NCAA Tournament 2012: Power Ranking the Top 20 High-Flyers of the Sweet 16

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: Power Ranking the Top 20 High-Flyers of the Sweet 16

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    March Madness 2012 has been awesome.

    Upsets. Come-from-behind victories. Last possession wins.

    We've had it all.

    And the best is still yet to come.

    This year's Sweet 16 promises to be filled with closely contested battles between teams that all want one thing: to be cutting down the nets in New Orleans.

    Here is a quick look at some of the most exciting high-flyers left in the tournament.

    These are all players who have put their skills on display already and are likely to create a must-see highlight or two when Thursday and Friday roll around.

    Click on the players' names to see a sample of their above-the-rim work.

20. Deuce Bello (Baylor)

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    Deuce Bello may not be a household name yet, but the freshman is turning heads as he gets more time in the tournament.

    While the 6'4" guard only averages 10 minutes per game on the season, Scott Drew has inserted him more and more into the Bears lineup to give them a spark off the bench during the Big 12 tournament and March Madness.

    He is a fearless penetrator who can rise and cause problems in the paint.

    Watch for Bello as Baylor takes on Xavier in their Sweet 16 battle.

19. Sam Thompson (Ohio State)

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    Sam Thompson may not play a significant role in the Buckeyes' run to the Final Four, but he may end up on SportsCenter anyway.

    Thompson is a high-wire act waiting to happen.

    The 6'7" freshman consistently plays above the rim.

    When he gets loose, look out.

18. Will Sheehey (Indiana)

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    Will Sheehey plays an important role in Indiana's chances in its Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

    Though the 6'6" sophomore has spent most the season coming off the bench, Sheehey is starting now and is expected to bring energy and athleticism to the Hoosier lineup.

    The fact that he can play above the rim will help as he takes on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

17. Dezmine Wells (Xavier)

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    If you haven't seen Dezmine Wells play yet, you are in for a treat when you watch Xavier play Baylor in the Sweet 16.

    The 6'5" wing can get to the rim or beat you from beyond the arc.

    The talented trio of Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Wells creates backcourt matchup problems for most teams.

    The Musketeers need Wells to come up big against the Bears on Friday.

16. Victor Oladipo (Indiana)

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    Victor Oladipo is a big SG (6'5") who loves taking the ball to the cup and throwing it down.

    Oladipo gives the Hoosiers a toughness on the perimeter. His athleticism creates opportunities for IU on both ends of the court.

    He will need to shut down Doron Lamb or Darius Miller as Indiana looks to beat Kentucky for the second time this season.

15. Adreian Payne (Michigan State)

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    One of Draymond Green's frontcourt running mates, Adreian Payne is a freak.

    A 6'10", 240-lb center with hops coming off the bench is not a welcome sight for Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals.

    Payne creates all kinds of problems on the glass and in challenging shots.

    Oh yeah, and he just might also get loose and throw down a thunderous dunk or two in every game.

14. Travis Releford (Kansas)

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    Don't turn your back on Travis Releford or he may back-door you for a spectacular alley-oop.

    Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and Releford form a dynamic perimeter trio that causes most teams matchup nightmares.

    Releford is a slasher who runs the court like a deer and creates transition opportunities like crazy.

    Next assignment: Shut down Scott Wood, NC State's dead-eye SF.

13. Elijah Johnson (Kansas)

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    Elijah Johnson is an excellent perimeter mate for Tyshawn Taylor.

    His length and burst have helped him to create havoc all over the court.

    Johnson has no problem elevating in traffic and getting it done.

    His size and hops will be important as the Jayhawks face the big backcourt of NC State.

12. Kyle Kuric (Louisville)

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    Kyle Kuric is known as a lights-out shooter and the leading scorer (13.1 PPG) for Louisville.

    Don't give him a lane to the bucket or he just might posterize someone.

    Kuric's overall game puts pressure on opponents and is key if the Cardinals are going to take the No. 1-seeded Spartans down in their Sweet 16 contest.

11. C.J. Leslie (North Carolina State)

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    One of the big reasons that NC State is in the Sweet 16 is the elevated play of C.J. Leslie.

