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2016 NCAA Tournament Players to Watch – Part 1

March 15, 2016 Columns No Comments

March is always a month where players emerge from the shadows, with some being more memorable than others. Some end up being one-hit wonders, while for others, it’s just the beginning of their notoriety. All the same, though, March brings both players and casual fans out of the shadows, and it’s the best month of basketball.

This year, more than any in recent memory, we have been reminded of this. And as the NCAA Tournament beckons, this idea fits in even better than usual. More players will emerge under the bright lights, and some already have.

With that, here are some players to watch that you might not know about already. All of these players will have their first game on either Tuesday or Thursday.

Ryan Anderson, Sr. F, Arizona
The BC transfer quietly leads this team in scoring and rebounding, though other players get more notoriety. He never got to the Big Dance in Chestnut Hill, but gets to close out his career there now.

Josh Hagins, Sr. G, UALR
The Trojans rely on him to score and get everyone else going, and he’s done that all season long as the only one to make first team All-Sun Belt.

Chris Horton, Sr. C, Austin Peay
He’s averaged a double-double each of the past two seasons, with monster numbers of 18.9 points and 12 rebounds a game this year. He also blocks nearly two shots a game and makes over 60 percent of his field goal attempts.

Jonathan Motley, So. F, Baylor
It’s easy to be missed alongside Rico Gathers’ massive presence, but Motley plays off him well as another scoring option, making nearly 62 percent of his attempts, and also rebounding.

C.J. Massinburg, Fr. G, Buffalo
He had 18 points on 6-9 shooting along with seven rebounds in the MAC championship game. Simply put, he’s a budding star for this team.

Kelan Martin, So. F, Butler
His emergence this season has been big for this team, and he has been especially good since the end of January, having scored in double figures in every game since then.

Tre’ McLean, Jr. F, Chattanooga
The Mocs’ leading scorer and rebounder tormented East Tennessee State, who they beat in the conference final, in both regular season meetings, and hurt them again last week.

Josh Scott, Sr. C, Colorado
One of the Pac-12’s best players isn’t well-known outside of the western half of the country, but he’s a big part of the Buffs’ success both inside and facing the basket offensively.

Shonn Miller, Sr. F, UConn
The Cornell graduate transfer has quietly led the team in scoring as a key player up front for the Huskies, playing off guards Sterling Gibbs and Rodney Purvis.

Matt Jones, Jr. G, Duke
Other than his three-point shooting (41.6 percent), Jones puts up numbers that are far from eye-popping. But he’s their best defender and plays very well off guys like Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram.

Darian Anderson, So. G, Fairleigh Dickinson
After a good freshman year, he has improved, and had 28 points, six rebounds and five assists in the Northeast Conference title game.

Marc Eddy Norelia, Jr. F, Florida Gulf Coast
He’s tough to handle for opponents inside, and has made a big jump from last season into an all-conference player.

Marvelle Harris, Sr. G, Fresno State
The Most Outstanding Player in the Mountain West Tournament, he has been hidden away out west and in a conference that was down this year. He can score and isn’t bad defensively, ranking second in the conference in steals.

Eric McClellan, Sr. G, Gonzaga
The West Coast Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year is also the Bulldogs’ most experienced guard along with Kyle Dranginis, so they have needed a lot from him.

Quinton Chievous, Sr. G, Hampton
Yes, he is Derrick’s son, and hes pretty good just like his dad. He averages a double-double and has five games with 15 or more rebounds on the season, highlighted by a 29-point, 23-rebound outing at Winthrop in the season opener.

Thomas Bryant, Fr. C, Indiana
The guard-oriented Hoosiers can run and gun, but Bryant is their big presence inside and as such is their X-factor.

A.J. English, Sr. G, Iona
He can flat-out shoot the ball and is one of the more fun players to watch. He epitomizes the offense Iona runs, so it’s no wonder he has thrived.

Deonte Burton, Jr. G, Iowa State
The Marquette transfer was the Big 12’s top reserve, providing instant offense for a team that has plenty of it already.

Perry Ellis, Sr. F, Kansas
A solid four-year player, he isn’t flashy and doesn’t have the ceiling some teammates do, but he is as effective as they come.

Isaiah Briscoe, Fr. G, Kentucky
The highly-touted recruit hasn’t had it easy, but he is coming around of late and had a nice run in the SEC Tournament, suggesting he has better games ahead starting later this week.

Tonye Jekiri, Sr. C, Miami
Jim Larranaga has been beating the drum about his value, and understandably so since his numbers understate his value to the team. He’s a defensive star who has developed into a player over his college career.

Justin Jackson, So. F, North Carolina
He has loads of potential and has harnessed more of it this season, and can cause matchup problems at either forward spot.

Chris Flemmings, Jr. G, UNCW
The junior college transfer led the Seahawks in scoring and rebounding as the best of a cast full of newcomers. He also shoots over 51 percent from the field, a great number for a guard.

Rodney Bullock, So. F, Providence
The Friars’ X-factor is big considering this team gets plenty from Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil but could use a third key contributor. He’s shown the ability often after missing two years, including 18 points and seven rebounds in the Big East Tournament loss to Villanova.

Vince Edwards, So. F, Purdue
Purdue’s bigs get a lot of attention, and Edwards plays off them very well. Their second-leading scorer is a big threat from long range and is another reason they own the boards. He has scored in double figures in seven straight games.

Angel Delgado, So. F, Seton Hall
The anchor of the Pirates’ interior, he nearly averages a double-double and is the big complement to Isaiah Whitehead and Derrick Gordon on the perimeter.

Jameel Warney, Sr. F, Stony Brook
Long before his all-world performance in the America East championship game, he was a stud post player. If you missed him on Saturday, you get at least one more chance to see a rare 2,000-point, 1,000-rebound college player.

Keenan Evans, So. G, Texas Tech
He may be on the verge of breaking out, especially if his performance in some big wins – like 21 points and five assists at Baylor, or 14 points to lead them past Oklahoma – are any indication.

Jordan McLaughlin, So. G, USC
Easily missed playing out west and for a team in the middle of a loaded Pac-12, he makes the Trojans go as their leading scorer and assist man, including a 42.3 percent mark from behind the arc.

Kyle Kuzma, So. F, Utah
Now that he has an expanded role, he has produced, though he slumped a bit down the stretch. He converts a good percentage of his chances and is another presence in a big frontcourt for the Utes.

Wade Baldwin IV, So. G, Vanderbilt
Big man Damian Jones gets a lot of attention, but Baldwin led them in scoring and assists while shooting over 41 percent from long range.

London Perrantes, Jr. G, Virginia
Backcourt mate Malcolm Brogdon gets the accolades, and deservedly so, but Perrantes is every bit a key to what this team does as he’s having a quietly excellent season shooting 48 percent from deep along with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Markis McDuffie, Fr. F, Wichita State
The Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year is the next star for the Shockers. His numbers won’t jump out at you, but he’s impacting games, and you know he’s been well-coached since he played at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey.

Justin Sears, Sr. F, Yale
The young man has had a terrific career in New Haven, and now the country gets to see what New Englanders have seen all along.

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