Players That Can Lead Their Team to an Upset Victory in the 2017 NCAA Tournament

The best part of the NCAA Tournament year in and year out are the upsets. The unheralded team knocks off the national powerhouse and goes down in history. Every team that pulls off the upset has a player that leads them to victory. C.J. McCollum scored 30 points on Duke in Lehigh’s upset. Sherwood Brown dropped a total of 41 points in Florida Gulf Coast’s run to the Sweet 16.

Not all upsets have to be extreme as a 15 seed beating a two seed, like the ones previously mentioned, but every upset needs a star. Here are some players that can be that catalyst for their team:

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier Musketeers

The Xavier Musketeers are a popular pick to beat Maryland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers will be without point guard Edmond Sumner, who is out for the season with a torn ACL. If they do pull off the upset it will be in no doubt because of Bluiett.

Bluiett is averaging 18.1 points per game and shooting 44% from the floor. He has the ability to get hot in an instant and can go from no points to 20 within minutes as a classic shooter, who hardly ever drives to the basket. Bluiett has been in the NCAA Tournament before, but has yet to score more than 10 points in a game in five career tournament games.

His crowning moment this year was his performance against cross-town rival Cincinnati. He scored 40 points on 12 of 15 shooting. He made nine of 11 three pointers in that game, in an unbelievable shooting night. Xavier ended up losing the game, but had he gotten more shots up, things could’ve been different.

With not having scored a lot in the NCAA Tournament, Bluiett is going to have all the motivation he needs to have a good game and lead his team to victory.

Chris Flemmings, UNC Wilmington

Flemmings has one of the best backstories in college basketball. He had to email UNC Wilmington to get a chance to play for them after playing at nearby Barton College, a division II school. Last season he came close to helping the Seahawks pull off an upset over Duke with 18 points.

Chris Flemmings

Photo courtesy: foxsports.com

UNC Wilmington has made it back to the dance and Flemmings has had another good season. He has averaged 15.8 points per game on 47% shooting. He hasn’t been as good at defense, as last year, but that is because he is tasked with guarding bigger players all the time. The Seahawks lack height and Flemmings usually has to pick up the slack by guarding power forwards.

The first round match-up for UNC Wilmington will be tough as they play an elite defensive team in Virginia. Flemmings will need to score a lot (which may not be as much as usual against such a good defensive team), and guard players bigger than him well.

JaCorey Williams, Middle Tennessee

After starting his career at Arkansas, Williams has played his last year of eligibility at Middle Tennessee. He didn’t do much with The Razorbacks, playing behind Bobby Portis and only averaging 4.8 points per game his junior season.

Williams sat out last season because of the NCAA transfer rules, but has been lighting up the scoreboard for the Blue Raiders this season. He is averaging 17.3 points per game and has given them another big presence in the paint, averaging 7.3 rebounds. He is shooting 54 percent on the season, which is about the percentage that will be needed for Middle Tennessee to advance.

The Blue Raiders will need him to be at his best, as they are playing a Minnesota team that has a lot of size. He may not need to score every basket, but does need to find the open man, if the Golden Gophers choose to double him in the post.

Keon Johnson, Winthrop

Johnson is one of the shortest players in college basketball at 5 feet 7 inches tall, but can score with the best of them. He is by far the most important player for the Eagles.

Keon Johnson

Photo courtesy: whri.com

His average of 22.5 points per game is good enough for 10th in the country. He steps up in big games, scoring 38 at Illinois and 24 at Dayton. Johnson is shooting 40% from behind the arc, but also does his part getting to the basket to amass his points.

Butler is an above average defensive team, but Johnson should be able to get his shots up. If he converts, Winthrop can take Butler to the wire.

Marcus Marshall, Nevada

Nevada has been a trendy pick to pick Iowa State and Marshall is the reason why. Marshall played his first three seasons at Missouri State before transferring to Nevada.