    The Wolfpack's leading scorer (14.6 PPG) has brought added intensity and motor in the tournament, which has helped the No. 11 seed take down both San Diego State and Georgetown in their first two games.

    Leslie has the size and hops to go up against just about anyone.

    He will need to bring it all when NC State goes up against Thomas Robinson and the Kansas Jayhawks.

10. Perry Jones III (Baylor)

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    Perry Jones III is a multi-talented PF who can post up or face up with equal effectiveness.

    As the Bears get ready to play Xavier in the Sweet 16, Jones must be ready to assert himself and get to the rim as much as possible.

    Fortunately for Baylor, PJ3 seems ready for the challenge.

9. Thomas Robinson (Kansas)

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    Thomas Robinson is a force.

    He dominates the paint, the glass...okay, he just flat-out dominates.

    Robinson is a powerful post-up player who consistently beats double-teams and punishes opponents with booming slams that bring the house down.

    Look for him to put up another double-double (he has 25 this year) when KU faces NC State in the Sweet 16.

8. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)

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    Harrison Barnes may be known more as a pull-up scorer than a dunker, but don't give the sophomore SF a seam or he will set you free.

    With Kendall Marshall's status being undetermined, Barnes may have to become more of a facilitator.

    He can do that too.

    Whatever it takes for the Tar Heels to beat Ohio U in their Sweet 16 contest.

7. Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette)

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    Darius Johnson-Odom is explosive, and he can beat you in so many ways.

    He is the Golden Eagles' leading scorer (18.5 PPG) who beats opponents from every angle and every distance.

    DJ-O and Jae Crowder make one of the best outside-inside combos in the country.

    That's not good news for Billy Donovan and Florida when they face off with them in the Sweet 16.

6. Terrence Jones (Kentucky)

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    You better put a body on Terrence Jones, or he will throw down on you.

    The 6'9", 255-lb forward has no problem putting the ball on the deck and beating his man off the dribble.

    When he does, Jones usually throws it down with authority.

    Because of Anthony Davis' shot-blocking expertise, Jones doesn't get nearly the attention that he deserves for being an exceptional shot-blocker himself.

    Jones has some business to settle against Indiana in the Sweet 16. He did not have his customary good game when these two teams met in December.

5. Patric Young (Florida)

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    Because of the extreme talent that Florida has on the perimeter, Patric Young doesn't always get the recognition that he deserves.

    Make no mistake about it: Young is the whole package.

    He influences the Gators' games at both ends of the court.

    The 6'9", 250-lb post is a terror on the glass and will drop the hammer at any time.

    Young will have his hands full taking on Jae Crowder when UF goes up against Marquette in their Sweet 16 duel.

4. Peyton Siva (Louisville)

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    Peyton Siva has hops. Period.

    The 5'11" PG dynamo is a nonstop nuisance for anyone in his path.

    Siva is a lock-down defender and a terror in the open court.

    The Cardinals need it all from him when they face No. 1 seed Michigan State on Thursday.

3. Kris Joseph (Syracuse)

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    Kris Joseph does a little of everything for the 'Cuse.

    He scores, rebounds, gets out on the break and usually lets loose with a rim-rocker or two per game.

    Joseph's skill and leadership bring it all together for the Orange.

    He will need to bring the thunder when Syracuse plays Wisconsin (one of the top defensive teams in the country) in their Sweet 16 matchup.

2. Anthony Davis (Kentucky)

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    Anthony Davis is a rare combination of length, athleticism and leaping ability.

    Whether it's throwing down a monster jam or blocking one of several shots per game (he leads the nation, right?), Davis dictates so much on the court.

    Look for the 6'10" forward to unleash all kinds of above-the-rim mayhem when Kentucky looks for revenge against Indiana in the Sweet 16.

1. Pierre Jackson (Baylor)

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    Okay. So you expected one of the wings or frontcourt players to be No. 1?

    Nope. If you don't believe me, watch what he did at the Bears' Midnight Madness.

    Pierre Jackson is a lethal high-flyer even though he is the shortest player (5'10") on this list.

    Jackson makes so many things happen with his elite-level athleticism.

    Baylor's run to the Final Four depends on Jackson running the show and coming up big, starting on Friday against Xavier.