Sweet 16 2012: 10 Players That Will Fail Under Pressure
The second weekend of the NCAA tournament has not gone according to plan.
There is no Missouri, no Duke, no Fab Melo for Syracuse and, possibly, no Kendall Marshall running the North Carolina offense.
Needless to say, this weekend has the makings of another great weekend, chock-full of surprises.
We have four schools from Ohio fronting the Sweet 16 field in Ohio State, Ohio, Cincinnati and Xavier. We still have the high powered schools in Kentucky and Michigan State strutting their stuff and dominating the competition.
With these 16 schools that remain, there are a number of players that, while loaded with talent, have the ability to disappear in their coming games.
Here are the top-10 candidates most likely to fail under the pressure.
Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Anthony Davis is by far the most publicized college basketball player in the country this year.
At 6'10," Davis makes any forward's day a nightmare in the paint.
With his long wingspan and uncanny leaping ability, Davis has blocked 166 shot attempts from opponents, averaging more than four per game.
Top-seeded Kentucky take on Indiana in the Sweet 16, the only team to hand the Wildcats a loss during the regular season.
Last time around, Davis was held to six points in their loss at Assembly Hall in December, well below his 14 points per game numbers.
While it may not seem like a significant figure, it does jump out as a troubling stat for the National Player of the Year, as most of the offense and defense runs through his force in the paint.
Why he'll fail:
It isn't very common to have a National Player of the Year win the national championship, and Davis won't be the one to break that mold.
One of the main reasons why he will fail is because we want him to fail.
Having Indiana basketball back in the national spotlight just seems to make the world a much better place.
With its rich history and storied past, who doesn't want to see the Hoosiers make it to the back to the big time and win a national championship for the first time since 1987?
Wouldn't it be a much better story if the Hoosiers—who have been crawling their way back to the national ranks for years—finally knock off the top dog, rather than having yet another John Calipari-led team, with all their high profiled recruits, succeed?
In order to do that, Davis needs to have the same off-game he did in December.
Perry Jones III, Baylor
"Potential" is a word that is often thrown around when describing Baylor's Perry Jones.
But potential is such a filler word.
It's usually used to explain a guy that has all the makings of a great player, but that player hasn't risen to the top-level talent everybody knows he can be.
Sadly, Jones is an example of how unflattering the word "potential" really is.
Jones has the body of a Kevin Durant and the physical power of a Kevin Garnett, but he has yet to put all those talents into one great season, or even multiple games at a time.
Too many times this year, Jones has relied upon the rest of his team to carry the load to a victory, while he spends the game sort of zoning out, appearing disinterested and distant from Baylor's ultimate goal of winning.
Why he'll fail:
Here's a stat line for you: 65 points and 29 rebounds.
These are the numbers dropped in three games during the Big 12 tournament by Perry Jones against Kansas State, Kansas and Missouri, who posed some of the biggest bodies to give Jones fits, yet he accumulated those great stats.
Here's another one: nine points and 15 rebounds. These are the numbers put up by Jones during his two games again South Dakota State and Colorado, two teams that, while very talented in their own right, should have had neither the size nor the athleticism to keep up with Jones.
If Perry Jones wants to take games off like he has so far in this tournament, he doesn't deserve to have a great game against Xavier.
He's the biggest headcase for college basketball fans and NBA scouts alike.
Had he tried to come away with better games in the first two rounds, this would be a different story. But he was lazy in those two when he should have had some of the best games in his career.
You gotta do better than that, Perry.
Draymond Green, Michigan State
Possibly one of the hardest working and most charismatic players left in the tournament, Draymond Green has literally done it all in this tournament: A triple-double in the first round, a solid double-double against Saint Louis, mopping the floor of the competition.
However, now we are hitting the stretch run of the tournament, where the real men are separated from the boys.
While Green has done splendidly over his career, he has a few more obstacles before he can be considered one of the best.
Michigan State's opponent, Louisville, possesses a big-man threat of their own in Gorgui Dieng, who will fight and battle Green in the low post, causing Green to be a little exhausted as crunch time approaches in the game.
Why he'll fail:
Michigan State has done a splendid job of rebounding from their atrocious start to the season, but their high has to crash at some point and it all revolves around Green.
