The NCAA Tournament is nearing, and with it, a chance for many unknown players to get the spotlight. What players do fans need to know heading into the 2019 NCAA Tournament? Here they are.
1. Duke Blue Devils- Zion Williamson, F
This one goes without saying. Zion is a youtube sensation who has taken college basketball by storm. He currently has an offensive rating of 134.9 this season.
16. NC Central Eagles- Raasean Davis, C
Davis is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Eagles averaging 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds respectively.
16. North Dakota State Bison- Jared Samuelson, G
While Vinnie Shahid and Tyson Ward are the leading scorers, Samuelson will need to hit some big shots for North Dakota State to win. He is shooting 46.4% from three-point range this season.
8. VCU Rams- Marcus Evans, G
Evans is the leading scorer at 13.8 points per game, but got banged up in the A-10 Tournament. He is expected to give it a go vs. UCF and needs to play well for VCU to advance.
9. UCF Golden Knights- B.J. Taylor, G
Tacko Fall may get the headlines because of his height, but B.J. Taylor is one of the best scorers in the history of the school. He is averaging 16 points per game.
5. Mississippi State Bulldogs- Quinndary Weatherspoon, G
Lamar Peters is another worthy candidate, but Weatherspoon is averaging 18.2 points per game. He’ll team up with his brother Nick to try and get the Bulldogs a victory.
12. Liberty Flames- Scottie James, F
While he gained fame for flopping in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Final, James leads the team in scoring and rebounding.
4. Virginia Tech Hokies- Justin Robinson, G
He has been injured, but Robinson is expected to play for the NCAA Tournament. The senior leader leads the team in three-point percentage at 41%.
13. Saint Louis Billikens- Javon Bess, G
Bess is the leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, who will need to get to the basket often if the Billikens have a shot to win.
6. Maryland Terrapins- Bruno Fernando, F
Not only is Fernando averaging a double-double in points and rebounds, but he is also a valued NBA Draft prospect.
11. Belmont Bruins- Dylan Windler, G
Windler averages 21.4 points per game and could be selected in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. Look for him to hit some big shots from deep.
11. Temple Owls- Shizz Alston Jr., G
He is the leading scorer (19.7 points per game) and assister (5.0 assists per game) for the Owls along with having one of the best names in the tournament.
3. LSU Tigers- Tremont Waters, G
Waters leads the team with 15.1 points and 5.9 assists per game on the season. He’ll have to be a coach on the floor for the Tigers with them being without their head coach Will Wade.
14. Yale Bulldogs- Jordan Bruner, F
Bruner averages double-digit points, while leading the team in blocks and assists. He’ll be in charge of shutting down LSU big man Naz Reid.
7. Louisville Cardinals- Jordan Nwora, F
Nwora leads the team in scoring and rebounding and will be the key to a tournament run if he can play well.
10. Minnesota Golden Gophers- Jordan Murphy, F
The senior averages a double-double in points and rebounds and will have to lead the team to victory. He could be a matchup problem in the first game against Louisville.
2. Michigan State Spartans- Cassius Winston, G
Winston can shoot the three and pass with the best players in the country. He’ll have to limit turnovers if he wants Michigan State to reach a Final Four.
15. Bradley Braves- Darrell Brown, G
Brown leads the team in points, assists and three-point percentage. He needs to force turnovers too if he wants Bradley to win.
1. Virginia Cavaliers- Kyle Guy, G
Guy had 15 points on 7/11 shooting for the Cavaliers last year in their first-round loss. This year the team’s leading scorer will be even more motivated to not let Virginia lose early.
16. Gardner-Webb Bulldogs- David Elfanayi, G
Gardner-Webb’s leading scorer will need to throw up and make a lot of three-pointers to have any shot of pulling off an upset.
8. Ole Miss Rebels- Terence Davis, G
Not often does a guard average over 15 points, while leading the team in rebounds and assists, but Davis does and makes the Ole Miss team go.
9. Oklahoma Sooners- Jamal Bieniemy, G
Christian James, Brady Manek and Kristian Doolittle are the stars, but Bieniemy doesn’t have to score to be valuable. He leads the team in assists and steals per game in just under 25 minutes played per game.
