NCAA Bracket 2012: Power Ranking Top 16 Players in Midwest Region

Erik SchultzCorrespondent IMarch 12, 2012

NCAA Bracket 2012: Power Ranking Top 16 Players in Midwest Region

0 of 16

    The NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region presents us with some outstanding individual players. 

    With several conference Players of the Year and two of the top national Player of the Year candidates, the region includes the type of players capable of leading their teams on a run through the brackets. 

    Here is a look at the top 16 players in the Midwest Region, and why each can make a huge impact in this year's March Madness.

    Each team's NCAA Tournament seed listed in parentheses in slide title.

     

     For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here

     

16. Ramone Moore, Temple (5)

1 of 16

    Temple has three really good guards in Juan Fernandez, Kahlif Wyatt and Ramone Moore. 

    Moore, the Owls' leading scorer at 17.7 ppg, has shown he is very capable of scoring in bunches. 

    A senior, Moore came up big in some of Temple's biggest wins this season.  He scored 27 and 23 in back-to-back games against Purdue and Wichita State back in November.  Moore followed that up with a 32 point effort in a win over Villanova, and then scored 30 in the Owls' victory over Xavier in February.

    With defenses forced to devote equal attention to each of Temple's three guards, Moore uses his ability to take opposing men to the basket in one-on-one situations.  He can finish at the rim, find the open man near the basket (3.5 apg) or get to the line and knock down free throws (3.4 made FT's per game). 

    If Temple wants to get to the Sweet 16, it will need Moore to play a huge role on the offensive end. 

15. CJ Leslie, NC State (11)

2 of 16

    As an 11 seed, North C arolina State was one of the last handful of teams to earn an at-large bid to the tournament.  The team and Coach Mark Gottfried should thank CJ Leslie for playing a huge role in helping them get there.

    Leslie was quite a force throughout the ACC Tournament, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds in NC State's three games.  

    In the most pivotal game against Virginia, Leslie came up huge, scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the win that helped the Wolfpack ultimately secure its spot in the Field of 68.

    At 6'8", Leslie is still a bit undersized for a power foward despite his height. However, what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in quickness and leaping ability. 

    Leslie can pose problems for larger post players by drawing them away from the basket and attacking with the drive.  He is also a force on the offensive glass, and creates many second chance looks for himself and his teammates.

    If NC States hopes to knock off No. 6-seed San Diego State and perhaps Georgetown in the following round, CJ Leslie will have to be every bit as good as he was in the ACC Tournament this past weekend.

14. Ray McCallum, Detroit (15)

3 of 16

    While Butler is not represting the Horizon League in the tournament, this year's conference champion still has a chance to make some noise. 

    Detroit, led by Ray McCallum Jr., and the son of head coach Ray McCallum Sr., is peaking at just the right the time.

    McCallum Jr. carried his team through an impressive run in the Horizon League tournament last week. 

    He scored 20-plus points in each of the team's last three wins, including a 21-point effort in the Titans' win over Valparaiso in the championship game.  In those last three games, McCallum averaged 23 points on a combined 24-of-38 shooting in leading the Titans to the automatic bid.

    While nobody could stop him in the Horizon League tournament, McCallum also showed he could get it done against big-conference competition.  He scored 20 for the Titans in a close loss to Notre Dame early in the year, and 17 in another tight loss to Mississippi State.

    Can McCallum carry the Detroit to an improbable upset over Kansas?  It will be difficult, but he gives the Titans a chance.

13. DJ Cooper, Ohio (13)

4 of 16

    Ohio's DJ Cooper may only be 5'11", but he has played awfully large in the biggest spotlight already in his career: Just ask Georgetown.

    Cooper, Ohio's energetic junior point guard, made some serious noise as a freshman in the Bobcats' NCAA Tournament appearance back in 2010.  He scored 23 to go with eight assists in the Bobcats' 97-83 win over No. 3 seed Georgetown.  Not only did he lead Ohio to the biggest upset (by seed) of the entire tournament, he basically dominated against one of the nation's best teams.

    This year, Cooper once again came up big when Ohio needed it the most.  His 23-point effort against Akron helped lead the Bobcats to the MAC Championship and the league's automatic bid. 

    While not a great shooter (35% FG), Cooper is more than willing to attack the basket despite his size, and often ends up at the foul line (3.9 made FT's per game).  If he can do that against Michigan's 1-3-1 defense, Ohio could once again pull another tourney upset.

12. Trey Burke, Michigan (4)

5 of 16

    Leading a balanced and veteran team in scoring as a freshman takes the right mix of talent, confidence and fearlessness. 

    Michigan's Trey Burke certainly has displayed plenty of each in his first season in Ann Arbor.

    Burke was pretty consistent this season in leading Michigan to a share of the Big Ten title.  He scored in double figures in all but two of the team's Big Ten games.  He was also key in leading the Wolverines back from a couple games that appeared to be near-certain losses. 

    Last Friday, Burke scored 30 to help carry Michigan back from a late-second-half deficit against Minnesota in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, a game they eventually won in overtime.  He also hit a few huge threes near the end of regulation and in overtime to help the Wolverines win at Northwestern late in the year. 

