowa

The Hawkeyes have many different options on their roster and right now Olaseni is their most productive one in the middle. In just 16.7 minutes per game, the 6-10 junior is averaging 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Against Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday, Olaseni tallied a double-double - 14 points and 10 rebounds - in just 19 minutes.

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