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2016 NCAA Tournament Players to Watch – Part 2

March 16, 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 Wednesday or Friday.

Jordan Mathews, Jr. G, California
One of the best shooters in the country, he gets a lot of good chances with the attention teammates Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb and Tyrone Wallace get, and he’s good at cashing them in.

Dedrick Basile, Jr. G, Cal State Bakersfield
He did more than just hit the game-winner to send the Roadrunners to the NCAA Tournament, though that will stand out. Indeed, he has filled the stat sheet with solid play at both ends of the floor as part of a balanced team for Rod Barnes.

Troy Caupain, Jr. G, Cincinnati
One of the nation’s most underrated point guards, he has made a steady progression into an all-conference player, and next year will probably do more than that.

Charles Cooke, Jr. G, Dayton
The James Madison transfer leads the Flyers in scoring, though he doesn’t get the notoriety that you would expect the leading scorer on a conference’s top team to get.

Carrington Love, Sr. G, Green Bay
Not only is he the Phoenix’ leading scorer, but he’s shined in many of the biggest games: 32 points at Stanford to open the season, 28 points at Wisconsin, and 22 and 23 points against Valparaiso, the latter coming in the Horizon League semifinal.

Stefan Jankovic, Jr. F, Hawaii
He never got going at Missouri, but he always had talent and has found new life since transferring. The Rainbow Warriors’ leading scorer and rebounder is better with an improved shot from long range, making him a tougher matchup.

Malachi Alexander, Jr. F, Holy Cross
From impact freshman to one of the Patriot League’s better players, he has made a steady growth starting from a good place.

Peter Jok, Jr. G, Iowa
The Hawkeyes’ success this season is due in no small part to the big jump he has made with a bigger role this season. Already a threat from long range, he’s even better at it now to play off Jarrod Uthoff.

Robert Carter Jr., Jr. F, Maryland
An excellent complement to Diamond Stone inside and the perimeter duo of Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon, he enters the NCAA Tournament playing well, including a fine outing in their tough loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament.

Derrick Walton Jr., Jr. G, Michigan
With Caris LeVert done for the season, he needs to do more, and is certainly capable. He’s a veteran starter who had a triple-double against Youngstown State and was instrumental in the win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament that might have put them in.

Matt Costello, Sr. C, Michigan State
Over four years, he has steadily developed into a solid big man who has produced 10 double-doubles on the season. His inside play complements their perimeter talents.

Reggie Upshaw, Jr. F, Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders’ second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, he has nine double-doubles and is also a threat shooting the ball from deep.

Dwayne Sutton, Fr. G, UNC Asheville
He had a monster game in the Big South championship, scoring 25 points and hauling down 18 rebounds. That was no accident, as he’s made a quick impact at both ends of the floor for the balanced Bulldogs.

Wes Washpun, Sr. G, Northern Iowa
The hero in the Missouri Valley championship game is no one-hit wonder, as he’s grown into the team’s best player as their leader in scoring and assists en route to first team All-MVC honors.

Demetrius Jackson, Jr. G, Notre Dame
Last year, he was in the shadow of the dynamic duo of Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, but this year he’s the clear leader of that unit and has been overshadowed by other guards in the ACC.

Isaiah Cousins, Sr. G, Oklahoma
Buddy Hield is the best player in the country, but Cousins might be the Sooners’ most important player. He does a superb job of running the show, knowing how to find his offense in between setting everyone else up.

Chris Boucher, Sr. F, Oregon
There’s no easy way to describe him, but that seems to fit Oregon as a whole. He will fill the stat sheet as a big defensive presence, and can hit from long range at the offensive end.

Gary Payton II, Sr. G, Oregon State
He’s made the highlight reels a few times and is fairly well-known out west, but now the whole country has a better chance to see him. He isn’t as good as his dad, but he’s the prime reason this team is back in the NCAA Tournament.

Jamel Artis, Jr. F, Pittsburgh
The versatile forward broke out last season and continued to fill the stat sheet this season. He doesn’t do any one thing exceedingly well, but does a lot of things to help his team.

Isaiah Miles, Sr. F, Saint Joseph’s
DeAndre Bembry was the conference Player of the Year and is a bit of a hidden gem in his own right, but Miles actually led them in scoring and rebounding while shooting nearly 39 percent from long range, capping a solid two-years in which he developed with more playing time and a bigger role.

Mike Daum, Fr. F, South Dakota State
What might surprise you about him is that he comes off the bench to lead his team in scoring and rebounding. That makes him even more of a hidden star than most on mid-major teams.

Adrian Rodgers, Sr. G, Southern
He found a good home after transferring two years ago, and after breaking out last season he was even better this year in just about every facet of the game.

Thomas Walkup, Sr. F, Stephen F. Austin
One of the most complete players in the country, he routinely fills the stat sheet and just knows how to play. He also has a nearly 2.6 assist-to-turnover ratio from the forward spot.

Michael Gbinje, Sr. F, Syracuse
The Duke transfer turned into a star this year as Syracuse’s most consistent player, leading them in scoring and assists.

Obi Enechionyia, So. F, Temple
A year ago, he was little more than a bit player, having to wait his turn and adjust to the college game. He’s ready now, and still has a lot of untapped potential as of yet.

Javan Felix, Sr. G, Texas
If it seems like he has been in college forever, you can be forgiven. He has been at Texas for some bad times and some better ones like right now, and closes out his career as a key complementary player and leader.

Alex Caruso, Sr. G, Texas A&M
He’s the engine that makes this team go with stars Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Tyler Davis. He keeps defenses honest shooting the ball and has a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

James Woodard, Sr. G, Tulsa
The senior is closing out a great college career that has seen four straight seasons scoring in double figures, and he also posted a career high assist total.

Mo Alie-Cox, Jr. F, VCU
An athletic forward with a big body and a great motor, he has the potential to take over games with how he competes. He still has some untapped potential for this team.

Josh Hart, Jr. G, Villanova
One of the best players no one knows about, his numbers are good but not all-world. His relentlessness is a big reason he, and the Widlcats, have had the success they have had to this point.

Joel Bolomboy, Sr. F-C, Weber State
One of the nation’s leaders in double-doubles with 24, he’s a force down low at both ends of the floor who was the Big Sky MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Jaysean Paige, Sr. G, West Virginia
The Mountaineers’ leading scorer made a big jump from a year ago, when his role was much more limited.

Vitto Brown, Jr. F, Wisconsin
He was a breakout player for the Badgers this year, and had his best game when a lot was on the line – 21 points, including a number of shots at crucial junctures, when the Badgers won at Maryland in February.

Edmond Sumner, Fr. G, Xavier
It didn’t take him long to make an impact on this well-balanced team, as he was a consistent double-digit scorer and was second on the team in assists as well as scoring.

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