20 Players That Have Benefited Most from 2012 NCAA Tournament

Nathan Giese@@gieseflysouthSenior Analyst IIMarch 24, 2012

20 Players That Have Benefited Most from 2012 NCAA Tournament

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    This NCAA tournament is one unlike any other that has preceded it. 

    Never before have we seen two two-seeds go down in the same round, on the same day. Never have we had four different teams from one single state make it to the Sweet 16. 

    Except, it's not always about the team accolades, it's also about individuals. 

    Now, I'm not talking about the big name players we already expected to do well in these games, I'm talking about the guys that weren't necessarily big names before the tournament but impressed when they had their chances. 

    They could have played four games by now or they could have lost in the Round of 64, but one way or another, these guys made a name for themselves, making their time on the court worth it in the long run.

    Here are 20 guys who have made the most out of their time in the tournament

    Side note: Guys that gained massive amounts of attention (Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Draymond Green, etc.) were not considered for this slideshow because their popularity is not in the same level of the ones who made the list. 

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

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    If it wasn't enough that C.J. McCollum played such a vital role in helping 15-seed Lehigh knock off the powerful, talented two-seed Duke, how about dropping 30 points in the process?

    McCollum has quietly been one of the most consistent and lethal scoring threats in the country throughout the year, averaging over 21 per game while dishing out six assists. McCollum also knows how to rattle a defense, taking away two steals per game from opponents, something that most guards aren't willing to do game in and game out. 

    Had McCollum and the Mountain Hawks not made it to the tournament, the nation may never have gotten the chance to see this young man at work. Only a junior, McCollum has the chance to show us again next year why he is one of the best scorers in the country, and also show us exactly why that victory over Duke was no fluke.

Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati

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    With guys like Yancy Gates, Deon Dixon and Cashmere Wright taking most of the spotlight for the Bearcats, Sean Kilpatrick has been the leader for Cincinnati throughout the tournament.

    Averaging 14 points per game, Kilpatrick saw his opportunities to make a name for himself against Florida State in the Round of 32 and against in the Sweet 16 against Ohio State. Against Florida State, Kilpatrick dropped 18 points, six rebounds and two steals. Against Ohio State, Sean added 15 more points. 

    Only a sophomore this year, Kilpatrick will have his opportunity to improve even more than he did this year from last year. He has the skill set to shine in the new look Big East next year, and don't count out the Bearcats to make another NCAA tournament run. 

Kendall Marshall, North Carolina

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    Last year, Carolina lost its starting point guard Larry Drew in the middle of the season, leaving them in a flux at the court quarterback. So, they put in some kid named Kendall Marshall to run the show, hoping that he wouldn't make the Tar Heels completely collapse under the pressure.

    Little did Roy Williams know, he had the wrong man running the offense all along and that losing Drew was a blessing in disguise.

    Not only did Marshall keep the Heels on a steady pace, but also he led the charge for the rest of the season, averaging six assists per game, allowing the rest of the loaded Carolina team score the points needed to win. 

    Fast forward to today and Kendall Marshall is not only one of the most productive point guards in the country, but he is also the steam mast that keeps the ship sailing in Raleigh. He's elevated his draft status to a potential lottery pick and has come up clutch for the Tar Heels when they need him the most.

    Throughout the ACC and NCAA tournaments, Marshall continued to prove why he is the best court general in the country. Unfortunately, he went down with a wrist fracture in the Round of 32 game against Creighton, keeping him out against Ohio in the Sweet 16. 

    While Carolina managed to come away with the narrow victory against Ohio, it was clearly evident that they were not the same without Marshall running the show. That game alone without Marshall playing showed how valuable he is to one of the best offenses in college basketball. 

    Without Marshall, the Tar Heels will have to prove they can do it without him. If they can't, Marshall's stock goes up even further. 

Marquis Teague, Kentucky

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    After spending much of the year being highly scrutinized for his lack of production, Marquis Teague has officially taken hold of his talents and proven why he was such a highly touted recruit for Kentucky.

    Teague only managed to average nine points a game during the regular season, but in the NCAA tournament, Teague has exploded for 12, 24 and 14 points respectively in his three games. He's also dished out 18 assists through Sweet 16 games, which isn't a huge differential from his season average, but it's something to take notice of. 

    In these three games, Teague has taken all doubt away that he can't perform on a high level and has jumped his draft status up from a mid-second round pick to first round choice, which could make all the difference in the world when it comes time for him to decide whether to stay in Lexington.

