By Johnathan Tillman / @thetillshow
Here at TSFJ, we gave you the Tournament Primer. Now, I'm here to give you a few players to keep in mind as you vigorously switch channels and games. I'm purposely excluding the #1 seeds, because chalk is boring. The other 60+ teams have players worthy of some carefully crafted words.
Melo Trimble, G, Maryland Terrapins
One of the biggest factors in a deep tourney run is great guard play. Teams must have someone on the perimeter who can break down a defense when the shot clock is under 10 seconds and make the right decision. Maryland has an absolute stud freshman guard in Melo Trimble. This gem, like most quality guards, slipped through the cracks when more highly touted first-year players were getting praise. Trimble is a terror off the bounce and can hold is own against anyone opposite him.
Delon Wright, G, Utah Utes
Utah is really, really good. Continuing the point of quality guard play being paramount, the 6'5" senior is Utah's catalyst. Shooting 52.9% from the field while running the show is impressive. Then, include the fact he plays virtually every minute of each game, and the Utes will be a tough out in the South Region.
Georges Niang, F, Iowa State Cyclones
I believe Niang's injury last year prevented Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones from a Final Four berth. On a team full of matchup nightmares, Niang is the scariest. He's the tweener forward with range and just enough aggression to go on a personal 10-0 run.
Larry Nance Jr., F, Wyoming Cowboys
Unless you're a basketball historian or somewhere near Dick Vitale's age, you probably don't know who Nance's father is. The offspring is just as lanky and graceful as Larry Sr., and he's the main reason why Wyoming is in this tournament. His long arms are sure to catch your eye as he's cleaning the boards or swatting opposing layups. If there is a #12 seed to choose this year, the Cowboys are a solid pick.
Bobby Portis, F, Arkansas Razorbacks
I've lived in Little Rock for the past year. It's very interesting to see locals be upbeat when discussing the men's basketball team. The Hogs play pressure defense, and Portis is their 6'10" anchor in the paint. In a conference with uber-talented Kentucky, it was Portis who won SEC Player of the Year. He's inconsistent at times, but when his motor is fully running, Arkansas can be hectic for teams to contend with.
Kyle Wiltjer, F/C, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Even though I'm omitting Kentucky and the other top seeds, a player who used to suit up in Lexington finds his way on this list. Wiltjer was in the same freshman class as Anthony Davis, with his role being The Brow's backup on that championship team. Since Coach Calipari replenishes talent as quickly as it declares for the NBA Draft, the stretch big decided to take his size and shooting to Spokane and play for Mark Few. It remains to be seen if this is the Gonzaga team that finally lives up to its consistently high ranking, but Kyle Wiltjer will be the driving force.
Kyle Collinsworth, G/F, BYU Cougars
(Ed. note: Written prior to BYU's loss to Ole Miss. He can still hoop, though. - @asportsscribe)
Okay, I have to acknowledge that the Round of 64 is actually the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Whatever. However, it does allow me to mention the nation's most versatile player. The 6'6" Collinsworth averages 14 ppg, 8.7(!) rpg and 5.8 apg for BYU. If Iowa State's Niang is a matchup nightmare, Collinsworth is the country's most haunted of houses. It's not that indefensible. It's that he's impossible to keep from being impactful and effective. His handprints were on the game the Cougars lost to Ole Miss last night, and one could surmise he's the best player you don't know about. Sadly BYU did not advance into the second round, but Kyle Collinsworth once again nearly reached amassing another triple-double (8, 10 and 7) to his career record-tying six. Did I mention he tore his ACL last year?
So, there it is. The smart money suggests that though these highlighted players should be enjoyable to watch, no team will beat Kentucky. However, if there is a place for the unexpected, the NCAA Tournament is it.
Let the madness begin.
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