Connecticut Post (Sunday)
MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT: 5 Players to Watch
Men’s college basketball is filled with proficient players, many with NBA talent.
Who will step up and take over during the NCAA Tournament? With a wide open field competing to a national title, there could be any number of players ready to lead their team to a championship.
Let’s look at five players to watch during March Madness:
ZACH EDEY, PURDUE
The top man in the Big Ten, Edey blazed through the conference and is one of the most dominant players in the country.
With a 7-foot-4, 295 pound frame, he can terrorize the lane. Edey uses his length to catch lobs, dunk and even score a few floaters. The Big 10 Player of the Year averages 21.9 points and demoralizes opposing players on both ends of the floor. Defensively, his timing is flawless, logging 2.1 blocks per game. When he’s not swatting at shots, he’s securing 12.8 rebound per game, ranking third in the NCAA.
JALEN WILSON, KANSAS
Wilson declared for the NBA Draft last year but maintained his eligibility so he could receive feedback on how to improve his game by top staff in the NBA. Returning to Lawrence after that experience made Wilson an entirely a different player.
He has become one of the best scorers in college basketball and always leaves the defense guessing with his ability to score in every area on the court. Wilson can knock down 3s and uses a variety of moves to beat defenders off the dribble. If guarded too closely, the Big 12 Player of the Year simply blows by defenders to pull-up from the midrange or takes it all the way for a layup. The 6-8 Wilson is the whole package and leads the Big 12 in scoring (19.7) and rebounds (8.4).
BRANDON MILLER, ALABAMA
Easily the most dynamic player in the SEC, Miller is a scoring machine for Alabama. When you watch the 6-9 Miller compete, you would never guess he’s a true freshman because he has the basketball IQ of a senior. Miller understands timing. Instead of jumping for rebounds, coming down, then elevating once again for a put-back, Miller will time his bounce to catch the ball at it’s highest point and slam it down for a dunk all in one action.
He’s also useful beyond the arc where he shoots an incredible 40 percent clip from deep. It’s no wonder he led the SEC in scoring with 19.6 points per game. The SEC Player of the Year will be under a microscope after his name was connected to a capital murder case involving former teammate Darius Miles.
JAIME JAQUEZ JR., UCLA
Jaquez Jr. holds a powerful presence in college basketball. He’s an undeniable force when driving to the rim and the way he leaps to aggressively slam down dunks resembles Lebron James in his level of assertiveness.
At 6-7, Jaquez Jr. has been the spark for UCLA this season and has carried the Bruins through a few close calls. Jaquez Jr. put an exclamation point on the end of his regular season by scoring 20 points or more in six of UCLA’s last seven games. The outlier? A measly 17-point game. Yeah, he’s pretty consistent, averaging 17.5 points per game.
TRAYCE JACKSON-DAVIS, INDIANA
Edey might have led the Big Ten, but Trayce Jackson-Davis was right on Edey’s heels.
The senior forward emerged with authority and became a consistent contributor for the Hoosiers down the stretch. Jackson-Davis displayed his influence when he swatted an astounding five blocks during Indiana’s first victory over Purdue.
He ranks second in the conference in both points per game (20.5) and rebounds per game (11). He also leads the Big Ten in blocks — yes, he’s ahead of Edey — with 2.8 blocks per game.