Green is the heart and soul of this Spartans team, who had some troubles with Saint Louis in their second game.
He has to be feeling some fatigue from all the work he's put up during the season, and if he's going to run out of steam the needed to carry the Spartans, Louisville will be waiting to pick up the pieces.
Jae Crowder, Marquette
With two dominating games in a row and a season full of accolades, Jae Crowder has taken the college basketball world by storm.
After winning the JUCCO Player of the Year award in 2010, Crowder took to Marquette and has now become one of the biggest forces in the NCAA.
Against BYU, Crowder tallied 25 points and 16 rebounds in a route of the Cougars.
In a hard fought, fast-paced game against Murray State, Crowder again asserted his dominance, acquiring 17 points and hauling in 13 rebounds.
Needless to say, Crowder has been all over the court for the Golden Eagles in their run to the Sweet 16.
Crowder's next task will be much greater than either of his first two games, as he is set to battle Florida's Patric Young.
It will be no tiny task. Young stands at 6'9" and 250 pounds, presenting a greater challenge than either BYU or Murray State could give to the feisty Crowder.
Why he'll fail:
Crowder has gone through numerous big bodies during Big East conference play, but Young and the Gators will be very well prepared to slow down Jae's production and could knock off Marquette in the process.
It's only a matter of time until somebody figures out how to body up with Crowder, and Florida has the tools to do so.
Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Jared Sullinger has spent the last two years under the college basketball microscope, having his game dissected and compared to another Ohio State big man who helped lead the Buckeyes to dominance, Greg Oden.
Like Oden, Sullinger has had his fair share of injury problems, but hasn't reached the kind of inconsistent performances Oden had in his lone year in Columbus.
Sully has averaged 17 points per game in both seasons while hauling in a very solid nine to 10 rebounds per game.
While Sully has the capability to be tremendous, he often gets lost, giving some of the offensive production to the likes of Aaron Craft and William Bufford.
While there is no problem with that during regular season games, Sullinger needs to step up and lead the Buckeyes when the time comes to finish out the game.
Why he'll fail:
It's a simple answer. Yancy Gates.
No team, with the possible exception of NC State, is hotter than Cincinnati. Gates has anchored the Bearcats in their run through the Big East tournament, and now the NCAA tournament.
At 6'9," 260 pounds, Gates presents a whole mess of match-up problems for Sully, who likes to finesse his way into the lay while Gates likes to punish his defenders.
It will be an interesting matchup to say the least, but Gates has the ability to shut down Sullinger, which could lead to the demise of the Buckeyes.
DJ Cooper, Ohio
Ohio University is this year's big Cinderella team thus far in the tournament.
The case can be made for NC State, but Ohio's run resembles that of VCU's last year—a young team looking to make a name for themselves with scrappy play and loads of confidence.
D.J. Cooper is the leader of the Bobcats, averaging over 14 points and five assists per game. Cooper is on a current streak of five straight games of 18 points or more, all of which have led the Bobcats to the position they are in now—a Sweet 16 birth.
Cooper and his Bobcats now face their biggest test of the year, North Carolina.
The Tar Heels are loaded on all fronts, sporting five total NBA prospects in Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, John Henson, James Michael McAdoo and Kendall Marshall.
However, Marshall has a highly publicized wrist injury that could keep him out of the game, letting Cooper breathe a slight sigh of relief.
Why he'll fail:
Even though Marshall may be out of the game, Cooper should definitely not be too comfortable considering the loads of talent the Tar Heels have to shut him down.
With Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston possibly taking over for Marshall, D.J.'s day could get a lot more complicated than if Marshall does play.
His roll on the defensive end could be a little easier without Marshall in front of him, but his day on offense will be anything but a walk in the park.
Kenny Boynton, Florida
Florida is hot in the back court with Kenny Boynton and his 16 points per game average.
The Gators have spent much of the year teetering between good and great, catching a snag in the tail end of the season, losing three straight games before entering the SEC tournament.