Marshall averages 19.8 points per game and hits 3.3 three point field goals per game. He scored 32 points at Washington, against future top draft pick Markelle Fultz. He can score against premier talent and will have to do so against Iowa State.

He will be matched up against Monte Morris, one of the best point guards in the country. If he can match him shot for shot, Nevada has a chance to win.

 

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Cinderella Teams who can Win in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Part Two

As the college basketball season goes on, we are finding out more and more about teams that could end up being stories in the NCAA Tournament. Cinderella teams are teams that are commonly unexplored before March, but in order to be ahead of the curve, they most be studied now.

Cinderella Teams- Part One

Monmouth Hawks

A lot of people know about the Hawks from last year’s team. The bench had crazy celebrations and the team pulled off some good upsets. Unfortunately, they fell short of the NCAA Tournament and settled for the NIT. The Hawks are back this season and if they can make the tournament, can win.

They may not have the quality wins that they had last season, but the Hawks are 16-2 in conference and have a big win on the road against Memphis. The Tigers aren’t a great team, but it is a solid win for a MAAC team nonetheless. The Hawks are ranked 46 in RPI.

Monmouth is led by one of the best guards in the country Justin Robinson. Robinson averages 19.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. He is one of the most effective players in transition, which has fueled an offense that averages 81.1 points per game. With lanky guard Micah Seaborn and sharpshooter Je’lon Hornbeak, the Hawks have a lot of scoring punch from their guards.

Inside scoring is a bit of a problem for Monmouth, but with the guards firing on all cylinders, that isn’t too much to worry about. They are a great rebounding team, averaging 39.5 rebounds per game, which should help them do battle with good teams in the NCAA tournament.

Defense is the main issue with the Hawks, as they give up 73.5 points per game, meaning they will have to outscore their opponent(s) in March, rather than shut them down.

Illinois State Redbirds

Most of the time when people hear the conference Missouri Valley, they think of Wichita State, but Illinois State is having a great season.

Cinderella Teams

Deontae Hawkins (Photo courtesy: dudesonsports.com)

The Redbirds are 23-5 with an RPI of 33. At 15-1 in conference, they are on pace to share the MVC regular season title with the Shockers. Illinois State and Wichita State have split their two meetings, each winning at home. Right now the Redbirds are on the bubble, so they need to make the tournament first, but could be dangerous if they get in.

Illinois State has three players averaging over 10 points per game. Forwards Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh both have inside-out games. Guard Paris Lee scores and sets up his teammates well with 5.2 assists per game. He also shoots well, hitting 42% of his three point field goals.

Those players will need to have big games in the NCAA Tournament scoring wise. If those players are able to score for the Redbirds, the defense will be able to hold up. Illinois State boasts the 10th best defense in terms of points allowed per game in the country at 61.9.

UT Arlington Mavericks

UT Arlington is a team that has already had an impressive season and looks to continue that into March.

Cinderella Teams

Kevin Hervey (Photo courtesy: NCAA.com)

The Mavericks have a great win over St. Mary’s, which improves their resume tremendously. The win was on the road, making it even more impressive. They have a record of 21-6 with an RPI of 34. Their conference record is 11-3 and they are in the driver’s seat to win the Sun Belt.

Kevin Hervey is the Maverick’s leading scorer and is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court. He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Two guards, Jalen Jones and Erick Neal, also help provide a scoring punch.

While the Mavericks don’t have anything they do extremely well, they are pretty good at offense, defense and rebounding. Their biggest competitive advantage is Hervey and he is going to have to be a star in order for UT Arlington to advance in the NCAA Tournament.

 

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Cinderella Teams who can Win in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Part One

Every year there are teams that not many people know of who end up busting NCAA Tournament Brackets. Last year, a 15th seeded Middle Tennessee beat a 2nd seeded Michigan State team. The other unheralded teams who won in last season’s NCAA tournament were: Yale, Stephen F. Austin and Hawaii.

