Your brackets may be busted after every upset and buzzer-beater during the tournament’s opening weekend (and here’s the supercut to prove it), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the rest of March Madness! The Sweet 16 starts Thursday and even though the current field lacks a true Cinderella team, there are still some under-the-radar players you should watch out for. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of players you should know.
No. 1 Kansas: Wayne Selden, Jr.
All-American senior forward Perry Ellis would’ve been the easy choice, but Wayne Selden, Jr. is just as important for the Jayhawks. Selden brings an attitude and explosiveness that is exciting to watch. The junior guard exploded for 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists in Kansas’ second-round win over UConn.
No. 2 Villanova: Kris Jenkins
Kris Jenkins is able to stretch the floor for the Wildcats, shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc. He has been efficient from the field over the first two games, shooting 10-for-17 from the field with five total threes. Jenkins also dished out a team-high six assists in the second round against Iowa and has yet to commit a turnover in the tournament.
No. 3 Miami: Angel Rodriguez
Angel Rodriguez, a senior, is poised and steady and was the calming force that helped Miami stave off a fierce Wichita State comeback in the second round. Rodriguez has scored 52 points over the first two games of the tournament on 15-for-26 shooting and his veteran presence is key for the Hurricanes.
No. 5 Maryland: Melo Trimble
The Terrapins will go as far as Melo Trimble can take them. The sophomore point guard didn’t have as strong a season as people had expected before the year, but his 24 points powered Maryland past a more-than-game Hawaii squad. While he struggles shooting from the field at times, Trimble is very adept at drawing contact and shot 13-of-14 from the free-throw line against Hawaii.
No. 1 Oregon: Chris Boucher
Oregon is a deep team with a balanced scoring attack, featuring four players averaging 12 or more points. Chris Boucher can affect the game offensively and defensively; he scored 20 points in the first round and just two in the second round, but his defense on the back line was largely why St. Joseph’s shot just 38.6 percent.
No. 2 Oklahoma: Buddy Hield
There are other players on Oklahoma who’d be more than worthy of mentioning, but the conversation starts and ends with Buddy Hield. A shoo-in for the Wooden Award, Hield had just seven points in the first half in the second-round game against VCU. He finished with 36. ‘Nuff said.
No. 3 Texas A&M: Daniel House
Daniel House is a do-it-all senior guard for the Aggies. The 6’7″ swingman can score in bunches and comes up big in clutch situations, scoring 11 points over the two overtimes in Texas A&M’s second-round win over Northern Iowa.
No. 4 Duke: Brandon Ingram
Duke has greatly benefited from Brandon Ingram’s growth towards the end of the regular season. The freshman is playing with a lot more confidence and it shows, scoring 55 points over the two tournament games while playing 39 and 40 minutes in those games.
No. 1 North Carolina: Brice Johnson
Brice Johnson has been the engine that powers North Carolina on both ends of the floor. Over the two tournament games, the senior big man has shot 14-of-20 from the field, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked 10 shots. Johnson’s inside presence has been key for the Tar Heels, who struggle with their perimeter shooting at times.
No. 5 Indiana: Yogi Ferrell
Yogi Ferrell is a true floor general, but the senior point guard has also upped his scoring output. He has scored 38 total points while dishing out 14 assists to just three turnovers. The Hoosiers will continue to rely on him if they hope to reach the promised land.
No. 6 Notre Dame: Zach Auguste
A double-double machine, Zach Auguste is a force on the inside for the Fighting Irish. His activity near the rim and his ability to run the pick-and-roll with Demetrius Jackson to perfection makes him one of the best big men in the country.
No. 7 Wisconsin: Bronson Koenig
While leading scorer Nigel Hayes has been mired in a shooting slump during the tournament, the Badgers have relied on Bronson Koenig. The junior guard bounced back from a poor performance in the first game to score 20 points against Xavier, including the game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
No. 1 Virginia: Malcolm Brogdon
Not only is Malcolm Brogdon the Cavaliers’ leading scorer, he embodies the team’s defense-first mindset was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. The senior put up 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in Virginia’s second-round win over Butler.
No. 4 Iowa St.: Georges Niang
Iowa State has six (!) players who average 10 or more points and Georges Niang leads the way with an average of 20.2. The senior forward scored 28 points in both tournament games and is the unquestioned leader of the Cyclones.
No. 10 Syracuse: Michael Gbinije
Syracuse backed into the tournament after losing five of its previous six games, but the Orange made the most of their opportunity thanks to the senior leadership of Michael Gbinije. The point guard runs the show on offense and is a key cog at the top of the vaunted 2-3 zone defense. He scored 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting with three steals in the second-round win over Middle Tennessee State.
No. 11 Gonzaga: Domantas Sabonis
Stuntin’ like his daddy, Domantas Sabonis has dominated the inside for the Bulldogs in the first two rounds. The son of former Portland Trailblazers star and European basketball legend Arvydas Sabonis, the sophomore put up 21 points, 16 rebounds and four assists in the first round and then followed up with 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead Gonzaga past Utah in the second round. Not insignificant in that upset over Utah was Sabonis’ defense on Ute stud, Jakob Poeltl, who was repeatedly stifled by Sabonis the junior’s bodying up and quick feet.
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