After being bounced from the SEC tournament by Kentucky, the Gators immediately set their sights on the NCAA tournament and have paid great dividends, winning both games by an average of 30 points against Virginia and Norfolk State
While Florida may have lucked out by not having to take on Missouri in the Round of 32, Boynton wanted to let the world know that no matter who they face, he was ready to play. Boynton logged 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists in a Florida blowout.
In order for the Gators to make it past Marquette, Boynton, along with Erving Walker and Bradley Beal, must work together to take their shots when necessary, and not force the action like they've been known to do at some points in time.
Why he'll fail:
Darius Johnson-Odom is a force to be reckoned with for Marquette. He possesses the explosiveness and shooting ability to make Boynton obsolete in this game.
Given Johnson-Odom's leadership as a senior, Darius will be a major thorn in the side of the young-but-talented Boynton.
Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Far and away, Jordan Taylor is one of the best point guards in the country.
All of his stats may signal that he's having a down year, but even in a rough year, Taylor has led the Wisconsin Badgers to the Sweet 16.
They look ready to take down the all mighty Syracuse Orange.
Taylor's ability to see the entire floor and work the Badger offense is one of the biggest reasons why he has become a name that is so synonymous with point guard play.
He's got the intangibles to make any game a blowout.
Coming off of two solid performances against Montana and Vanderbilt, Taylor seems like he will continue his stellar play against Syracuse.
Why he'll fail:
Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense.
A defense that is so popular with offenses struggling against it, Wisconsin and Taylor have their hands full trying to get open looks and find teammates for those shots.
With Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche all sharing time in shutting down the crafty Taylor, Syracuse could have a heyday stomping on Taylor's pride, ending his stellar college career.
Brady Heslip, Baylor
Young dead-eye shooter Brady Heslip has taken the South region bracket by storm.
Averaging 10 points per game, Heslip has opened up the cannon and started firing away on all cylinders from beyond the arc.
In game one against South Dakota State, Heslip hit five three's on his way to 17 points in Baylor's slim eight-point victory.
In the second game, Baylor was getting all it could handle from Colorado before Heslip started to pick up where he left off two days earlier. This time, Heslip nailed nine three's en route to 27 timely points in the Bears' 17-point victory.
Heslip sometimes seems a little big for his britches. He loves to flash the three-point finger sign up to his eye while running down court.
While his sharpshooting is what has led Baylor to their two victories thus far, it could also be their demise if he fails to convert on his shots this time around.
Why he'll fail:
In no way knocking the guards of South Dakota State or Colorado, Xavier's Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons possess more tenacity and aggression on the defensive end and will not allow Heslip to get open looks from three.
One thing is for sure, if Heslip does hit a two or three and he makes his three-to-the-eye sign he's been sporting in the first two games, Holloway and Lyons will no doubt make him pay for it in one way or another.
While I don't see it escalating to another brawl like the one against Cincinnati, a few misguided elbows might just help keep Heslip's attitude in check.
Thomas Robinson, Kansas
Is there anybody who has upped his game more in the span of one year than Thomas Robinson?
In his first full year of extensive playing time, Robinson had destroyed opposing defenses throughout the year, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds a game along the way.
By dominating elite teams such as Baylor, Missouri and Ohio State, Robinson has vaulted from bench-roll player to one of the top NBA prospects in the country within one year.
However, that regular season success hasn't generated to a postseason spark that Kansas fans were hoping for.
While Robinson didn't necessarily have to play much in the Jayhawks' first game against Detroit, their game against Purdue did not turn out the same.
Robinson was dominated by Robbie Hummel's epic shooting night, tiring him out for the offensive end where he got zero breathing room against a swarming Boilermaker defensive game plan.
Why he'll fail:
If there is one thing we have learned from Kansas opponent NC State over the past few months, it's that they are playing at an all-time high and figuring themselves out as they go.
Sure, the Wolfpack doesn't have the length to keep up with Robinson (neither did Purdue) and the Boilermakers shut down Robinson for 11 points, giving the Jayhawks a huge fit throughout the game.
Combining Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie, two undersized forwards, to utilize their athleticism to swarm Robinson, made him very uncomfortable all night.
NC State is learning on the fly and if they have figured out what Purdue did, Robinson won't be making it to the Elite Eight.