Frank Mason III, Kansas: At each of elite basketball programs in college there is talent beyond belief. Some are freshman, and some are seniors. The stars of March Madness vary and can be found anywhere. From 12.9 points a game last year to 20.8 this year, Frank Mason III has been huge for Kansas this year. There is a reason that Mason was the Big 12 player of the year, as well as one of the leading candidates for national player of the year. Oh, and the 0.49 three-point percentage helps a bit too I guess.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA: What else is there to say about Lonzo Ball that you haven’t already heard from his dad? Seriously, this kid is the real deal. Someone who may eventually be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Lonzo has can cap off his college career with huge impact in the March. He has the potential to have matchups between Kentucky and North Carolina in back-to-back games, but how special is he? Ball broke NBA Hall of Famer Gary Payton‘s Pac-12 season record for assists by a freshman.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: It may only be his first year at Gonzaga but Nigel Williams-Goss is no freshman. He transferred in after two seasons at the University of Washington, and he has fit right in. Goss is averaging nearly 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists per game this year. However, his most impressive stat is that he is shooting 91% from the free-throw line. That could prove to be crucial in tight tournament games.
Monte Morris, Iowa State: How many point guards in College Basketball have a 6:1 assist to turner over ratio? The answer is one, Monte Morris. The senior guard for Iowa State should be monitored by every March Madness fan out there. Led by Morris, many have projected a deep run for the Cyclones in 2017. Don’t forget that Morris had 25 points when Iowa State defeated the Jayhawks earlier this year, which broke their 51-game winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: If there is a player in the tournament that could just bully his team through to the next round, it is Caleb Swanigan. Swanigan has broken multiple Purdue records, including rebounds in a season and double-doubles in a season. Not to mention he now had a NCAA record with four 20-20 performances. With 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game, if he gets going Purdue could truly cause a lot of problems.
Kris Jenkins, Villanova: Jenkins is the man that captured our attention in the Tournament just a year ago. His 3-point shot to win the national title game over North Carolina was one of the biggest shots in history. Well, he is back in the tournament and ready to lead the No. 1 seed in the East Region, Villanova, to another title. Kris is averaging 13.4 points per game, and he may not be leading the team in scoring, he is the leader on the court.
Under the Radar players you should keep an eye on:
Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: Not only is there elite talent at the top programs, some of the greatest stars can be found anywhere. Many stars are found in the NCAA tournament. Saint Mary’s may not have been able to beat Gonzaga this year, but they that doesn’t mean they don’t have talent. There is huge potential for the big man Jock Landale in the tournament this year. He averaged 16.8 points and 9.3 rebounds on the year, which might be enough for Saint Mary’s to knock off Arizona in the second round.
Keon Johnson, Winthrop: If you haven’t heard of the Winthrop guard Keon Johnson yet, you definitely will after their first round matchup against Butler. He may only be 5-foot-7, but he averages 22.5 points per game. The general public loves the underdog and Cinderella teams. What is more “underdog” than a Big South team led by a 5-foot-7 guard?
Semi Ojeleye, SMU: SMU has a 16 game winning streak heading into March Madness, and the main reason for that is Semi Ojeleye. The basketball program hasn’t been to the Sweet 16 since 1967, but that could change this year if Ojeleye plays up to the potential many of us know he has. The efficiency that he plays with is one of the many reason you should keep an eye or two on the SMU forward.
Derrick Walton Jr., Michigan: Walton Jr. is a prime candidate to break out and become a star in the tournament. The Big Ten tournament was hijacked by the Michigan guard. After winning the Big Ten Tournament and getting a 7 seed, Michigan became must-watch. One of the best matchups of the second round could be Michigan facing off against Louisville. Derrick Walton Jr. needs to be accounted for.