Jimmer Fredette, G, Brigham Young
The top player in College Basketball this season. Jimmer-mania has spread beyond Utah this year, as he led the nation in scoring with 28 points a game. Jimmer can score points in a hurry, which was seen during his 52 point outburst against New Mexico in the Mountain West Tournament. As soon as he gets past halfcourt, you better have a defender on him because he will shoot from almost anywhere. With the loss of Brandon Davies, Jimmer will have to have a Herculean effort to keep BYU advancing.
Rivals Joseph Smith in popularity
Jordan Taylor, G, Wisconsin
Wisconsin isn’t a team you would peg as having excellent athletes. Taylor isn’t the typical Wisconsin player though. The first team Big Ten player brings an added athleticism to a team which plays a slow down methodical style. He averaged 18 points a game and shot 43 percent from beyond the arc. Wisconsin will need his scoring output if they hope to score more than 40 points in the tourney.
Dwight Hardy, G, St. John’s
The senior guard’s performance this year helped the improbable turnaround for Red Storm. Much credit should be given to Coach Steve Lavin for this, but it was Dwight Hardy’s clutch play that deserves the most credit. Hardy is the type of player who wants the ball at the end of the game and proved he could make the plays in crunch time. His 18 points a game led a veteran laden squad to its first tourney in a long time.
Chandler Parsons, F, Florida
The SEC player of the year doesn’t need to score to make an impact. His 11 points a game isn’t what you expect out of an SEC player of the year. However, Parsons brings a ton of versatility to the Gators with his passing and rebounding ability. Parsons versatility as a floor leader helped lead Florida to a #2 seed.
Others To Watch:
Ashton Gibbs, G, Pittsburgh; Matt Howard, F, Butler; Jacob Pullen, G, Kansas State; Jon Leuer, F, Wisconsin; Kalin Lucas, PG, Michigan State
Potential Sleeper (11+ seed that could make some noise): Belmont
The Belmont Bruins are already the trendy sleeper pick this year, and this is for good reason. The Bruins absolutely destroyed their competition this season. As a 13 seed, they could be a huge problem for a team that struggles to score. And struggling to score is something that their first round opponent, Wisconsin, specializes in. With a kenpom ranking of 18, the Bruins could not have been a team Bo Ryan wanted to see in the first round.
Score 40+ and you win!
Potential Early Exit (1-3 seed that could go down early): Brigham Young (3)
BYU was already a team without much depth before Brandon Davies was suspended. Now, without him, they’ve shown that they can struggle. Despite Jimmer’s 52 points against New Mexico, the Cougars barely won that game. What happens if Jimmer has an off night? Combine that with a tough first round matchup against Wofford, and Jimmer-mania could end quickly. Wofford beat a good College of Charleston team to get in the tourney, and Noah Dahlman’s post play could spell problems for BYU.
Best Potential Matchup: Brigham Young vs. St. John’s (Second Round)
The committee is known to be creative with their matchup selections. All season long, two of the more exciting teams to watch have been BYU and St. John’s. Should both get past their first round opponents, it would set up a great game. St. John’s is a very athletic team whose size might be able to overwhelm BYU. Jimmer Fredette versus Dwight Hardy would be a great matchup to watch.
Best Mascot: UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos
The Gauchos might be making a quick exit, but at the very least, they can claim the title of a unique mascot name. A gaucho is the spanish version of a cowboy. And even though the Gauchos may lose early, at least they get to go back to one of the nicest campuses in America.
Gauchos vs Gators first round duel?