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2018 NCAA Tournament Players to Watch – Part 2

March 14, 2018 Columns No Comments

Another NCAA Tournament is in front of us, and one thing that invariably happens every year is a few players not previously in the limelight enter the public’s consciousness. It could be a clutch shot, a big defensive play to preserve a win, or a big game, but one way or another, we don’t just see the stars we know about come up big. We also see previously unknown players do that as well.

The second day of games is Wednesday, with two of the four play-in games, and winners advance to Friday’s first round. (We looked at players who will compete on Tuesday and/or Thursday yesterday.) Here is a look at a player to watch from each team that plays on the day.

Tra Holder, Sr. G, Arizona State
Not many away from the west coast know about him, but he’s been a high scoring guard since his sophomore season in Tempe. He put up 40 in their win over Xavier (on a phenomenal 14-22 shooting) and another 29 against Kansas, their two biggest wins.

Daryl Macon, Sr. G, Arkansas
He teams with Jaylen Barford to form a very underrated backcourt for the Razorbacks, and he’s a very capable passer as well as scorer.

Jared Harper, So. G, Auburn
Mustpaha Heron understandably gets a lot of pub, but Harper does a lot to make this team go as a guy who plays bigger than his 5’10” stature. He had a double-double in points and assists during the regular season.

Zach Thomas, Sr. F Bucknell
On a loaded and experienced Bucknell team, he was their most consistent player and an easy pick for Patriot League Player of the Year, all building off his great run in the league tournament last year.

Kelan Martin, Sr. F, Butler
He’s improved steadily over the course of his career, taking on bigger roles all the time. This year, he scored in double figures in all but two games and has five double-doubles.

Kyle Allman, Jr. G, Cal State Fullerton
The Big West’s leading scorer really exploded this year, nearly doubling his scoring while also shooting 43 percent from long range, a significant improvement considering he shot about 24 percent from deep his first two years.

Gary Clark, Sr. F, Cincinnati
He’s already hidden away on a team that doesn’t get much notice, and his game isn’t one with high-flying dunks or three-pointers. He is just effective and plays at both ends, putting up a lot of double-doubles.

Marcquise Reed, Jr. G, Clemson
He’s been the steadying force for this team all year long, especially as injuries hit, most notably to Donte Grantham.

Grant Riller, So. G, College of Charleston
e teams with Joe Chealey to form an excellent backcourt, and in the last month of the season, not many played better than this first team All-CAA guard.

Khyri Thomas, Jr. G, Creighton
The Big East Defensive Player of the Year the last two seasons has made a career out of being a solid, overshadowed piece of good Bluejay teams. This was a banner year at the offensive end as well, as he shoots over 54 percent from the field including 42 percent from long range as the Robin to Marcus Foster’s Batman.

Phil Cofer, Sr. F, Florida State
He showed promise as a freshman, contributing in a limited role, then was a bit player for two years before he broke out in a big way as a senior. He set career bests in every category, improving his scoring by over 10 points per game over last year and shooting over 39 percent from deep.

D’Marcus Simonds, So. G, Georgia State
The Sun Belt Player of the Year did it all for the Panthers, leading the conference in scoring and coming in the top five in field goal percentage, assists and steals. He scored 27 points in the Sun Belt title game.

Dean Wade, Jr. F-C, Kansas State
If he’s healthy enough to go, he’ll certainly boost the Wildcats’ chances as he’s much improved and now one of the more underrated forwards in the Big 12.

Garrison Matthews, Jr. G, Lipscomb
A high-scoring wing, he put up 33 points in the Atlantic Sun championship game including 7-14 from long range. He’s shot a career-high 39 percent from deep this year, making him even more of a threat.

Jon Elmore, Jr. G, Marshall
The Conference USA Tournament MVP, that performance capped off a great regular season where he led the conference in scoring and assists and is second on the team in rebounding.

