By Kevin Sweeney
It’s been said that stars are born on the biggest stage. This is true with March Madness. A player who is unknown by most people can burst onto the scene with a big game in the NCAA Tournament. Here’s a look at 1o players that the world will be talking about this weekend.
1. A.J. English-Iona
English can flat-out score. The senior guard leads the way for an Iona team who is matched up with a beatable Iowa State squad in the first round. He averages 22.4 points, over 6 assists, and 5 rebounds per contest. A finalist for the Jerry West Award given to the top shooting guard in the nation, English is a lethal 3-point threat who once made 13-19 from 3 point land in one game. If hot, English could help the Gaels make some noise in the Big Dance.
2. Thomas Walkup- Stephen F. Austin
Walkup is the leader of an experienced Stephen F. Austin team making its 3rd straight NCAA Tournament appearance. This kid does it all, averaging over 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals per game. He is the heart of a swarming SFA defense that forces over 18 turnovers per game. The Lumberjacks will face a tough West Virginia team in the first round.
3. Jameel Warney-Stony Brook
For Stony Brook to have a chance to knock off Kentucky, they will need a huge day from Warney. The senior center averages a double-double with nearly 20 points and 11 rebounds per contest. He had a monster performance in the America East Championship game, putting up a career-high 43 points. He has to anchor the post against a tall Kentucky squad for the Seawolves to have a chance in this one.
4. Marvelle Harris- Fresno State
Harris is one of the more prolific scorers in the country. The Mountain West Player of the Year, Harris averages over 20 points per game and recently became the school’s all-time leading scorer. He is also an excellent distributor, as he leads his team in assists per game. Harris is the type of explosive player that can single-handedly lead his team to March Madness glory.
5. Joel Bolomboy-Weber State
Bolomboy is a BEAST in the paint. He puts up nearly 13 rebounds per game, a number that puts him near the top in the country. he is also great at getting to the free throw line, as he attempts over 6.5 free throws per game. He isn’t just a post player, as he has the ability to stretch the defense from outside as well. For Weber State to pull a monumental upset, Bolomboy will have to have a great night.
6. Justin Sears- Yale
The back-to-back Ivy League Player of the Year, Sears is the driving force behind a Yale squad making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1962. The senior forward averages 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this season. Sears, along with front-court teammate Brandon Sherrod, will be instrumental in their upset bid, as they are taking on a team in Baylor with a lot of size up front.
7. Stefan Jankovic- Hawaii
Jankovic is one of the most versatile players in the tournament. A 6-11 forward, Jankovic can rebound like a forward and stretch the floor from downtown. This combo of size and skill makes him a match-up nightmare, even against major conference foes. In a game this season against Oklahoma, Jankovic put up 17 points as the Rainbow Warriors took the Sooners to the final buzzer. Against Cal, Jankovic must lead the way if Hawaii wants to shock the world.
8. Wes Washpun- Northern Iowa
Washpun is a dynamic point guard with a flair for the dramatic. He hit a buzzer-beater to send the Panthers to the Big Dance. 2 of his best games this season came when the Panthers pulled shocking upsets of UNC and Iowa State earlier this season. In the Iowa State game, he set career highs with 28 points and 11 assists. Don’t put it passed Washpun to put up another huge game in the Big Dance and make the Panthers the Cinderella’s of the entire tournament.
9. Quinton Chievous- Hampton
He may be undersized at just 6-6, but Chievous is a ferocious rebounder and scorer for the Pirates. He averages 17 points and 11 rebounds per game. He has put up some monster games, including a 29 point, 23 rebound performance against Winthrop as well as a 21 point, 19 rebound game against Delaware State. He also brings the experience of a previous NCAA Tournament appearance, in which he had double-doubles in both games. Even though he was outsized drastically by Kentucky, he still put up 22 points and 10 rebounds.
10. Carrington Love- Green Bay
Love is the leader of the highest-scoring offense in the NCAA Tournament. His 17.7 per game paces Phoenix attack, which averages 84.4 points per game. He is an electrifying 3-point shooter, knocking them down at a 35% clip despite being the focal point of the opposing team’s scouting report. He has had games with 8, 6, and 5 3’s made this season, with 8 against Youngstown State, 6 against Stanford, and 5 against Wisconsin. He will need to be hot from downtown if the Phoenix are going to make their stay in March Madness an extended one.
Note: I didn’t include Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet, Domantas Sabonis, Kyle Wiltjer, or anyone from the Atlantic 10 on this list because they wouldn’t exactly be bursting onto the scene.