    Michigan may need a similar heroic effort from its standout freshman in order to survive and advance into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

11. Henry Sims, Georgetown (3)

6 of 16

    Thomas Robinson would probably be most people's choice for the most improved player in all of college basketball, and there is nothing wrong with that choice, but if there is a runner-up to Robinson, it would arguably be Georgetown's Henry Sims.

    Sims has been the pivotal player in the Hoyas' unexpected success this season. 

    He has basically been the point-center in the Georgetown offense, finding both outside shooters and players cutting underneath in the high post. 

    The 6'10" senior led the team in assists at 3.5 per game, to go with a solid scoring average of just under 12 a game.  Sims was just behind Otto Porter in leading the team in rebounds, at just over six a game. 

    The Big East Tournament served as the official coming-out party for Sims.  He had 20 points and 13 boards in Georgetown's win over Pittsburgh, then topped that game with a 22-and-15 effort in an overtime loss to Cincinnati, the eventual Big East Tournament runner-up. 

    If Sims picks up where he left off last week in New York City, Georgetown will be poised to make a very deep tournament run that could get them all the way to New Orleans.

10 Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State (6)

7 of 16

    After playing a fairly small role last year for San Diego State, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Jamaal Franklin burst onto the Mountain West and college basketball scenes this season.

    Franklin earned MWC Player of the Year honors, beating out New Mexico's Drew Gordon and UNLV's Mike Moser for the honor.  Franklin led the team in both scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.9 per game). 

    Keep in mind:  Franklin is a 6'5" guard that might weigh 200 if he wears about a dozen of his long sleeve under shirts, so for him to the best rebounder on the team, and one of the best in the conference, shows just how fearless Franklin is despite his size. 

    He is the perfect representation of the San Diego State team, which is full of smaller, lesser-known players who stepped up repeatedly this year and overcame the very low expectations set for them.  Don't be surprised to see Franklin lead his Aztecs' team to a couple more wins in this year's tournament, just like what last year's team accomplished.

     

     

     

     

9. John Henson, North Carolina

8 of 16

    Perhaps the biggest reason Florida State beat North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament Championship was because John Henson was on the sidelines.  Henson missed the game, as well as the semifinal against NC State, after injuring his wrist against Maryland on Friday.

    Reports have indicated that Henson should be good to go in time for the Tar Heels' first NCAA Tournament game on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

    Henson's return would obviously be a major boost to UNC's chances of reaching the Final Four.  Henson averaged a double-double (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg) this season, while leading the ACC with nearly three blocks a game. 

    Having Henson back would once again make the Tar Heels the most dominant force in not only the region, but the entire tournament, on the boards.  They were the nation's top offensive rebounding team this season, and Henson was a huge reason why. 

    Without him, UNC will be much more vulnerable defensively, as the games against NC State and FSU showed.  An early loss in the tournament is possible, but lucky for them the Tar Heels would likely not face any teams prior to the Elite 8 which have a tremendous amount of size.

8. Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas (2)

9 of 16

    For three years, Tyshawn Taylor was a bit of an enigma for some of the deeper and more talented Kansas teams. 

    Taylor's flashes of brilliance were usually offset by more questionable decision making with the basketball.  This year, however, Taylor has taken his game to a consistently high level, making Kansas a legitimate Final Four contender.

    What has made Taylor such an improved player in his senior season is his ability to score very consistently and in different ways.  He has nearly doubled his scoring output from just a year ago, now giving the Jayhawks more than 17 points a game. 

    Taylor was excellent from long-range shooting 44 percent on three-pointers.  He also is fearless with the ball, and attacks the basket both in transition and in halfcourt.  As a result, he gets to the foul line more than most guards. 

    In order for Kansas to take down UNC and get to the Final Four, Tyshawn Taylor will need to do what he has all season:  to score consistently and efficiently.

     

7. Robbie Hummel, Purdue (10)

10 of 16

    It's hard to think of Purdue and not think of the name Robbie Hummel. 

    It's also hard to think that Purdue would be playing in the NCAA Tournament without his presence this year.

    After missing all of last season with a knee injury, Hummel came back strong this year to lead Purdue in scoring at over 16 points a game. 

    The senior also led the Boilermakers in rebounding (by far) at just over seven per contest.  On a team with very little size after the loss of JaJuan Johnson last year, Hummel accepted the challenge of being expected to handle more of the burden against the bigger, more physical players in the Big Ten.

    While doing his work as a smaller power forward, Hummel has also consistently knocked down shots from outside, just as he did earlier in his Purdue career.  Hummel averages two made threes a game, and is the guy Coach Matt Painter likes to have taking the outside shot in clutch situations.

    This will be Hummel's first time playing in the NCAA Tournament in three years, and you can be sure he'll be ready to make the most of his final apperance in the Big Dance.

6. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's (7)

11 of 16

    When your best player was also a key player on a team that went to the Sweet 16, you have to feel pretty good about your chances to do it again. 

    That's what Saint Mary's has with point guard Matthew Dellavedova. 

    This year's West Coast Conference POY, Dellavedova was the starting point guard on the Saint Mary's team that knocked off Villanova two years ago to go to the Sweet 16.  Now a junior, he is clearly the key to the Gaels making another deep tourney run this season.

