MARCH MADNESS: 9 College Basketball Players to look out for during the Tournament
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If, like me, you are a casual college basketball fan up until february 28th but a huge March Madness fan then you're probably more confused than Charlie Sheen's liver right about now.
The one-and-done nature of college basketball has made it hard to keep up with the stars of the game because they are often gone just as quick as they appear. Last year's big players such as John Wall, Evan Turner and DeMarcus Cousins are all plying their trade in the NBA right now.
Don't worry, we at the Sports Central blog have got you covered with the top players to look out for in this year's tournament.
In no particular order;
Jimmer Freddette. BYU. Guard.
2011 National Player of the Year (CBSSports.com, SI.com)
2011 Conference Player of the Year (MWC)
Jimmer may be the most hyped player in the nation but certainly not overhyped. Averaging 27.8 points per game, Fredette leads NCAA basketball scoring by almost 3 points per game. Fredette's range and consistency from behind the arc is astonishing. He shoots at over 40% from behind the three point line. Fredette isn't just a shooter, he will always find a way to the basket which allowed him to score a season high 47 points against Utah during the season. 1 of 6 career 40+ point games.
Fredette still manages to average more than 4 assists for his teammates also.
Also worth checking out Jimmer's ESPN Special.
Kemba Walker. UConn. Guard.
Mr. Clutch Kemba Walker is more than just a point guard to his teammates. Walker has repeatedly been relied on this year to hit pressure points late in the game. Walker hit his fourth game winning shot this season to knock no.3 ranked Pittsburgh out of the BIG EAST Championship. Walker ranks fourth in the nation in points averaging 23.4 per game to go with his 4.3 assists and 5.2 rebounds.
His shooting percentage needs improvement but he is a highlight reel machine and one of the most exciting players in college basketball.
Ben Hansbrough. Notre Dame. Guard.
2011 1st Team All-Big East, 2nd Team All-American
2011 Big East Player of the Year
Not to be lost in the shadow of his brother Tyler, who played for North Carolina before the Indiana Pacers, Ben has led Notre Dame expertly this year. Hansbrough shoots almost 45% from 3-point range as part of his 18.7 points per game. He also shoots just under 50% from the field overall.
Like many people on this list Hansbrough has gotten better as the season went on.
Brandon Knight. Kentucky. Guard.
2011 SEC Freshman of the Week (1/3/11)
2010 SEC Freshman of the Week (12/27/10)
2010 SEC Freshman of the Week (11/13/10)
Coach Calipari's most recent freshman point guard is likely to be a one and done college player but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy him this year. Knight may feel aggrieved at being underappreciated as he inevitably draws comparisons to his predecessors, messers Wall and Rose.
Knight has averaged 17.7 points per game as well as notching 4 assists.
He will be looking to make amends to the fact that this is his biggest highlight from the regular season.
Jared Sullinger. Ohio State. Forward.
The consensus number one team's biggest player in Sullinger is being pencilled in as the number one overall pick in next year's NBA draft and it's not difficult to see why.
He came close to averaging a triple double during the season with 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. You really have to watch this guy to understand the hype. While not an overly aggressive player, Sullinger shows great touch for such a big man.
Harrison Barnes. North Carolina. Forward.
2010 Preseason All-American
2011 Second Team All-ACC
2011 All-ACC Freshman Team
2011 ACC Rookie of the Year
Last year's no.1 ranked recruit out of high school according to ESPN has lived up to his billing this season for the Tar Heels averaging 14 points per game and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. Barnes freshman season is essentially over, his minutes have increased as the season has progressed as has his role. Barnes has been blowing past his average for the season ever since the teams last regular season loss to Duke.
Barnes has range as a shooter but also the explosion and ability to get to the rim that you would expect from such a physically gifted player.
Terrence Jones. Kentucky. Forward
If Brandon Knight is living in the shadow of John Wall, Terrence Jones is definitely drawing comparisons to DeMarcus Cousins. Jones is an angry basketball player, much like Cousins was, with similar productivity. He is a force in the paint at both ends of the floor putting up 17.1 points while grabbing 9.2 rebounds and blocking 1.9 shots per game.
Jones will take any opportunity possible to take the ball to the rim and dunk it. His athleticism is astounding.
Nolan Smith. Duke. Guard.
Kyrie Irving's injury has stolen basketball fans of many highlights over the season but Nolan Smith has more than made up for the freshman's loss with his play this year. The 22 year old Smith is averaging a career high 21.6 points per game this year as well as 5.2 assists and 4.8 rebounds. Smith rarely comes off the floor averaging 34 minutes per game running an impressive Duke offense that ranked 10th in the country.
Smith can do it all. Whether he's shooting the outside ball or taking it to the basket he is an offensive powerhouse with the ability to play within his offense.
Kyle Singler. Duke. Guard.
2007 Maui Invitational MVP
2007–08 ACC Rookie of the Year
2007–08 ACC All-Rookie Team
2007–08 All-ACC Third Team
2008 2K Sports Classic MVP
2008–09 All-ACC Second Team
2009–10 All-ACC First Team
2010 ACC Tournament MVP
2010 NCAA Tournament Final Four Most Outstanding Player
2010 Sporting News College Athlete of the Year
Nolan Smith's teammate Singler has had a poor year by his standards but anyone who watched last year's tournament will know of his quality. It wouldn't be a surprise to anybody if he breaks out and leads Duke to another National Championship.
Singler's decorated college career will still finish averaging over 17 points per game in his final season. Should he reclaim his shooting touch from outside the arc(it's fallen from 39% to 33%) nobody will want to face the Blue Devils.
Guess there's no time left on the clock for us either!
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