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Players to Watch in 2016 NCAA Tournament

16 Mar

1. Matt Costello – Michigan State – Costello is a former Mr. Basketball in his home state in Michigan, and though he has been slow to develop at Michigan State, in his final year, Costello has become a force. He makes plays around the rim with and without the basketball. Costello is deceptively quick on the perimeter and has developed a few polished moves around the rim. He has a solid half hook that he uses in traffic, he rebounds well, and he attacks bigger players off the dribble. More so, he plays basketball intuitively. Costello gambles on offense and defense, but they are calculated risks and he succeeds most of the time. He gets timely steals, blocks shots, and gets the big rebounds and put backs. Valentine is the best player on Michigan State, but Costello may be the most important athlete on the floor in the NCAA tournament.


2. Denzel Valentine – Michigan State – Denzel Valentine is the second coming of Draymond Green for the Spartans. He is the catalyst behind their offense despite being a forward, and he does it all on the basketball court. Valentine is above 40% from behind the 3 pt. line, he averages over 7 assists and 7 rebounds per game, while scoring 19.4 points per game. He is the go-to playmaker for Michigan State whenever he is on the floor. He penetrates well with the basketball in isolation, but works well within the confines of the offense. He is deadly in the open court despite being an average athlete because he sees the floor extremely well. Valentine has a great feel for the game, and he seems to continuously give the Spartans exactly what they need precisely when they need it. He hits big shots, makes both the fundamental pass and the spectacular assist, and makes the right play for the team to be successful. Valentine is a viable candidate for the Naismith Player of the Year trophy.


3. Diamond Stone – Maryland – The cliché pun of finding a diamond in the rough is not lost on this kid. This true freshman was lured to the University of Maryland and he plays basketball like someone 5 years his elder. Stone is a classic big man. He can face up and drive past his defender, but he prefers to play with his back to the basket. He has polished footwork around the rim, specifically in one-on-one possessions, he has good hands, soft touch around the rim, rebounds well, and blocks shots.


4. Brice Johnson – UNC – Brice Johnson is long, athletic and incredibly efficient on the basketball court. He does not have a lot of flash in his game, however he scores well around the rim because of his long arms and explosive leaping ability. He has a nose for the basketball. He grabs rebounds in bunches and gets putbacks in traffic. Johnson can hit the 15 footer and is a steady contributor in the paint. He averages a double-double, scoring 16.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He also averages over 1 block and 1 steal per game which are stats which are telling of a basketball player’s athleticism.

5. Jaylen Brown – California – Brown is a freak athlete. His body and athleticism are exceptional for a college player. He is an elite athlete with great size and length at 6’7″ and 225 lbs with a 7 1/2 ft. wingspan. He gets separation with quick jab steps and a long stride. He powers through contact on drives, and he is strong in the air. With his size, strength, quickness, and leaping ability, Jaylen Brown is extremely difficult for opposing defenses to cover. The only facets of his game that needs improvement are shot selection and getting a more consistent jumpshot. He is excellent at finishing at the rim and in the open court.


6. Jameel Warney – Stony Brook - Warney is fresh off a 43 point performance in the American East Championship game to clinch his team’s first ever berth into the NCAA tournament. He is a 3-time AEC Player of Year who went 18 of 22 on field goals to erase a 15 point deficit in his last game. He has never averaged less than 12 points and 7 rebounds during his college career, and has averaged a double-double for the last 2 years, putting in averages of 16.4 points and 11.7 rebounds, and 19.8 points and 10.7 rebounds respectively. He also averaged 3.0 blocks and 1.0 steals this year. Warney had two crucial rebounds and layups in the final moments to steal the game. He is undersized for a post, however long arms and excellent strength and positioning help him to score and rebound in the paint.

basketball - tyler ulis03

7. Tyler Ulis – Kentucky – At 5’9″, Tyler Ulis is usually the smallest man on the court, but he is also generally the best basketball player in the game. It will be a travesty if is not drafted to a NBA team this summer. He controls most games with change of pace dribbling, deft passing, and clutch scoring, in that order. Ulis creates shots for his teammates with penetration into the lane, and he sets up defenders for quick pull-up jumpers and floaters with stellar footwork on the perimeter. He makes the right play and hits big shots. If he was six inches taller, Tyler Ulis would be a lottery pick.


8. Jamal Murray – Kentucky - It is yet another basketball season in Kentucky, and there is yet another freshman phenomena who will leave after only one year in Lexington. Jamal Murray is listed as a point guard, but his gift is definitely scoring the basketball. He can create off the dribble, and he already has good footwork on pull-up jumpers with a soft touch. Murray scores well on contested shots, and he distributes the basketball well when he is inclined to pass first. More importantly to him and Kentucky though, he scores the basketball in bunches.


9. A.J. Hammons – Purdue – Hammons is a legitimate seven footer who is big, very athletic, and long. Officially, he stands 7’0″ and weighs 278 lbs. with a 7’3″ wingspan. If he had another summer of practice specifically focusing on offensive post moves and counters, Hammons would probably be the number one player drafted overall. His drop-step and spin move are more polished this year than they were last year. He looks extremely comfortable shooting a right hook over his left shoulder and has shown the ability to hit the occasional 12 footer. Hammons is showing considerably more touch this season which means that he has been working on his game on his own. He plays both sides of the basketball well. In fact, he is the reigning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. When he is in position, he rebounds and blocks shots extremely effectively. He can dominate when he is engaged, but gets lost on the floor when he is not. Assertiveness is key for A.J. Hammons.

basketball - buddy hield - college04

10. Buddy Hield – Oklahoma – The reigning Big 12 Player of the Year is the only athlete that may beat Denzel Valentine to the Naismith Award. He is a deadly scorer who can fill it up from anywhere on the court. He is scoring 25.0 points per game on 49.6 field goal percentage and shooting 46.4% from three point range. At 6’4″, fairly undersized for a college shooting guard today, Hield grabs 5.6 rebounds, gets 1.2 steals, and 2.1 assists per game. His 6’8″ wingspan and 218 lb. frame makes him a terror on defense, and his compact, but fluid stroke make him difficult to defend on offense. He can get to the rim in traffic off his initial dribble, he uses the euro-step well in the open court, and is unselfish despite having a hefty scoring average.


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