College Basketball: 10 Stars Capable of Carrying Their Teams to the Big Dance

Eric HampfordContributor IIIJanuary 30, 2012

College Basketball: 10 Stars Capable of Carrying Their Teams to the Big Dance

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    While basketball is one of the best "team" sports in the world, there's no denying that on every team, some pieces are more important than others. Every year, there are teams on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament, who are seemingly willed into the field of 68 by their star player.

    Many of these teams have more than one talented player, but their certified star is the one who pushes their squad to another level with his exceptional play.

    This year, teams such as Kansas State, West Virginia, and Iowa State are being driven by NBA talents, who are behind the wheel on their quest for March glory.

    Here are 10 players capable of carrying their respective teams to the Big Dance this year.

Kevin Jones, West Virginia

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    The West Virginia senior is making the most of his last season in Morgantown. The 6'8" power forward is doing everything he can to will the Mountaineers into the NCAA tournament.

    He is leading the Big East in scoring at 20.9 points per game. He is also leading the conference in rebounding at 11.4 boards per contest. 

    When he is playing his best, West Virginia is a tough team to beat. Fourth-ranked Syracuse barely survived a scare from WVU at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, winning 63-61. Kevin Jones scored 20 points and snatched eight rebounds in the game.

    Watch for this team in the next few months. They will go as far as Kevin Jones can take them.

Jordan Theodore, Seton Hall

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    The 6'0 senior is the engine to the Seton Hall Pirates this season. He is second in the Big East in assists right now at 7.0 per game. He is also contributing 16.1 points and 3.2 rebounds each game.

    He is also starring on the defensive end of the floor for the Pirates. He is stealing 2.1 balls each game, while putting the clamps on some of the most talented offensive players in the Big East.

    Right now, Seton Hall is in a rough stretch, losers of their last four conference games. It's up to the talented New Jersey guard to get them back in the right direction, and that direction is "Bracketville".

Will Barton, Memphis

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    Before the season started, the Memphis Tigers were being touted as one of the most talented teams in the country. A team capable of reaching at least the Sweet 16.

    Well, the preseason predictions haven't been met by the Tigers play. The only Memphis player who is exceeding lofty expectations right now is their star sophomore, Will Barton.

    The 6'6" shooting guard is putting up gaudy numbers for the Conference USA power. He is averaging 18.8 points and 8.7 rebounds, along with 2.7 assists.

    His length is also an asset on the defensive end of the floor, where he is very talented at getting into passing lanes for steals and getting sneaky blocks. 

    Right now, the Tigers are on a three game winning streak, and remain the front-runners to win the C-USA on their way to another March Madness bid.

Terrell Stoglin, Maryland

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    Terrell Stoglin is enjoying a breakout sophomore season. The 6'1" point guard is the leader of the Maryland Terrapins, and the player who could lead them into the tournament.

    He is leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring, lighting up scoreboards for a blistering 21.3 points per game. His importance to his team was evident in Maryland's narrow 73-69 victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday, where he exploded for 28 points while hauling in five rebounds.

    While he needs to effectively involve his teammates more in the offense, it's also clear that in order for the Terrapins to reach the NCAA field of 65, Terrell Stoglin will need to carry his team.

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State

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    The Mississippi State Bulldogs are enjoying their best season in quite some time, and there is a good chance that they can travel deeply into the NCAA tournament.

    There are many reasons for such hope, but the biggest is their star center, Arnett Moultrie. The 6'11" junior has been a big surprise this year, taking the headlines and big game performances that were reserved for forward Renardo Sidney.

    He is carrying the load for the Bulldogs, averaging 16.8 points while leading the SEC in rebounding at 11.3 boards per game. 

    While Mississippi State has a solid nucleus comprised of Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney, and Rodney Hood, the integral piece of this team is their star big man.

Mike Moser, UNLV

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    The UNLV Runnin' Rebels are enjoying a standout season, and it's mostly because of UCLA transfer Mike Moser. The 6'8" sophomore is the catalyst for the Mountain West power, and is the focal point of their hopes of returning to March Madness.

    The power forward is averaging 14.7 points while leading the MWC in rebounding at 11.7 per game. 

    With San Diego State vying for supremacy as conference play rolls along, look for a big game from Moser as the Rebels look to avenge a road loss to the Aztecs earlier this month 

Scott Machado, Iona

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    The pulse of the Iona Gaels this season is their star point guard, Scott Machado. The senior is not only providing his team with eye-popping statistics, but also a calming presence while running the team that should benefit the Gaels come March.

    He is leading the country in assists at 9.9 per game, while scoring 13.4 points and pulling down 5.2 rebounds each contest.

    While Michael Glover and Lamont "MoMo" Jones are very talented prospects in their own right, Scott Machado is the glue that holds the Gaels together.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan

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    The Michigan Wolverines are becoming a big name in the world of college basketball again, and a lot of that has to do with their young star, Tim Hardaway Jr. 

    The 6'6", 200 pound shooting guard is one of the most talented players in the Big Ten Conference, and he is carrying Michigan through conference play.

    The sophomore is averaging 15.2 points per game, while contributing 3.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists each time out.

    The emergence of freshman point guard Trey Burke has helped Michigan tremendously, but Tim Hardaway Jr. is the key to their March fortune.

Rodney McGruder, Kansas State

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    The loss of Kansas State legend Jacob Pullen is being offset by the strong play of their next star, junior shooting guard Rodney McGruder.

    The 6'4" Washington D.C. native is doing everything he can to keep Kansas State's streak of NCAA tournament appearances alive.

    While scoring 15.7 points per game, he is grabbing 5.5 rebounds and playing fantastic defense for Frank Martin's tough-minded team.

    His 33 point, eight rebound explosion against Texas shows just what the young star is capable of as the season rolls along.

Royce White, Iowa State

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    Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg rolled the dice when he assembled a team of talented but troubled transfers from all over the country.

    His gamble is looking like a very smart one at this point, as the Cyclones are one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season.

    Minnesota transfer Royce White is tearing through the Big 12. He is averaging 13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, and taking this year's Iowa State team to new heights.

    In their monumental upset of Kansas over the weekend, the 6'8" power forward scored 18 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and handed out five assists. As long as he continues to play at a high level, Iowa State will be dancing come March.