NCAA Tournament: An Elite-ish Eight Take On Things As The Dance Approaches

 
on March 19 2013 3:48 AM

With apologies to the two or three Mid-Week Madness followers out there, we’re going to deviate from the norm the next couple of weeks until all this Big Dance stuff sorts out itself.

That being noted, we present a few things to watch as the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament unfolds, starting tonight and tomorrow night in Dayton, Ohio, with doubleheader play-in games – otherwise known as the first round.

Before touching that dial, or grabbing that remote with the jaws of life, here are some things and names to keep in mind, to ponder or just argue about. With a literary tip of the cap for what’s on tap, consider it an Elite-ish Eight approach to topics.

MUST-SEE PLAYERS

Peyton Siva, Louisville, senior G. Considering the Cardinals are the overall top seed, you’d expect plenty of chances to get a gander at this whirling dervish of quick feet and even quicker hands. The two-time Big East tourney MVP is worth several moments of your time and just might provide a memorable one.

Marshall Henderson, Mississippi, junior G. The leading scorer in the SEC this season, he takes the entertainment level of his game to another level with more facial contortions and animated hijinx than a Jim Carrey flick. He carried the Rebels to an unlikely conference tournament title.

Khalif Wyatt, Temple, senior G. The top player in the Atlantic 10, he brings an old-school game, if not an old-man game, to the table. He is the ultimate gun-slinger at crunch time, because, frankly, the Owls need him to be. Hurry up and watch, though, because Temple may not be long for the tourney.

Victor Oladipo, Indiana, junior G. He is the most electrifying athlete in the field, possessing the ability to completely affect or alter a game without even scoring. Like Siva with Louisville, you should have some chances to see him and the Hoosiers perform.

C.J. Fair, Syracuse, junior F. That statement dunk over Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. gave a glimpse of his talent and physicality, but the dude has game, period. He leads the Orange in scoring and rebounding, and for those who like a twist, he shoots it lefty.

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, junior C. Somehow, the Ted Nugent lookalike and national player of the year candidate not only has managed to elevate his game during the course of the season, but he seems to have gotten bigger, stronger and more athletic in the process.

Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State, freshman C. He stands 7-5 and weighs 355. Enough said … only he can play a little, too – averaged 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 24.3 minutes per game.

HIDDEN GEMS

Christian Watford, Indiana, senior F. With Oladipo and Cody Zeller stealing all the headlines, it’s kinda easy to understand how a solid player could get lost in the shuffle. Only this guy is more than solid. He’s registered 1,699 points and 757 rebounds in his IU career. That’s almost jersey-retiring stuff.

Ian Clark, Belmont, senior G. If the Bruins are going to scare the bejeebers out of Arizona as many think, this is the triggerman for that to happen. Clark, who has 1,899 points in his college career, averages 18.1 per game, shoots it 54.0 percent from the field and 84.0 from the line.

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State, junior G. Standing 6-5, he’s an elite dunker and, at the college level, an elite rebounder. He averages 9.5 boards per game. Being a well-rounded player, he also posts 16.7 points, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals an outing as well.

Murphy Holloway, Mississippi, senior F. Even standing 6-7 and weighing 240, a guy can get lost in the immense shadow Henderson casts. But he averages 14.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and has eclipsed 1,400 in the former for his career and 1,000 in the latter.

Richard Howell, N.C. State, senior F. He pretty much faces the same plight as Holloway, with C.J. Leslie set in the Pack’s starring role. He averages 12.7 points and 10.7 boards per game, with career totals topping 1,200 and 1,000 in those respective categories.

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, junior C. With all the attention given to Siva, backcourt mate Russ Smith and even sixth man Luke Hancock, the big fella missed out on some love. He shouldn’t, not with averaging 10 points, 9.9 boards, 2.5 blocks and 2.1 assists per game.

Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson, Kansas, senior Gs. Teammates Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey receive national pub all the time, but these two are the “glue.” Both, ironically, could make a run at 1,000 points if KU makes it all the way to Atlanta, with each 84 or less away.

ALL-TRANSFER TOURNEY TEAM

Ramon Galloway, La Salle, senior G. A double-digit scorer at South Carolina, he headed home prior to last season and really blossomed. An athletic freak, he has an awkward-looking jump shot – but he posts good numbers: 17 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 2.0 spg. Teammate Tyrone Garland, who came back to Philly from Virginia Tech, hasn’t been too shabby, either, averaging 12.9 ppg.