There was in no doubt more upsets than that, but those teams were the ones from smaller conferences, who were able to really surprise people. This season there will, in no doubt, be more upsets from teams that people haven’t heard much about. If you wan’t a head-start on preparing for your bracket pool, start following these teams:

UNC Wilmington Seahawks

The Seahawks made an impressive showing in last season’s NCAA Tournament when, as a 13th seed, they stuck with 4th seeded Duke for the majority of their first round match-up. The good news for UNC Wilmington is that they returned a lot of the key players from that game.

Cinderella Teams

Chris Flemmings (Photo courtesy: uncwsports.com)

This season, the Seahawks are a quiet 19-2 so far. While they haven’t played the toughest schedule they are 19th in RPI. Their two losses both came to respectable teams, Clemson and  Middle Tennessee. UNC Wilmington’s main strength is their ability to score. They are 11th in the country in points per game, averaging 86.3 points per game.

Chris Flemmings is the star for the Seahawks and averages 15.9 points per game. His size, at 6’5″ tall, and ball handling skills, make it easy for him to create his own shot. C.J. Bryce does a little bit of everything for UNCW at guard with 17.1 points per game, 5.6 rebounds per game and 3.1 assists per game. Bryce struggles shooting from deep, but he and Flemmings team up well together. In last season’s game against Duke, the two combined for 34 points.

The two downfalls of the Seahawks will be their lack of size and defense. Their tallest starter is 6’7″ tall. If they get matched-up with a team that has good inside play, they will have a lot to overcome. With their lack of size, they will likely have trouble defending bigger players. For the Seahawks, they need to hope to outscore their opponent as they have all season long.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

The Blue Raiders were able to pull of one of the most memorable upsets in recent NCAA Tournament history when they defeated Michigan State. Like UNCW, Middle Tennessee also returns a lot of players from last season’s team.

Cinderella teams

JaCorey Williams (Photo courtesy: beinsports.com)

Middle Tennessee has a record of 17-3 and ranks 31st in RPI. They have a lot of solid wins on the season, including: Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, UNCW and Belmont. Their defense is the reason that they are so good. They allow just 64.4 points per game, which is 32nd best in the country. The defense holds up against good competition, as they held Vanderbilt (48), Ole Miss (62), UNCW (63) and Belmont (66), to a limited amount of points.

Three players do the vast majority of the scoring for the Blue Raiders. JaCorey Williams, the transfer from Arkansas, averages 17.8 points per game that mostly come on the interior. Also scoring on the inside is Reggie Upshaw, who averages 14.9 points per game. Giddy Potts, the only guard of the trio, averages 15.2 points per game. With these three players producing, they only need minimal help from their teammates.

The defense is so good because they have the necessary size to defend, something not all mid-major teams have. With Williams and Upshaw both standing at 6’8″ tall, they can match-up with most teams in the country. In order for teams to beat the Blue Raiders they will need to shut down one or two of the big three players in their scoring trio.

Valparaiso Crusaders

The Crusaders weren’t in the tournament last season and have a new head coach, making their good play this season unique. Matt Lottich has Valparaiso as a team to beat in the Horizon League this season.

Cinderella Teams

Alec Peters (Photo courtesy: USA Today)

Valparaiso is 16-4 on the season and ranked 48th in RPI. This might not be the greatest of the teams on this list, but they do have impressive wins. They have beaten Alabama, BYU and Rhode Island. Two of their four losses came to great teams in Oregon and Kentucky. The Crusaders are decent at scoring and defense, but what really sets them over the edge is their rebounding. They average 40 rebound a game, which is 23rd best in the country.

There are two major players to watch out for on the Crusaders. Alec Peters is a 6’9″ post player that averages 24.2 points per game and 10.9 rebounds. He can also stretch the floor a little bit, shooting 33% from behind the arc. Shane Hammick is a big guard, at 6’7″ tall, from the Netherlands. He averages 15.3 points per game on 50% shooting. With these two players rolling Valpo is hard for any team to stop.

