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2015 NCAA Tournament Players to Watch – Part 1

March 16, 2015 Columns No Comments
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March has a way of bringing people out of the shadows. Whether it’s the causal sports fan who suddenly tunes in to college basketball in time for the NCAA Tournament or the unknown player who becomes a household name even for a day, March is the best month of basketball in part because of this.

Every year in the NCAA Tournament, players who have been outside the spotlight make a name for themselves under the bright lights of March. This year will surely be no different, especially considering how competitive the landscape is. Stars are important, and are part of what draws fans, but hidden stars and complementary players make a big difference as well.

With that, here’s a look at some players you may not have heard about yet, but will as the NCAA Tournament goes on. We start with players on teams playing Tuesday and then Thursday. Tomorrow, we’ll look at players who play on Wednesday and then Friday.

 

Gabe York, Jr. G, Arizona
The Wildcats are well-balanced, and few are truly under the radar, but York can be a difference-maker when he comes into the game and starts making shots.

Bobby Portis, So. F, Arkansas
One of the best players in the country, he doesn’t get a whole lot of pub as pretty much everyone in the SEC has been overshadowed by Kentucky. But he’s a matchup problem for many teams and always a candidate for a double-double.

Royce O’Neal, Sr. F, Baylor
A stat sheet stuffer for a team that got stronger as the year went on, he is the glue guy for this team alongside Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers.

Chase Fischer, Jr. G, Brigham Young
Tyler Haws can score, and Kyle Collinsworth does a little of everything. Neither is a lights-out shooter, but Fischer will keep defenses honest doing just that.

Roosevelt Jones, Jr. G-F, Butler
The Bulldogs really missed him last year, when he missed the season, and it showed. He plays bigger, makes good plays and knows what he is, as he has taken just one three-point shot his entire career.

Troy Caupain, So. G, Cincinnati
He showed promise as a freshman, but he’s grown up as a sophomore running this team. He’s a big part of how this team overcame losing their head coach to be a tournament team.

Tyler Harvey, So. G, Eastern Washington
We already knew he could score, but in the Big Sky championship game he showed that he doesn’t shrink in big moments. He carried them during their comeback, with big plays at both ends.

Isaac Copeland, Fr. F, Georgetown
One of the Hoyas’ good freshmen that have helped get this team back into the NCAA Tournament, he got better as the season went along and is capable of leading the team in scoring.

R.J. Hunter, Jr. G, Georgia State
He’s no ordinary son of a coach. Although he didn’t put up big numbers in the Sun Belt final, he’s capable of putting up 25 on an opponent, and that makes this team dangerous.

Dwight Meikle, Jr. G-F, Hampton
He missed much of the MEAC Tournament due to an ankle injury he suffered in the Pirates’ first round win, so his status is uncertain. He’s their leading scorer and rebounder, so if healthy he’ll be the guy they rely on.

Wesley Saunders, Sr. G Harvard
One of the best players in program history, Saunders has often carried the Crimson this year. He won’t blow you away athletically, but he simply knows how to play.

Monte Morris, So. G, Iowa State
His game-winner to knock Texas out of the Big 12 Tournament wasn’t all he did. The steady point guard has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.9 in his first two seasons, and that’s with the team playing fast.

Tyler Ulis, Fr. G, Kentucky
The smallest Wildcat at times has had the biggest impact. He doesn’t get as much pub as many others, but he’s tough and makes everyone better when he’s out there.

Dan Trist, Sr. F, Lafayette
The Patriot League’s second-leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder leads a balanced veteran team as the inside component to a team with several long range shooting threats.

Keith Hornsby, Jr. G, LSU
With Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey leading the way up front, Hornsby – the son of musician Bruce Hornsby – keeps defenses honest with his shooting. He scored in double figures in all but two SEC games.

Emmy Andujar, Sr. F, Manhattan
The versatile forward can do a lot of things for this team as their top scorer, rebounder and assist man. He’s been through a lot in his career, but he’s been a winner at the end of it.

