You know what makes March Madness so great? It’s the fact that once your team is in the tournament, anything can happen. A two seed beating a 15, a player getting hot for six games straight and captivating a country a la Kemba Walker at UConn or a team that underachieved all season, only to shake shit up for the so called experts.
So which players from each region should you be weary of betting against? Who’s this year’s one of kind wunderkind? Meet the eight players you should know before you fill out those brackets.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St. — West Region
Ever since the Smart had the verbal altercation with the fan in the stands, his name has kind of disappeared from the high expectations. That’s a mistake. The Cowboys have one of the better teams in the tournament, despite their ninth seed. Smart is one of the better all around players in the country, and every team knows that.
Kendall Williams, New Mexico — South Region
Kendall Williams and the Lobos might sound like some type of 90’s alternative rock band, but don’t let the name fool you. Williams can get buckets with the best of them. New Mexico has a tough first round game against Stanford and then, potentially Kansas. But if the 6-foot-4 senior, who puts up 16 ppg, can lead his team past the opening weekend, momentum might carry on to Texas.
Kyle Anderson, UCLA— South Region
Most people don’t think UCLA will get very far, at least not past the first weekend. If they do, it’l be because sophomore standout Kyle Anderson. The 6-foot-9 forward/guard is a do-it-all type of player, who’s nearly averaging a triple-double (15 ppg, 9 rebounds and 6.5 assists). The Wooden Award finalist is exactly the type of player that could lead his team to a Final Four run.
Joe Jackson, Memphis — East Region
For all the players on this list, JoKe Jackson’s the one with the most to prove. Considering the talent they’ve brought in the past few years (Memphis has four former high school All-Americans on their roster), the Tigers have under achieved. Now a senior, Jackson can finally lead his team to a Final Four.
Marcus Paige, UNC — East Region
All the Tar Heels hopes of winning rest on the shoulders of Marcus Paige. He’s pretty much the only player on UNC that can create his own shot, and certainly has the most moxie when taking a tough one. The 6-foot-1 sophomore averages 17 ppg and never shies away from the big moment. Considering UNC has to play Providence and then potentially Iowa St., he’ll have plenty of opportunity to show up big.
Doug McDermott, Creighton — West Region
Creighton’s Doug McDermott is the one player on this list that no team wants to see. He faces double and triple teams every game and still puts up 27 points and seven rebounds per game. Unquestionably, McDermott is the one player who could get hot enough to lead his team on a deep run.
Marcus Foster, Kansas St. — Midwest Region
The one team that could really shake up some brackets is Kansas St. They’re the talk of the town because many believe they might send Kentucky home early—like first round exit early. If they do, freshman guard Marcus Foster, who’s putting up nearly 16 ppg, will lead the charge in the first round cat-fight for Kansas St.
Jahii Carson, Arizona St. — Midwest Region
Jahii Carson was an early choice for surprise player of the year. he lead the Sun Devils to a win over Arizona while the Wildcats were considered the best team in the country. Carson’s averaging 18 points, four rebounds and four assists a game. So even if the hype on him has died down, the production hasn’t.