5. Wisconsin Badgers- Ethan Happ, F
Don’t expect Happ to hit any shots outside the paint, but when he gets inside he is lethal. He also has problems at the free throw line, but is still a really effective player.
12. Oregon Ducks- Payton Pritchard, G
Pritchard does everything for Oregon and came away as the Pac-12 Tournament’s MVP. He’ll need to make shots and set up his teammates to get open looks in order to win.
4. Kansas State Wildcats- Barry Brown, G
With Dean Wade questionable for the tournament, Brown will need to step up. He leads th team in points (14.9 per game) and steals (1.9 per game).
13. UC Irvine Anteaters- Max Hazzard, G
Hazard averages 12.5 points per game while shooting 39.4% from deep.
6. Villanova Wildcats- Phil Booth, G
Booth has been around for a while and is the leader of the Wildcats. He’ll need to put up close to his average of 18.2 points per game to help Villanova go on a run.
11. St. Mary’s Gaels- Jordan Ford, G
St. Mary’s will benefit from Ford’s scoring (21.3 points per game) and three-point shooting (42.3%).
3. Purdue Boilermakers- Carsen Edwards, G
He puts up a ridiculous 23 points per game, but doesn’t have the greatest supporting cast. With that, Edwards will need to play well to lead Purdue to Minneapolis for the Final Four.
14. Old Dominion Monarchs- B.J. Stith, G
Stith started his career at Virginia, but now leads the Monarchs in scoring and rebounds from his guard spot.
7. Cincinnati Bearcats- Jarron Cumberland, G
The Bearcats have a star in Cumberland, who leads the team in points, steals and assists.
10. Iowa Hawkeyes- Tyler Cook, F
Cook is money from inside the arc, as he leads the Hawkeyes in points and rebounds.
2. Tennessee Volunteers- Grant Williams, F
Tennessee goes as Grant Williams goes. He leads the team in points and rebounds, as one of the best players in the country.
15. Colgate Raiders- Rapolas Ivanauskas, F
Along with having a unique name, Ivanauskas leads the team in scoring, rebounding and three point percentage.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels- Kenny Williams, G
Yes, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Coby White get the headlines, but Williams’ defense could be the x-factor in a long tournament run for the Tar Heels.
16. Iona Gaels- Ricky McGill, G
McGill is going to have to score, set up his teammates and force turnovers for Iona to have a chance against UNC.
8. Utah State Aggies- Sam Merrill, G
Only two players average double-figures and Merrill scores the most by far. with 21.9 points per game.
9. Washington Huskies- Matisse Thybulle, G
Thybulle is the all-time leader in steals in the Pac-12 Conference and will need to shut down Merrill to give Washington a chance, as the offense has been stagnant.
5. Auburn Tigers- Jared Harper, G
For Auburn to be at their best they need Harper to attack the basket and make his teammates better.
12. New Mexico State Aggies- Terrell Brown, G
The Aggies have one player who averages double-figures and that is Brown at 11.9 points per game.
4. Kansas Jayhawks- Dedric Lawson, F
With Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike out for the season, Lawson will have to continue to pick up the scoring load. He currently averages 19.1 points per game.
13. Northeastern Huskies- Vasa Pusica, G
Pusica averages 17.8 points and 4.2 assists per game to lead Northeastern. He’ll be a matchup problem for the Jayhawks.
6. Iowa State Cyclones- Marial Shayok, G
Although he formerly played for Virginia, Shayok has become a star at Iowa State averaging 18.6 points per game.
11. Ohio State Buckeyes- C.J. Jackson, G
While the Wesson twins are important, Jackson will need to set the team up for success. He leads the team in assists and steals.
3. Houston Cougars- Corey Davis Jr., G
This season, Davis Jr. has blossomed into a star who averages 16.7 points per game.
14. Georgia State Panthers- D’Marcus Simonds, G
Simonds averages 24 points per game and will have to play much like R.J. Hunter did for the Panthers to help score an upset.
