The 2014 NCAA Tournament is almost here, as conference tournaments begin. With teams looking to solidify their position in the field of 68, March Madness could prove to be even more exciting than in recent years.
The talent in this year’s NCAA Tournament might surpass any in the last decade. The upcoming NBA draft class has been hyped as the best since 2003, and most of those prospects will have a chance to improve their stock over the next couple of weeks.
Below are six players to watch in March Madness 2014.
After going to Duke with the highest of expectations, Parker has not disappointed. Averaging 19.2 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, the freshman appears to have solidified himself as a top three pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. While the 18-year-old has had a big regular season, it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of March Madness. Duke is a perennial power, and even though they have seven losses, will be among the favorites to win it all.
The Creighton star may not be touted as a one of the top few prospects in the upcoming draft, but no college basketball player has been as dominant on the offensive end this season. The son of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott leads the NCAA at 26.5 points per game on 52.2 percent field goal shooting. The senior will look to lead the No.14 Blue Jays deep into the tourney. Creighton has never made it past the Sweet Sixteen.
With Joel Embiid out indefinitely, the onus falls on Wiggins to lead Kansas to the Final Four. He began his collegiate career as one of the most highly touted NBA prospects in the past decade, and helped give the Jayhawks a 10th straight Big 12 title. While he’s been a top player in the NCAA, Wiggins hasn’t reached the extremely high expectations that some had for him. As Embiid sat out the regular season finale, Wiggins scored a career-high 41 points. The freshman could have a few more dominant performances left in him in March.
In Villanova’s first season in the new-look Big East, the Wildcats won the conference, going 28-3 overall. Hilliard has, arguably, been the team’s most important player. He ranks second on the club with 14.4 points and 2.8 assists per game. When Hilliard struggles, so does the team. In each of Villanova’s losses, the junior has failed to score more than 10 points.
The senior is the floor general for the best team in the country. Wilbekin has Florida ranked No.1 in the polls, averaging 12.9 points, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He was named the SEC Player of the Year for his efforts, and is as a major key to the Gators’ success. As the team’s leader, the Gators need him to have a big tournament.
Arizona could be headed for a No.1 seed in the field of 68, in large part due to Johnson’s play. The guard leads the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game. On nights that he can’t put the ball in the basket, the Wildcats have found it difficult to score. Johnson shot a combined 10-of-46 from the field in Arizona defeats. If he doesn’t come ready to play, the Wildcats could face an early-round upset.