NCAA Tournament 2012: The 8 Most Disappointing Players of the Sweet 16
By March, a team's identity is usually well-established. Just as established are the identities of their prime producers.
Once the NCAA tournament rolls around, however, some players struggle to live up to their reputations. Others find themselves thrust into major roles which may exceed their abilities.
These eight players, presented in no particular order, play for teams that reached the Sweet 16, but they have had varying amounts of input into their teams' success. They may have had flashes in the first three rounds of the tournament, but have largely failed to meet the standards they have set for themselves.
Baye Keita, Syracuse
Perhaps considering Baye Keita's performance disappointing for the Syracuse Orange is overstating a bit. Keita has never put together a consistent string of performances productive enough for fans to expect great things from him.
Still, with the Orange needing a low-post presence in the wake of Fab Melo's suspension, it should not be unreasonable to expect positive minutes out of the 6'10" sophomore.
Unreasonable or not, he hasn't provided them. Keita played a total of 19 minutes in the first two rounds, producing four points and one rebound. He got 28 minutes of run against Wisconsin Thursday night, carding five rebounds and four points before fouling out.
He's slightly above his season averages in the tournament, but considering those averages are 2.3 points and 2.3 rebounds, that's not saying a lot.
Perry Jones III, Baylor
Perry Jones III entered the 2011-12 season as a potential first-team All-American and national Player of the Year dark horse. He ended the season as a third-team All-Big XII performer.
Jones averaged 21.7 points per game on Baylor's run to the final of the Big 12 tournament, giving Bears fans hope that he would seize the team's Big Dance games and make them his own.
Although Jones yanked down 11 rebounds against South Dakota State, he could only manage two points on 1-for-6 shooting. He followed up with seven points and four boards against Colorado.
Jones shot 7-of-8 against Xavier in the Sweet 16 for 14 points, but his teammate Quincy Acy dominated the game in a recovery from a pair of slow nights of his own.
Mark Lyons, Xavier
Mark Lyons averaged slightly more than 15 points per game for the season. He came into the NCAA tournament on a roll of 11 straight double-figure scoring games.
His totals for the Musketeers' wins over Notre Dame and Lehigh: 15 points on 5-of-17 shooting.
Lyons was bailed out of his role as Tu Holloway's main wingman by solid nights for Dezmine Wells and Kenny Frease. In Xavier's 75-70 loss to Baylor on Friday night, however, even help from both Frease and Holloway couldn't get Lyons enough good looks.
Lyons dropped 16 points, more in line with his season average, but shot 5-of-15 to do it, including misses on all four of his three-point attempts.
The Muskies are likely Lyons' team next season, with Holloway and Frease's careers now over. They'll need more consistency from him during the big games.
Kyle Kuric, Louisville
As a junior, Kyle Kuric drained almost 45 percent of his three-point shots. This season, his accuracy fell to 33 percent.
Still, Kuric was Louisville's leading scorer on the season, making him the first man Rick Pitino might look to for positive offensive production.
The Cardinals are on their way to the Elite Eight not because of Kuric's shooting, but in spite of it. Kuric has hit 10 of 28 in his three tournament games, including 3-for-13 from long range.
Of the baskets that he has made, none have come during the heat of a close game. He didn't make a field goal in the second half against Davidson, and actually missed three free throws that helped the Wildcats trim the final margin.
Likewise, Kuric made no baskets in the final 15 minutes against New Mexico, and his lone three-pointer against Michigan State came with 1:11 left and the game well in hand.
Against Florida, there may be a need for pressure baskets, and Pitino would love to know that his leading scorer will be able to show up.
Kris Joseph, Syracuse
Many observers are convinced that Syracuse needed some help from the officials to escape being the first No. 1 seed to fall in the first round. What could have rendered the entire discussion moot was a better shooting night from the Orange's leading scorer, Kris Joseph.
Joseph was 3-for-10 from the floor against Asheville, including 0-for-5 from long range. He made two free throws with three seconds left, but those were the first points that he had scored in nearly five minutes.
In the subsequent games against Kansas State and Wisconsin, Joseph has produced 18 points on shaky 5-of-15 shooting, adding only three rebounds.
On the season, Joseph has an effective FG percentage of 48.9. In the tournament, that percentage stands at 34.0. The Orange will have to work even harder to get Joseph open looks against Ohio State's harassing defense.
Derrick Nix, Michigan State
Derrick Nix came to play in Michigan State's opening game against Long Island, scoring 18 points and pulling eight rebounds. He added 10 points in only 15 minutes against Saint Louis, but one rebound was a disconcerting total.
Against Louisville, Nix seemed to spend most of his night exasperated at the defensive omnipresence of Gorgui Dieng. Dieng swatted seven shots, and while only one of those was on Nix, there were multiple occasions where Nix neglected to utilize his 40-pound weight advantage to bully Dieng around the paint.
Nix managed only four points on 2-of-6 shooting, and both of his baskets were dunks.
In the second round, Davidson was able to get Dieng out of the game early by drawing two fouls in the first four minutes.
The Spartans didn't draw a foul on Dieng until the second half. Five of his seven blocks came in the second half. These two things may or may not be related.
Yancy Gates, Cincinnati
Yancy Gates' reputation arguably suffered more than anyone's after the Xavier-Cincinnati brawl in December. He looked set to finish his personal redemption story in style after Cincinnati's first tournament game.
Gates put 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks on the Texas Longhorns to propel the Bearcats into a matchup with No. 3 seed Florida State. There, the Seminoles held Gates to 10 points, five rebounds and 3-of-7 shooting. He was able to get fewer attempts than any of his fellow Cincinnati starters.
The Sweet 16 faceoff with Ohio State was more of the same story. The same 3-of-7 shooting. Another game with as many fouls as baskets. Another five-rebound effort, well below his season average.
Gates ended his career with only seven points against the Buckeyes, finishing with a whimper unbecoming a player who spent four years establishing himself as a physical force on the court.
William Buford, Ohio State
William Buford entered his senior season with an outside shot at catching Dennis Hopson's Ohio State record of 2,096 points. While he fell short of the record, he can be praised for his consistency, averaging 14.4 points per game for the third straight season.
Buford started the NCAA tournament with a strong game against Loyola (Md.), producing 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Since then, he has struggled offensively.
Against Gonzaga and Cincinnati, Buford has totaled 17 points over 70 minutes, as opposed to the 29 minutes that he took to score that number against Loyola.
More exasperating to Buckeye fans are the 5-for-21 shooting totals that Buford put forward in the third round and Sweet 16. The two games were his ninth and tenth games this season of shooting below 31 percent.
Buford is capable of exploding any night, as his five 25-point games this season will attest. OSU may need one of those against Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone on Saturday, or Buford's next slow night could be his last as a Buckeye.