Royce White, Iowa State

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    Once thought of as a complete recruitment bust during his less than memorable tenure at Minnesota, Royce White has reminded people why he was so sought after coming out of high school basketball powerhouse Hopkins out of Minnesota. 

    Lucky for White, Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg believes in second chances, and he caught one huge whale when he was able to get White to come play for the Cyclones. In only one year of playing time, White averaged 13 points, almost 10 rebounds and five assists per game while helping the "Transfer All-Stars" to fourth place in the Big 12 behind elite teams in Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. 

    White didn't stop his dominance in the regular season, though. In his two games of playing in the tournament, White tallied 38 points and 22 rebounds against talented front lines in Connecticut and Kentucky. 

    His past may be troubling, but if White can convince NBA general managers that that is, in fact, his past, we could be looking at the next-generation Kevin Love. 

C.J. Leslie, NC State

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    If there was one team that needed its leader to step up at the end of the season in order to gain an NCAA tournament bid, it was NC State relying on C.J. Leslie to get them there. 

    On the brink of missing the tournament completely, the Wolfpack needed a solid string of victories to get them into the dance, leaving Leslie to carry the team on his back through the ACC tournament. Not only did he succeed in getting them into the big dance, but he also surpassed any and all expectations of where he was to take the team from there. 

    Leslie has been motivated more than ever in the NCAA tournament, trying to prove that he and the Pack are no fluke, getting all the way to the Sweet 16 and giving high-powered Kansas a scare. Leslie recorded 18 points and four boards against the Jayhawks, all while fighting foul trouble to lead NC State to a near-upset of Thomas Robinson and co.

    Given that Leslie is only a sophomore, it's not unlikely we see him and his pack of running mates doing the same thing next year. 

Jordair Jett, Saint Louis

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    Most of the country has never heard of Jordair Jett before this year's tournament. Now he is somebody that we should be keeping an eye on for the remainder of his career.

    Jett's stats against Memphis and Michigan State won't jump out at you by any means, but what he does on the court had as much impact for Saint Louis as did the scoring production. 

    Defense has been one of Jett's best on-court attributes dating all the way back to his high school days, and he made sure the Will Barton of Memphis and Keith Appling of Michigan State knew that about him after their games were over. By recording three timely steals against the Spartans, the Billikens were in it to the finish against one of the best teams in the country. 

    With Jett only being a sophomore, Saint Louis has a defensive stud to keep them in contention for more NCAA tournament bids. 

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt

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    Coming into college three years ago, Jenkins was praised for his potential to shoot beyond the arc. 

    Today, Jenkins has not only met those expectations, but he has exceeded them. 

    A career 40-plus percent three-point shooter, Jenkins took all the momentum and convince he and Vanderbilt gained in defeating Kentucky in the SEC tournament and went on to beat Harvard with his lethal shooting and kept the Commodores in it to the finish against Wisconsin.

    Dropping 27 and 17 points respectively in his two games, Jenkins took to the big stage to strut his long-range stuff. We may have known about Jenkins before this tournament, but those two games were a nice reminder about how much fun it is to watch a deadly shooter do his work.

Aaron Craft, Ohio State

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    Known mostly for his defensive presence around the perimeter, Aaron Craft has come alive on the offensive end thus far in the tournament.

    Craft has taken his game to a different level, notching 36 points, 12 rebounds and 19 assists during the Buckeyes run to the Elite Eight, completely overshadowing his regular season stats.

    Teammates Jared Sullinger and William Bufford may get most of the attention from Ohio State, but Craft, much like that of Kendall Marshall, runs the show in Columbus, and without him, the Buckeyes might not have made it past Gonzaga in the Round of 32, which was a lot closer than the 73-66 final score makes it out to be.

    Craft's productivity was the most vital component to Ohio State's win over Syracuse to advance to the Final Four, hustling all over the court, even venturing into the stands to get a loose ball. Without Craft, the Buckeyes may have been eliminated a while ago. 

Dion Waiters, Syracuse

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    Even though Dion Waiters has spent much of the year under the spotlight for the Syracuse Orange, the NCAA tournament is where he has been able to display his talents even further. 

    Performing consistently through his three games headed to the Elite Eight, Waiters has totaled 43 points, leading a Syracuse team that spent much of the season relying on the interior play of Fab Melo, who was suspended just before the tournament began, giving Waiters another chance to show the Orange can do it without him.

    Arguably one of the most talented players in the country, Waiters comes off the bench to provide a spark for the Orange who also have very talented guards in Scoop Jardine and Brandon Trische. Waiters is arguably the best player on the loaded Syracuse squad.

