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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2016 TaxSlayer Bowl

The triple option attack of Georgia Tech will take on SEC opponent Kentucky in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Yellow Jackets had a tremendous bounce back season going 8-4. Their losses were all to bowl eligible ACC teams. They had solid wins over Boston College, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and rival Georgia.

TaxSlayer Bowl

Justin Thomas (Photo courtesy: yellowjackedup.com)

Quarterback Justin Thomas has been manning the option attack for what seems like forever now. He does have 1,454 passing yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Thomas also rushed for 562 yards and five rushing touchdowns. He is the best operator of the triple option in college football.

Clinton Lynch is likely the target when Thomas throws the ball. He has 490 receiving yards at 30.6 yards per catch, making him great at big plays. Lynch also has six of Thomas’ eight touchdown passes.

Marcus Marshall and and Dedrick Mills are the ones who get the most carries out of the triple option attack. Marshall has 624 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Mills finished the regular season with 602 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.

Georgia Tech has an average rush defense that allows 174 yards per game on the ground. The pass defense is also average, giving up 234 yards per game.

The strength of the defense is the interior of the defensive line, with both Francis Kallon and Patrick Gamble having good years.

Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats’ season looked like it was going to be bleak, but Mark Stoops did a tremendous coaching job to get the team to 7-5. They didn’t have any bad losses, as their only defeats came at the hands of bowl teams. They have good wins over South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and rival Louisville.

TaxSlayer Bowl

Stanley “Boom” Williams

Stephen Johnson took over the quarterback position for an injured Drew Barker. He wasn’t the most efficient, but the team started to play up to its potential when he took over. He threw for 1,862 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions. Johnson added 278 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Jeff Badet and Garrett “Juice” Johnson have been the best receivers for Kentucky. Badet leads in yardage with 639 yards, while Johnson leads in touchdowns with five. Both have a knack for making big plays, but Badet is a little better at 22 yards per reception.

Running the ball is what Kentucky does best. Behind a good offensive line, the Wildcats have two running backs who have reached 1,000 yards. Stanley “Boom” Williams has 1,135 rushing yards and seven touchdowns as the home run-hitting back. Benny Snell is the power back who has rushed for 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The defense for Kentucky was called one of the worst in the history of college football by ESPN’s Lee Corso. The Wildcats rebounded nicely and has an above average pass defense at 215 yards allowed per game. The run defense is bad at 225 yards given up per game, but they are by no means the worst defense in history.

Linebacker Jordan Jones has really improved this year and has 70 solo tackles.

Prediction

Kentucky’s offensive line will win the game. They are going to control the line of scrimmage, the ball and the clock, which is rare versus a triple option team.

 

Kentucky Wildcats 35 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 31

 

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