To beat Valparaiso come tournament time, teams will need to have good athleticism and speed to push the ball up the court and score, as the Crusaders won’t be able to keep up.

 

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6 Players Who Can Help Their Team Pull Off an Upset in the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA tournament brackets are out and it is time for everyone to start filling out their brackets and entering them in bracket challenges. Before doing so it would be helpful to know about some of the players from the double-digit seeds who can help their teams pull off upsets. Every year when an upset happens there is usually one player that helps their team get over the hump. Davidson had a solid team when they made it to the elite eight in 2008, but Steph Curry was the one who made their tournament run possible. This year there will be upsets and these are players who could help their teams pull them off.

Fred Van Vleet can lead the Shockers to a tournament win for the fourth straight year. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

  1. Fred Van Vleet, G, Wichita State

Van Vleet seems like he has been at Wichita State for a decade, but it is finally his senior year. He was a reserve on the 2013 Final Four team for the Shockers and played well during the tournament. His Sophomore year he led Wichita State to and undefeated regular season, but they lost in the second round to Kentucky. Last season he helped the Shockers get to the sweet 16. Now they play in the First Four in Dayton, but can still make a tournament run with good tournaments by Van Vleet and senior back-court teammate Ron Baker. The Shockers play Vanderbilt and should be able to win because they have better guard play. If they advance they match up with Arizona, who has struggled to find good guard play all season, making it a great match up for the Shockers. Van Vleet has averaged 12 points and 5.7 assists per game, but usually elevates his level of play in the NCAA tournament.

Kyle Wiltjer is one of the few in the tournament who has already won a championship. Photo courtesy gonzagabulletin.com.

2. Kyle Wiltjer, F, Gonzaga

Kyle Wiltjer is the epitome of a stretch-four player. He has gotten better over his college career at defense at rebounding, but he is in the game to shoot. Unlike many other players in the tournament, Wiltjer has a NCAA Championship already that he won as a back up in 2012 with the Kentucky Wildcats. Since transferring to Gonzaga he has blossomed into a star. He is averaging 20.7 points on the season and 6.5 rebounds. If he gets hot he can score 30 points with ease and Gonzaga can beat Seton Hall in their first round game.

Chris Flemmings transferred to UNCW from division II and is now in the big dance. Poto courtesy wwaytv3.com.

3. Chris Flemmings, G, UNC-Wilmington

Flemmings has been through a lot, but has gotten to the best tournament in sports. He started off playing in divison II for Barton College, then walked on to UNCW and sat out a year. Now Flemmings leads the team in scoring at 16.1 points per game. He also is a good rebounding guard, pulling down 5.9 rebounds per game. At 6’5″, he has the size to match up with any guards from major conferences. The Seahawks have a good offense, but will need to step up their defense in the tournament. They play Duke in the first round who is a very similar team in that they are good offensively, but not efficient defensively. Flemmings’ scoring and rebounding can help get the job done against their in-state opponent.

Jameel Warney has led Stony Brook to their first NCAA tournament. Photo courtesy newsday.com.

4. Jameel Warney, F, Stony Brook

Warney is a senior forward who helped Stony Brook reach their first ever NCAA Tournament. In the American East Championship Game, Warney finished with 43 points, ten rebounds and four blocks. At 6’8″ tall he has averaged a double-double this season with 19.8 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game. He will have to have another great game in the Seawolves’ first game against a very good Kentucky team. Kentucky’s big men haven’t played well this season so Warney has the ability to carry his team to victory.

Wes Washun was the sixth man last year, but now he is the star. Photo courtesy demoinesregister.com.

5. Wes Washpun, G, Northern Iowa

Washpun started off his college career going to Tennessee, but then transferred to Northern Iowa. He came off of the bench last season on the Panther’s tournament team to give them a good sixth man. Washpun is now starting at point guard for Northern Iowa and doing a little bit of everything for them. He averages 14.3 points, 4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Washpun has a tendency to do well in big games for the Panthers as he had 21 points and 8 assists in their upset win over North Carolina. They will need Washpun to play another excellent game in the first round because they play Texas, who pressures the ball really well.