Trevor Lacey, Jr. G, NC State
The Alabama transfer was a big part of the Wolfpack’s success this year, leading a perimeter trio that has a lot to do with whether or not they win or lose.

Brice Johnson, Jr. F, North Carolina
The steadily improving forward has become a reliable post presence at both ends, and in Saturday’s loss in the ACC championship game he scored 20 points on 10-12 shooting. He’s the inside key to Marcus Paige on the perimeter.

Quincy Ford, Jr. F, Northeastern
A year ago, Ford was recovering from back surgery, but prior to that many felt he was a future CAA Player of the Year candidate. He came up big in the CAA Tournament for the Huskies, and can be a tough matchup.

Steve Vasturia, So. G, Notre Dame
The glue guy on the starting unit might also be the team’s best defender. He’s not going to blow you away with any one thing, but he knows how to play and always competes.

Shannon Scott, Sr. G, Ohio State
The interesting thing about Scott is that he was a McDonald’s All-American, but hasn’t had the kind of college career that many expected. Still, he’s the key complement to D’Angelo Russell on the perimeter, and how he closes out his career will have a big part in whether or not the Buckeyes make a run.

Stefan Moody, Jr. G, Ole Miss
The Florida Atlantic transfer didn’t miss a beat while transferring up, leading the team in scoring, including a big 25-point outing where he shot 5-7 from long range in a tough overtime loss at Kentucky.

Raphael Davis, Jr. G, Purdue
The Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year made a nice jump this year with an expanded role, including where he helped the Boilermakers to be the best defensive team in Big Ten play.

Yanick Moreira, Sr. C, SMU
As important as Nic Moore was in winning the regular season and tournament, Moreira’s development inside has been big for this team, especially when Markus Kennedy was out for the first semester.

Thomas Walkup, Jr. G, Stephen F. Austin
The Southland Conference Player of the Year is a winner, as the Lumberjacks have won the regular season title all three years he has been on campus and are now in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.

DeMarcus Holland, Jr. G, Texas
He probably won’t score much, but he’ll guard top perimeter scorers, rebound and set up teammates. Don’t ignore him at the offensive end, though, as he shoots over 47 percent from deep.

Madarious Gibbs, Sr. G, Texas Southern
The SWAC Player of the Year carried a big load for the champs with a much-expanded role from last year. He didn’t shrink against good teams in non-conference, either: 16 points and nine assists at SMU, nine points, nine boards and five assists at Michigan State, and 15 points and five assists at Kansas State, the latter two being wins.

Robert Brown, Jr. G, UAB
The Virginia Tech transfer led them in scoring and came up big in the Conference USA championship game, scoring 22 points on 6-11 shooting, including 4-8 from long range.

Norman Powell, Sr. G, UCLA
As the main veteran on this young team, he’s played his best basketball to lead the way in scoring to cap a career of steady improvement. Others on this team get more pub, especially the better prospects, but the Bruins need him to produce if they’re going to advance.

Jordan Loveridge, Jr. F, Utah
He missed seven games due to injury, but when healthy was a key cog in this offense and shot nearly 44 percent from long range. How important is he? In the Pac-12 Tournament loss to Oregon, he was 0-7 from the field as the Utes lost by three.

Mo Alie-Cox, So. F, VCU
A classic example of a player who impacts the game more than his numbers show, he has a great motor that makes him a good rebounder and a threat to get a highlight-reel dunk on the break almost any time the Rams are in transition.

Daniel Ochefu, Jr. F-C Villanova
On the well-balanced Wildcats, he might have the highest ceiling, as he has a pro body and is athletic. His post presence is a difference-maker for this team.

Karl Cochran, Sr. G, Wofford
The Southern Conference Player of the Year led them to the conference title and does more than just score for this team, as he rebounds from the guard spot as well.

Dee Davis, Sr. G, Xavier
Davis has capably run the show for the Musketeers, and his play is a key to getting Matt Stainbrook and Trevon Bluiett going.

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