Rotnei Clarke, Butler, senior G. A 1,300-point scorer at Arkansas in three years, he made his move to Indianapolis worthwhile, posting his best season while directing the Bulldogs back to the NCAAs. He is an excellent ballhander and playmaker when need be as well.

Colton Iverson, Colorado State, senior C. Not a big factor at Minnesota during his three years there, the 6-10, 260-pounder has been a force for the Rams, averaging 14.7 points and 9.8 boards this season. His scoring total thus far in 2012-13 (484) almost matches what he did as a Gopher (517).

Will Clyburn, Iowa State, senior G. It’s not so much that he didn’t succeed in his one season at Utah (17.1 ppg), it’s that he stepped up in competition and now finds himself as the top threat (15.0 pgg, 7.1 rpg) for a Big 12 entrant in the NCAAs.

Seth Curry, Duke, senior G. Kid was a scoring machine at Liberty, putting up 707 points as a freshman. Though that’s been toned down a bit during his three years with the Blue Devils, but he remains a dangerous option, averaging 17 ppg on 46.3 percent FG shooting.

Travis Wear, UCLA, junior F. Things didn’t quite pan out for him (or his twin brother) as a freshman at North Carolina, but he’s become a solid player for the Bruins the past two years, averaging 11.2 points and 5.2 boards this season. He can really run the floor at 6-10, too.

Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon, senior F. The Iranian had a very productive three seasons at Rice before showing up at Eugene, Ore., where he, essentially, has been a double-double machine (9.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg) while showing off some athletic skills.

Jake O’Brien, Temple, senior F. He left Boston University after three seasons with the sole goal of making in the NCAAs. Thanks to him averaging 13.1 points, 5.9 boards and 1.1 blocks in 23 minutes per outing as the Owls went 9-1 down the regular-season stretch, he and they got there.

Note: Henderson could captain this team, thanks to his initial stint at Utah way back in 2009-10. But he’ll get enough attention as is.

MOST ATHLETIC TEAMS

Indiana, Oklahoma State, Miami, Virginia Commonwealth, Kansas, Gonzaga, Memphis and Louisville – the Hoosiers are so deep in this regard, it’s embarrassing. Apparently, coach Tom Crean has no problem creating a new image for a program largely known for overachieving, undersized, jump-shooting players throughout its history.

MOST PHYSICAL TEAMS

Saint Louis, Pittsburgh, Michigan State, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Butler, Louisville and Virginia Commonwealth – take note that the final two appear on the list above as well. Their defenses, as well as the one applied by Saint Louis, are oppressive, suck-the-life-out-of-you ordeals. It would be a tactician’s dream to see them meet up in the Sweet Sixteen as the Midwest regional hits Indianapolis.

EARLY UPSETS TO CONSIDER

Midwest: 9-Missouri over 8-Colorado State, 10-Cincinnati over 7-Creighton.

West: 9-Wichita State over 8-Pittsburgh, 12-Mississippi over 5-Wisconsin, 10-Iowa State over 7-Notre Dame.

South: 11-Minnesota over 6-UCLA.

East: 14-Davidson over 3-Marquette, 10-Colorado over 7-Illinois.

EARLY UPSET TO FORGET

Midwest: 11-Middle Tennessee State/Saint Mary’s over 6-Memphis, 14-Valparaiso over 3-Michigan State.

West: 13-Boise State/La Salle over 4-Kansas State, 15-Iona over 2-Ohio State.

South: 13-South Dakota State over 4-Michigan, 16-Western Kentucky over 1-Kansas.

East: 11-Bucknell over 6-Butler, 16-LIU-Brooklyn/James Madison over 1-Indiana.

FIRSTS

… No. 1 to go down: Gonzaga, third round.

… power conference to run out of representation: Big East, Sweet 16.

… “name” to foul out: Oladipo, third round.

… player to go off for 30: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State, second round.

… player to go off for 30 and his team win: Henderson, third round.

… team to get screwed by officials when playing Duke: Albany, second round.

… coach to get ejected: Jay Wright, Villanova, second round.

… sign of trouble: bracket sheet torn or burned, first round.

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