Joshua Langford, So. G, Michigan State
He made a nice leap this year, and when he gets going offensively, the Spartans are very tough to beat because he keeps defenses honest with Miles Bridges and Nick Ward.

Jontay Porter, Fr. F, Missouri
While there was plenty of buzz about his brother, he led the team in rebounding and was a key offensive option for the Tigers. He comes into the NCAA Tournament shooting the ball well of late.

Jonathan Stark, G, Murray State
The Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year has had two great years after transferring from Tulane, where he played well. He’s shot well over 41 percent from long range in those two years, and if the Racers can handle West Virginia’s press, Stark will have a chance for a good game.

Raasean Davis, Jr. C, NC Central
The Kent State transfer broke out in a big way, surpassing all of his career totals in non-conference play alone. He not only leads the team in scoring and rebounding, but he makes almost 67 percent of his shots.

Caleb Martin, Jr. F, Nevada
The Mountain West Player of the Year looked like he didn’t miss a beat despite having to sit out last year after transferring from NC State. He’s among the top scorers in the conference and shoots 41 percent from long range.

Jemerrio Jones, F, New Mexico State
The nation’s second-leading rebounder has been a double-double machine, posting 20 of them, and he’s had a single-digit rebound total in just six games this season.

Kenny Williams, Jr. G, North Carolina
The Tar Heels’ big three carries them, but Williams is the key complement playing off all of them and has emerged as that player this season.

Kyron Cartwright, Sr. G, Providence
The Big East leader in assists the past two seasons has ensured a relatively seamless transition from Kris Dunn at the point, and helped the Friars extend their school record run of consecutive NCAA appearances to five.

Carsen Edwards, So. G, Purdue
One of the best guards in the Big Ten, he broke out after a promising freshman season. He scored 40 points on 11-19 shooting at Illinois late in the season, then keyed the Boilermakers’ run to the Big Ten championship game.

Oshae Brissett, Fr. F, Syracuse
Overshadowed by freshmen with bigger names in the ACC, he posted 12 double-doubles and was the big inside presence on a team led largely by the perimeter of Tyus Battle and Frank Howard.

Alex Robinson, Jr. G, TCU
No Jaylen Fisher? No problem, thanks to Robinson, who stepped right into the starting role when Fisher suffered a season-ending injury and had at least four assists in every game from that point on, highlighted by 17 in the first game.

Dylan Osetkowski, Jr. F, Texas
The Tulane transfer is a guy the Longhorns can run their offense through and be very effective, as he can play off or set up guys like Kerwin Roach, Matt Coleman and Eric Davis Jr. on the perimeter or Mohamed Bamba inside.

Admon Gilder, Jr. G, Texas A&M
The frontcourt of Tyler Davis and Robert Williams leads the way for this team, and Gilder is perhaps the most important perimeter complement. He shoots a career-best 40 percent from long range this year.

Demontrae Jefferson, So. G, Texas Southern
The diminutive floor leader has never lacked talent, or flair, but he’s been a solid fit for Mike Davis and is among the nation’s leading scorers.

Jairus Lyles, G, UMBC
He hit the big shot to send them to the NCAA Tournament, but that’s the culmination of one of the greatest careers in the program’s Division I history after transferring from VCU. He’s scored over 1700 points in his three years there.

Isaiah Wilkins, Sr. F, Virginia
The ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year is the key to the best defense in college basketball. What he gives them on offense is a bonus.

Sagaba Konate, So. F, West Virginia
The key post presence for this team, he can dominate at times and nearly had a triple-double (nine blocks) at Baylor late in the season.

Landry Shamet, So. G, Wichita State
A very good but relatively unknown player, he’s a complete offensive player who led the American Athletic Conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio and came in second in three-point field goal percentage and seventh in scoring.

Kerem Kanter, Sr. F, Xavier
The graduate transfer is a key presence up front for this team and plays off perimeter stars Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura.

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