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2017 NCAA Tournament Players to Watch – Part 2

March 15, 2017 Columns No Comments

Every year, the NCAA Tournament is where players few had heard of emerge into the national consciousness, even if only for a fleeting moment. This year’s tournament is sure to be no different in that respect, even if the names and faces may change.

Yesterday, we began our look at players to watch with those whose teams play their first game on either Tuesday or Thursday. Now we look at players to watch whose teams play their first game on either Wednesday or Friday.

Dusty Hannahs, Sr. G, Arkansas
He came home after two years at Texas Tech and was instantly better, scoring over 1,000 points in two years after not even reaching 500 at Texas Tech.

Manu Lecomte, Jr. G, Baylor
Jonathan Motley is the Bears’ best player, but Lecomte is the key complement as their best threat from long range and primary playmaker.

Gary Clark, Jr. F, Cincinnati
He epitomizes this Cincinnati team, as he doesn’t get much pub nationally but competes and puts up double-doubles.

Justin Patton, Fr. C, Creighton
All year long, he’s been the key complement up front to the perimeter power this team has. He has benefited well, making over 69 percent of his shots, and leads them in rebounding.

Charles Cooke, Sr. G, Dayton
The James Madison transfer only got better after leaving Harrisonburg, and this year he posted career-best numbers in just about everything, including assists.

Matt Jones, Sr. G, Duke
One of the best defenders in the ACC, Jones has at times been the spark behind Duke’s success this year. The best example might have been their second-half turnaround against Miami in January.

Zach Collins, Fr. C, Gonzaga
It’s easy for almost anyone to get lost alongside Przemek Karnowski with his big body, but Collins is also hidden behind many other stars. He might have the highest upside of anyone on this team, though, and he already makes an impact right now.

Jordan Washington, Sr. F, Iona
The well-traveled big man was on a lot of radars early in high school, and he led Iona in scoring and rebounding while improving some defensively.

Malcolm Drumwright, Jr. G, Jacksonville State
In their OVC semifinal win over Belmont, the Gamecocks’ leading scorer had 21 points on 8-12 shooting, including 3-5 from deep.

Landen Lucas, Sr. C, Kansas
Lucas has very ably held down the fort inside for the Jayhawks. If they go far, he will play no small role, and don’t be surprised if he makes a big play at the defensive end.

Isaiah Briscoe, So. G, Kentucky
We all know about Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo. If the Wildcats are to make a deep run, Briscoe will play a key role after he’s become something of a forgotten man at times this year.

Jimmy Hall, Sr. F, Kent State
He always had the talent, and was a good player his first three years before becoming a double-double machine as a senior and blocking a career-high 48 shots.

Deng Adel, So. F, Louisville
He had a fine 21-point outing in the loss to Duke in the ACC Tournament, and is a fine complement to the perimeter duo of Quentin Snider and Donovan Mitchell.

Markus Howard, Fr. G, Marquette
The leader of a well-balanced team that has five players averaging in double figures, he is also quite the marksman as he shoots nearly 55 percent from long range.

Davon Reed, Sr. G, Miami
A very steady presence on this team, he does it at both ends of the floor and off the court, and all of it with little fanfare.

D.J. Wilson, Jr. F, Michigan
His 17 points on 8-11 shooting in the Big Ten championship game came two days after he had 26 points on 11-18 shooting against Purdue.

Nick Ward, Fr. F, Michigan State
With the Spartans not having a good year, it was a little easier for him to be out of the limelight despite a nice freshman season alongside more highly-touted frosh Miles Bridges.

Patrick Cole, Sr. G, NC Central
One of four players in the country who averages at least 15 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, he is the Eagles’ clear go-to guy all the way around.

Ian Baker, Sr. G, New Mexico State
The Aggies’ leading scorer and assist man came up big in the second half of their win in the WAC championship game, and they will need more of that here.

Isaiah Hicks, Sr. F, North Carolina
Another key part of the Tar Heels’ vaunted frontcourt, he enters the NCAA Tournament playing very well at the end of a career that has shown a steady development. Every so often, he is a big key to one of their wins.

Drew McDonald, So. F, Northern Kentucky
He followed up a promising freshman season with an even better campaign this year, one that included scoring 20 or more points in three of the four games leading up to the Horizon League championship, where he had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Jawun Evans, So. G, Oklahoma State
One of the best players in the Big 12 and among the best point guards in the country, he is overshadowed for a lot of reasons. A big game here could very well change that, and he is certainly capable of it.

Jordan Bell, Jr. F-C, Oregon
Losing Chris Boucher is a hit, but Bell is a pretty good post defender as well, and he can cushion that blow a bit. He’s developed nicely over his career, and now more people will see it if only out of necessity as the Ducks need him more than ever.

Kyron Cartwright, Jr. G, Providence
After being a quietly solid backup to Kris Dunn for two years, Cartwright didn’t miss a beat taking over full-time point guard duties this year. He’s no Dunn, but he competes and is the key to a team without a senior in its rotation.

Hassan Martin, Sr. F, Rhode Island
When he arrived on campus, he was 17 years old, long and lanky. Now he has a man’s body and the game to go with it, and he became one of the best players in the Atlantic 10.

Khadeen Carrington, Jr. G, Seton Hall
The lefty started the season out really well, then came back to earth a bit before raising his level in February again. A week in which he scored 41 points (and even handed out seven assists) in a win over Creighton and 22 against Villanova tells you what he is capable of.

Semi Ojeleye, Jr. F, SMU
After not playing much at Duke, he transferred and found a good home, becoming the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and reminded people why Duke and others recruited him in the first place.

Sindarius Thornwell, Sr. G, South Carolina
It’s not every day that the SEC Player of the Year is a relative unknown, but how many non-basketball junkies have ever heard of Thornwell? He’s been terrific since coming back from a suspension and is the biggest reason the Gamecocks are dancing.

Zach Lofton, Jr. G, Texas Southern
He had a tough couple of nights in the SWAC Tournament, so the Tigers’ leading scorer is due to remind everyone those nights are an aberration.

Jordan Varnado, So. F, Troy
If his last name is familiar, his brother Jarvis is the NCAA’s all-time leader in career blocked shots. Jordan is a fine player in his own right as the Trojans’ top scorer and rebounder.

Brynton Lemar, Sr. G, UC Davis
This is who the Aggies want to get the ball to when they need a basket, as they did in the Big West championship game. He has scored in single digits just once since the calendar turned over into 2017.

T.J. Leaf, Fr. F, UCLA
Quick, who leads UCLA in scoring? No, not Lonzo Ball, and not Bryce Alford, either. It’s Leaf, who is a close second in rebounding as well, but doesn’t get nearly the pub as others on this team.

Jordan McLaughlin, Jr. G, USC
Those who aren’t on the west coast don’t get to see him much, but McLaughlin is one of the best guards in the Pac-12. His shooting and scoring numbers dropped slightly this year, but his playmaking was much better, and on a team where his play was much more important.

Landry Shamet, Fr. G, Wichita State
The Shockers’ success starts with his play at the point, as well as his terrific shooting. You wonder just how good they might have been a year ago had he not been forced to redshirt.

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