A.J. English is a serious NBA draft prospect. Photo courtesy icgaels.com.

6. A.J. English, G, Iona

Iona has a player that will be drafted in the NBA this June and his name is A.J. English. English is a senior who played in the NCAA tournament as a freshman. He now averages 22.4 points. 5 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. He is very dangerous because he can score in a variety of ways and he sets up his teammates well when the defense focuses too much attention on him. He will need to get to the basket and draw fouls against Iowa State in their first round game because Iowa State is not a very deep team. If he can do that then Iona will advance.

Cinderella Teams to Watch for in March Madness

March Madness is only about two short months away from starting, which means it is time to start thinking about your bracket. It is never too early to start scouting which teams you will pick to go far in the NCAA tournament in order to win your bracket pool. Here are a few good teams that could make a run in March.

  1. Monmouth Hawks- Monmouth’s bench, ironically, gets most of the attention, because of their celebrations and antics, but the Hawks have had a pretty impressive season so far. They have beaten UCLA, USC, Notre Dame, and Georgetown, which got them through their non-conference season impressively. To go along with their great non-conference play they have only lost one conference game this season, which came against Canisius. The Hawks have one of the most underrated guards in Justin Robinson, who averages 20.9 points per game. Monmouth also boasts a three point percentage of 38.7%, which is something they are going to need to beat teams who are more talented on the inside. There is only one reason that Monmouth might not be a Cinderella, and that’s if they keep on winning and get a good seed, meaning they won’t surprise anyone in March.

    Monmouth’s bench has brought life to their team and makes them a fun team to watch for in March.

  2. UAB Blazers- The Blazers have only lost three games this season and all of their losses were to teams from big conferences and were also away from home. They don’t have any big wins this season, but did beat Stephen F. Austin, a team that is looking to make their third straight NCAA tournament appearance. UAB also returns a lot of key players from their team last season that won a game in the NCAA tournament. Robert Brown and Chris Cokley lead the Blazers in scoring and will use their tournament experience from last year to their advantage. The Blazers are a great passing team, averaging 19.2 assists per game, which is the fifth best in the country. If UAB gets to the big dance, they will use their offensive balance and their great passing ability to make a run.

    Robert Brown helped the Blazers get a win in last season’s NCAA tournament and can use that experience this year.

  3. Belmont Bruins- Belmont seems to be on this list every year, but this might be the year they are able to break through. The Bruins opened their season by getting a big win at Marquette, who is much improved this season. While beating the Golden Eagles is the only major win for Belmont, the Bruins have challenged themselves with a tough non-conference schedule that should help prepare them for March.  The Bruins are twenty-fifth in the country in points and assists per game. Their leading scorers are Evan Bradds and Craig Bradshaw, who both average more than 16 points per game. Belmont can win in the NCAA tournament because of their two leading scorers being able to answer runs by their opponents.

    Belmont’s coach, Rick Byrd, has led the Bruins to seven NCAA tournaments, but is still seeking his first tournament win.

  4. Chattanooga Mocs- Chattanooga is probably going to be one of the last teams anyone would suspect to be a Cinderella. They will probably be in the 12-16 range depending on how they finish their conference season. As of now Chattanooga has only three losses and a list of impressive wins over Georgia, Illinois and Dayton. They have four players averaging over ten points, which will make them hard to guard. Their leading scorer, Casey Jones, has been out with an ankle injury since December 11. The Mocs then went on to beat Dayton on the road without Jones in the lineup. With the depth to beat Dayton and an experienced team the Mocs will be a tough out in the NCAA tournament.

    Casey Jones has been injured since December 11, but the Mocs continue to win, making them a real threat when he comes back.

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