NCAA Tournament 2012: Ranking Top 5 Players in This Year's March Madness

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2012

KNOXVILLE, TN - JANUARY 14: Anthony Davis #23 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate at the end of the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Thompson-Boling Arena on January 14, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 65-62. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Plenty of tremendous players have made their presence felt throughout the NCAA tournament. Some of them have risen above the rest, however, to assert themselves as March Madness stars. It's something they'll remember forever.

Let's take a look at the top five players in this year's big dance based off of their performances so far and their future career prospects.

1. Anthony Davis (Kentucky)

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 17: Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats attempts a shot in the first half against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 17, 2012 in Louisville,
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Davis entered the tournament with more hype than any other player. After all, he carried the top-seeded Wildcats on his back throughout the season. His play so far has proven that he deserved every last drop of that praise because he's been dominant.

Through two games, Kentucky's monster forward has racked up 31 points, 21 rebounds and nine blocks. Without his presence in the middle of the defense, the first two games wouldn't have been so easy. Davis' defensive wizardry is unmatched in college basketball.

2. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 11:  Harrison Barnes #40 of the North Carolina Tar Heels gestures on court against the Florida State Seminoles during the Final Game of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conference Tournament at Philips Arena on March 11, 2012 in Atlanta,
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

There was a lot of debate about whether or not Barnes made the right decision to spend another season at North Carolina. Now that the season is almost over, it appears he did since his game has improved markedly since last year's tourney.

He's become a more polished player in just about every area, which has allowed him to increase his efficiency by leaps and bounds. His versatility, on frequent display in wins over Vermont and Creighton, will make him a terrific pro.

3. Thomas Robinson (Kansas)

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18:  Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrates against the Purdue Boilermakers during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 18, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Fra
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Robinson tends to get overlooked in conversations about the tournament's elite players, but he definitely deserves a spot in the top five. He's posted two straight double-double performances to start the tournament to knock off Detroit and Purdue.

The Jayhawks are a bit top heavy, which puts a lot of pressure on Robinson, but he's handled it well. His development from the time he arrived at Kansas to right now has been amazing. He's gone from bench fodder to main contributor in three seasons, illustrating his dedication to the game.

4. Cody Zeller (Indiana)

BLOOMINGTON, IN - FEBRUARY 28:  Cody Zeller #40 of the  Indiana Hoosiers shoots the ball while defended by Derrick Nix #25 of the Michigan State Spartans during the Big Ten Conference game at Assembly hall on February 28, 2012 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (P
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After a stretch of disappointing seasons, Zeller has led a resurgence of the storied Indiana program. The pieces were starting to come together last season for head coach Tom Crean, but Zeller was the interior force that the Hoosiers needed to become a legitimate threat again.

He's scored 30 points in Indiana's first two games, but will get a real test against the aforementioned Anthony Davis on Friday night. He will need to show he can hang with the country's most dominant big man if the Hoosiers plan on reaching the Elite Eight for the 12th time.

5. Bradley Beal (Florida)

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18:  Bradley Beal #23 of the Florida Gators smiles on the bench late in the second half against the Norfolk State Spartans during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 18, 2012 in Oma
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Florida's surprising run, thanks in part to Norfolk State upsetting Missouri, has allowed fans to get a much closer look at Beal. The freshman guard has connected on 65 percent of his shots in the Big Dance to lift the Gators to three victories.

There aren't many things Beal can't do. He can knock down the outside shot or cause chaos by driving into the paint. He's also a solid defender and grabs nearly seven rebounds per game, which is rare for a 6'3'' player. All told, his stock has improved more than anyone else's since the tourney began.