    Dellavedova is equally good in attacking the basket to score, finding open shooters on his drive, or shooting from outside.  That makes him a real problem for opposing defenders, who have to figure out whether to stay back and protect against the drive, or challenge him on the perimeter and prevent an easy look.

    As good a point guard as a team like Purdue, or even Kansas will see all season, Dellavedova has another chance to become a household name in March.

     

     

     

5. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina (1)

12 of 16

    Despite losing out on a spot on the All-ACC first team to Duke's Austin Rivers, Marshall is the best true point guard in the league, as well as this region.

    Only a sophomore, Marshall was second in the nation is assists this season, averaging just under 10 a game.  He has the ability to generate easy transition baskets with precise, long passes.  Marshall also does a great job of feeding the team's outstanding inside duo of Zeller and Henson with passes that allow for the easiest chances to score, including lobs. 

    Another underrated element of Marshall's game is his ability to knock down outside shots.  Though he won't take too many shots from long-range, Marshall can hit when defenders play off him and protect against the drive or double on one of the forwards.  He hit 3-of-4 from three against Maryland, and 2-of-4 on Saturday against NC State.

    UNC's tournament success undoubtedly hinges on Marshall's ability to create consistent scoring chances, especially in a slower halfcourt game.

     

4. Harrison Barnes, North Carolina (1)

13 of 16

    Should John Henson miss any action in the tournament, one of the main players who will be expected to step up in his absence is Harrison Barnes. 

    Barnes, UNC's leading scorer at 17.3 ppg, came through in the team's last two games with Henson out, scoring 23 against FSU and 16 in the win over NC State.  While struggling some with his shooting (3-12 FG) against the Wolfpack, Barnes was more aggressive in attacking the basket and getting to the foul line (8-12 FT). 

    After an inconsistent freshman season, Barnes has become a more reliable scoring threat this season.  He has scored in double figures in 16 of the last 17 games, and scored 20 or more in seven of those. 

    With the ability to shoot from long-range or mid-range, and the size to post up smaller wing defenders, Barnes has enough scoring options in his arsenal to give UNC a go-to man when in need of points late in a tight tournament game.

     

3. Doug McDermott, Creighton (8)

14 of 16

    March is made for guys like Doug McDermott. 

    Creighton's sophomore sensation will have the chance to put his incredible offensive game on display this weekend. 

    McDermott was the nation's third-leading scorer at 23.2 ppg, and is the leading scorer of anyone playing in this NCAA Tournament.  He can score inside and out, and was just one more made three from shooting over 50 percent from long range (52-of-105) on the season.  To say McDermott, at 6'7", is a matchup problem is a pretty ridiculous understatement. 

    A likely first team All-American and outside POY candidate, McDermott has shown he can step up in Creighton's biggest games thus far this season.  He scored 33 in the Missouri Valley Championship win over Illinois State.  He put up 36 against Long Beach State in the Bluejays' BracketBusters matchup, and scored 25 to go with 12 rebounds in a win over San Diego State, arguably Creighton's best of the season.

    If McDermott can do enough to help Creighton survive a tough defensive team in Alabama, he will most likley get his shot in the spotlight in the third round against top-seeded North Carolina. 

    In a matchup with high school teammate Harrison Barnes, we will find out if McDermott can have a Stephen Curry-like effort and carry his team to a monumental win.

2. Tyler Zeller, North Carolina (1)

15 of 16

    ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller has been the heart and soul of this year's North Carolina team in much the same way Tyler Hansbrough was in 2009.  He never takes a play off, runs the court well for a big man, and is relentless on the offensive glass.

    The team's second leading scorer and rebounder, Zeller gets many of his points either in transition or after pulling down teammates' missed shots.  He posted double-doubles in each of the Heels' games against Duke this season, including a 23 point, 11 rebound effort in the first game.  

    Despite the excellent numbers, it is his leadership and non-stop effort that makes him the team's most important player.  In UNC's 33-point loss at FSU, Zeller was the only one who consistently played hard, and that effort seemed to have rubbed off on his teammates, who played much better after that game. 

    Will this Tyler, a senior like Hansbrough was in '09, lead this Tar Heel team to another title?

1. Thomas Robinson, Kansas (2)

16 of 16

    It's hard to imagine what Kansas' NCAA Tournament prospects would have been without Thomas Robinson.  As a co-favorite for national POY, Robinson gives the Jayhawks the kind of dominant inside scorer that can carry a team to a Final Four and maybe even a title.

    Just ask Missouri. Robinson scored 28 to go with 12 rebounds against the Big 12's other No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

    However, it was his ability to put the Jayhawks on his back and will them to a come-from-behind win that proved just how unique a player he has become.  He found ways to score on the team's final possessions of both regulation and overtime, including the game-winner. 

    Kansas will likely need a similar effort from Robinson somewhere along the road in order to stay alive in the tournament.  Based on what he's shown us so far this year, it will take a great game for someone to knock Robinson and the Jayhawks out of the dance.

     

     For your printable bracket for the 2012 NCAA tournament, click here