    Waiters ended up succumbing to foul trouble against Ohio State in the Elite Eight, which held him to being on the bench for the majority of the game. His overall accomplishments, however, will not go unnoticed. 

Pierre Jackson, Baylor

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    Baylor's front court players in Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller get all the attention, it is Pierre Jackson who has been the motor for Bears in route to a stellar season.

    Jackson has only spent one year in a Baylor electric snot green uniform, but he has made the most out of being a JUCCO transfer, averaging 13 points and six assists during the regular season. Throughout the year, Jackson has been the most consistent player for the Bears, even though he doesn't get the credit he deserves for it. 

    Entering the tournament, once again, all the attention was on Jones and Miller, two highly profiled NBA prospects for the coming draft. Except, it has been Jackson dropping dimes and nailing clutch shots to get the Bears within one game of the Final Four. 

    Against South Dakota State, Jackson focused on scoring, compiling 18 points in a narrow victory over the feisty Jackrabbits. Against Colordao and Xavier, Jackson did more than just score his team to victory, dishing for 20 assists, taking away seven steals while also gaining 31 more points leading the Bears to the position they are in today. 

    Hopefully for coach Scott Drew, he can convince Jackson to come back to help lead his team again, seeing as how Jones and Miller could bolt for a paycheck and Acy graduates. 

Christian Watford, Indiana

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    When Indiana Senior Verdell Jones went down with an ACL tear, coach Tom Crean needed to find someone to take over leadership and even a little scoring. Well, Christian Watford gladly accepted that role for the Hoosiers. 

    Watford, a 6'9" junior, shined during the Hoosiers' tournament run, amassing 57 points total in three games, including an astounding 27 against Kentucky in the Sweet 16. On top of that, he's hauled in 14 rebounds, proving he is versatile from both inside the arc and out. 

    Indiana would not have been so cohesive as a team had Watford not stepped up his game to epic proportions. Look for Watford to get some more recognition as next year approaches. 

Robbie Hummel, Purdue

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    A strong career for Robbie Hummel at Purdue was nearly lost twice in the last two years. Coming off a great showing for most of his Junior season, Hummel suffered an ACL tear causing him to miss the tail end of the year, including the postseason. 

    The same ill-gotten fate would strike Hummel once again before his senior year, as during his rehab, Hummel, once again, tore that same ACL, causing him to medically red shirt, extending his stay as a Boilermaker. 

    This year, however, Hummel has come up strong, having, statistically speaking, his best season on the court. Averaging 16 points and seven boards, Robbie took the leadership role to heart and helped lead Purdue back into the NCAA tournament. Once he got there, however, he didn't want the ride to end.

    After taking care of Saint Mary's, Hummel had the shooting performance of his life, going 7-8 in the first half alone and scoring 22 of his game-high 26 points before intermission. Robbie would cool down a bit in the second half, going 2-5 and scoring four points in the second, in a game against Kansas that Purdue would ultimately blow in the final minutes.

    While it may not have been the magical finish Robbie was hoping for, his valiant effort sends him off into the sunset as he now looks to secure an NBA contract. After his performance against Kansas, his stock may have shot up a bit. 

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

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    Gorgui Dieng may not have the most equipped mechanics on the offensive end, but at 6'11" with length and jumping ability, he does just fine.

    Dieng has led the Louisville Cardinals to the Final Four, using a combination of great defensive pressure and shot-blocking ability. Dieng only scored five points against the mighty Michigan State Spartans, but he tallied seven total blocked shots against Draymond Green and co., a key factor in the Cardinals' defensive emphasis that has gotten them farther than imagined at the beginning of the Big East tournament. 

    He has yet to score in double-digits in this tournament but has hauled down a total of 32 rebounds and swatted away 13 shot attempts, making him the key to Louisville's remarkable run.

Anthony Collins, South Florida

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    Another team that was lucky to make the NCAA tournament at all, South Florida made a special run of their own, winning their play-in game against California and upsetting Temple before being bounced by Sweet 16 team Ohio. 

    One guy in particular led the charge for the Bulls to make their run, and that man's name is Anthony Collins. 

    Collins entered the tournament averaging only eight points and five rebounds. He surpassed those numbers in almost every game, gaining less than one assist once but scoring over 12 points in every game, compiling 39 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists in three games. No big deal or anything.

    With Collins just a freshman, if these high impact games have any standing on how well he has progressed over the year, the rest of his career should be quite a sight to see.

Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

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    Call it a bit of a homer pick if you would like, but I have my reasons for putting Nate Wolters as the only player on this list whose team didn't win a single game in the tournament.