7. Wofford Terriers- Fletcher Magee, G
He may not be a household name, but Magee is one of the best scorers in America at 20.5 points per game and 42.8% shooting from three-point range.
10. Seton Hall Pirates, Myles Powell, G
Powell averages 22.9 points per game and has been on fire lately, leading the Pirates to the Big East Tournament Final.
2. Kentucky Wildcats- P.J. Washington, F
The super-sophomore is a great inside-out player who has upped his game immensely from last season. If he plays well he can take the Wildcats to the Final Four.
15. Abilene Christian Wildcats- Jaren Lewis, F
Lewis is the leading scorer and rebounder for the Wildcats and will have to outplay Washington to give Abilene Christian a chance.
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs- Rui Hachimura, F
Hachimura is a matchup nightmare as he scores 20.1 points per game in a variety of different ways. He can be the key to a long tournament run for the Bulldogs.
16. Farleigh Dickinson Knights- Darnell Edge, G
Edge leads the Knights in scoring and shoots 46.9% from deep.
16. Prairie View A&M Panthers- Gary Blackston, G
As a guard, Blackston leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game and rebounding at 7.0 rebounds per game.
8. Syracuse Orange- Frank Howard, G
While Battle is returning from injury for the NCAA Tournament, Howard has the potential to lead this Syracuse team to a deep run. His passing and defense at the top of the 2-3 zone will be crucial.
9. Baylor Bears- Makai Mason, G
Mason has been to the Big Dance before with Yale and can help give leadership. He is battling through a toe injury so he’ll need to perform through the pain.
5. Marquette Golden Eagles- Markus Howard, G
He is one of the best players in all of college basketball, who leads the team in scoring, assists and steals. Howard will have one of the biggest matchups in the first round of the tournament.
12. Murray State Racers- Ja Morant, G
Morant is going to be a top-five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He is a great scorer, passer and has great athleticism. Whoever wins the matchup between him and Howard could win their team the game.
4. Florida State Seminoles- Terance Mann, G
Not only did Mann help lead Florida State on a deep tournament run last season, but he also just hit a big shot to beat Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament. He’ll need to knock down some big shots to help the Seminoles go deep in the tournament again.
13. Vermont Catamounts- Anthony Lamb, F
Lamb leads the team in both points and rebounds this season as one of the best players at a mid-major conference in the country.
6. Buffalo Bulls- C.J. Massinburg, G
The Bulls already have some big wins on the year and Massinburg is a big reason why. He’ll have to bring his best games now if Buffalo wishes to get past the first weekend of the tournament.
11. Arizona State Sun Devils- Zylan Cheatham, F
Cheatham averages a double-double in points and rebounds and should be able to have big games in the first few rounds of the tournament if the Sun Devils can advance.
11. St. John’s Red Storm- Shamorie Ponds, G
Ponds gets buckets, at 19.5 points per game. He also leads the team in assists and steals, but will have to up his game to get the Red Storm anywhere in the tournament.
3. Texas Tech Red Raiders- Jarrett Culver, G
The Red Raiders seem to have a new star every year and this year it is Culver. He leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. Culver also provides solid defense to a team who has made it their identity.
14. Northern Kentucky Norse- Drew McDonald, F
McDonald is a matchup problem with his ability to play inside and out. He is the team leader in points and rebounds.
7. Nevada Wolf Pack- Jordan Caroline, F
The Martin twins are also important, but Caroline needs to have a good tournament for Nevada to go far. He rebounds and scores at a high rate, but needs to limit his turnovers to maximize possessions.
10. Florida Gators- Andrew Nembhard, G
Nembhard might just be a freshman, but he proved to be clutch in the SEC Tournament with his big shot against LSU. He also is a great passer, setting up the shooters for Florida.
2. Michigan Wolverines- Ignas Brazdeikis, F
Michigan’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game is very important as he stretches the floor and can help the offense from going through dry spells.
15. Montana Grizzlies- Ahmad Rorie, G
Rorie averages 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. He’ll have to do a little bit of everything to help the Grizzlies’ chances.