    Wolters has spent much of this last year flying under the radar for premier players in the country. Some write this off as it being because he plays at South Dakota State. I say this is true because most of the country hasn't been able to see him play yet. 

    Those days are over as Wolters and the Jackrabbits gave the Baylor Bears all they could handle in their Round of 64 game in Albuquerque, as Baylor escaped with an eight-point victory. 

    Baylor, possessing numerous NBA-level talents, extreme length and athleticism, were heavy favorites, for the most part, to handle SDSU cleanly and without haste. However, Wolters proved to be as good as advertised, not falling victim to the "He plays for a mid-major. How good can he really be?" stereotype. 

    Wolters dropped 19 points on the Bears while also collecting four rebounds, four assists and three steals in his first high-profile nationally televised game. 

    One big reason why this game was so big for Wolters was that it was his first taste of the NCAA tournament, as was it for the entire Jackrabbits squad who made their first tournament appearance in school history. 

    Nate enters his senior year with a boatload of confidence and knowledge that he, too, can play with the big boys. Don't be surprised if you hear his name come up a lot more next season. 

Doug McDermott, Creighton

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    What's there to say about Doug McDermott that hasn't been said numerous times already this season?

    McDermott is the front man for one of the top offenses in the entire country, averaging over 23 points per contest while also bring in eight rebounds a game.

    Creighton spent much of the year in the mix for a top five seed before dropping a couple heart-breakers towards the end of the season. McDermott and co. sought out to prove they belonged in the conversation to top teams and looked to do so in the NCAA tournament. 

    In a thriller against Alabama, McDermott scored 16 points while bringing 10 rebounds, helping the Bluejays advance to take on his old high school teammate Harrison Barnes and the Tar Heels. In that blast from the past, McDermott did all he could to help Creighton get past the might Carolina squad, dropping a 20-9 line, but suffered a 14-point loss.

    McDermott has been praised throughout the year, but he, too, sometimes fell in the "mid-major only stud" stereotype. Dougie proved he's more than that and should continue to do more damage has his college career continues. 

Carlon Brown, Colorado

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    In its first year under the Pac-12 conference curtain, Colorado needed a miracle run through the conference tournament to gain access to the NCAA tournament. Rather than just simple win the Pac-12 tournament title and call it good enough, the Buffaloes went on to upset six-seeded UNLV as well, thanks in no small part to Carlon Brown's determination. 

    In the victory against UNLV, Brown accounted for 12 points, six rebounds and four assists in the four-point win. In their second game, this time against Baylor, Brown refused to let that be the end of Colorado's tournament story. Brown came up with another 13 points, five rebounds and three assists, but all to no avail as Baylor used hot shooting from Brady Heslip and superior interior play to win by 17. 

    Brown's career at Colorado is now over, and it is unlikely he will be drafted at this point, but having a stellar showing when it counted certainly didn't hurt his chances of sneaking on to a few draft boards. 

D.J. Cooper, Ohio

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    Not a better story for the Sweet 16 teams, Ohio University, led by scrappy scorer D.J. Cooper, almost made it another Cinderella Elite Eight team by just missing on defeating a vulnerable North Carolina squad. While Cooper didn't come up big enough for the Bobcats in that game, he did more than his fair share in the first two.

    Cooper totaled up 40 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists on his way to leading Ohio to the Sweet 16. In that game against Carolina, Cooper struggled to find his shot, shooting 3-20 from the field and 1-10 from three-point range, tallying up only 10 points. One bright spot for that terrible performance was his six assists and two steals, all of which were instrumental in keeping Ohio in the game until the very end.

    Take nothing away from this 5'11" spark-plug. One bad game doesn't dictate how much he means to the Bobcats and will, hopefully, continue to show just how special his skill set really is next year.

Kyle O'Quinn, Norfolk State

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    Relatively an unknown when the tournament bracket came out, Norfolk State pulled off the upset of the century—that was until Lehigh did the same thing three hours later—knocking of second-seeded Missouri as a 15-seed. One man to lead the Spartans to such a sacred place in college basketball history was Kyle O'Quinn.

    O'Quinn entered the tournament being mentioned in small circles regarding his talents, but few really knew much about him. After the first Friday of the tournament, everybody knew what this guy's name was. 

    O'Quinn scored 26 timely points and hauled in 14 rebounds, including the game-clinching offensive board the free throws to put away the powerful and loaded Missouri Tigers. 

    O'Quinn only spent one year of his high school career playing basketball, which is why his talents went mostly unnoticed and ended up at Norfolk State instead of a higher profile school.

    Right now, I don't think anybody at Norfolk State's basketball program is sad to see that he fell into their hands.