NCAA Tournament 2012: Top 25 Under-the-Radar Players Heading into 2013
No matter how big of a college-basketball nut you are, there are always a few players who come out of nowhere and do something special, whether it is lead a team to a NCAA tournament run or become a league leader in a major stat category.
This year, we had our share of this type of player shine their true colors during the NCAA tournament. Aside from fanatics, many college-basketball fans had no idea who the likes of C.J. McCollum, Kyle O'Quinn, Victor Rudd and Walter Offutt were before the Big Dance took place.
Here is a list of 25 guys, ranging from mid-majors to the Atlantic 10 to the Big East and Big 12, many of who you probably do not know.
*Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer for more college-basketball news and information.
Chaz Williams, Massachusetts
2011-12 Stats: 16.9 ppg, 6.4 apg, 4.4 rpg
Chaz Williams flew under the radar for almost all of the 2011-12 season, but surely anyone who follows the NIT now knows who this kid is. The 5'9" point guard was electric during the postseason tournament, leading Massachusetts to the semifinals with his 21.8 ppg and 4.8 apg.
Williams ended up finishing the season as No. 1 in the Atlantic 10 in assists and No. 9 in the entire nation.
The Hofstra transfer still has two more years of eligibility remaining, so don't be surprised if he puts up a few triple-doubles before his time is up.
Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
2011-12 Stats: 21.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.0 apg
Nate Wolters not might count as an under-the-radar player after leading South Dakota State to the NCAA tournament this year, but there are still plenty of people out there who don't know just how good Wolters is.
Wolters was the only player in college basketball this season to average 20 points, five rebounds and six assists per game. He has a very well-rounded game, although his three-point shooting numbers did take a big drop from last season to this season, falling from upwards of 40 percent to 24.1 percent.
Wolters will be one of the best point guards next season, and he is the type of player that has the potential to lead the nation in both scoring and assists.
With Wolters, the Jackrabbits should get back to the NCAA tournament in 2012-13, and maybe next year, they will be able to pull off an upset or two.
Cleveland Melvin, DePaul
2011-12 Stats: 17.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg
By virtue of playing for DePaul, Cleveland Melvin has generally been under the radar for the last two seasons. The Baltimore native has the potential to be a savior for the DePaul basketball program under Oliver Purnell.
Melvin's field-goal percentage dropped from his freshman season to his sophomore season, falling from 52.2 percent to 44.8 percent. If he can get back to being a more efficient scorer, he has the talent to make the All-Big East First Team next year.
Deuce Bello, Baylor
2011-12 Stats: 3.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg
Deuce Bello was ranked among the top freshmen by ESPN, but he had to take a relatively small role on a Baylor team that was stacked. Although Bello, a 6'4" guard/forward, played just 10.3 minutes per game, he showed signs of a future star.
Bello is a freak athlete with extreme quickness and jumping ability. With forwards Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones graduating and sophomore Perry Jones III possibly going pro, Bello will have the opportunity to become one of the main players on Baylor's roster.
Kevin Olekaibe, Fresno State
2011-12 Stats: 17.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg
Kevin Olekaibe was No. 2 in the WAC in scoring this year with nearly 18 points per game. Unfortunately, he was not too efficient of a scorer, making only 37.2 percent of his shots and 33.8 percent of his three-pointers.
Fresno State counted on Olekaibe a lot this season—probably too much. The sophomore played 36.5 minutes per game and took more than 15 shots per game. Since he was obviously the best player on the floor for the Bulldogs, he did not get too many open looks.
There is a good chance that this partially led to his inefficiency, so if one or two more guys on the Bulldogs can step up their game next year, Olekaibe should be able to maximize his performance.
Colt Ryan, Evansville
2011-12 Stats: 20.5 ppg, 3.3 apg, 43.8 3P%
The pressure was on Colt Ryan to have a breakout junior season after very solid freshman and sophomore years, and he delivered big time.
Ryan ended up finishing in the top 15 in the nation in scoring and No. 2 in the MVC behind Creighton's Doug McDermott.
He scored in double figures in all but three games this year, and his season-high 43 points came against Creighton on Feb. 21. In that game, he shot 17-of-24 from the field in addition to having six rebounds, four assists and five steals.
Ryan will have stiff competition for 2012-13 MVC Player of the Year with McDermott being a proven player, but he will definitely be in the running.
Julian Boyd, LIU-Brooklyn
2011-12 Stats: 17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg
Julian Boyd's playing career seemed to be finished after he was diagnosed with a heart condition during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years.
But Boyd fought back to beat the odds and has become the best player in the NEC, winning the conference's Player of the Year award as a junior this past season.
Boyd has already helped LIU-Brooklyn to back-to-back NEC championships and NCAA tournament appearances, and next year may be the year that the Blackbirds will actually win a game in March Madness.
Chris Gaston, Fordham
2011-12 Stats: 17.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 42 3P%
Ever since he started out as a freshman, Chris Gaston has been racking up double-doubles for Fordham. And although his rebounds per game dipped just barely below 10 this year, he had averaged a double-double in each of his first two seasons.
As a freshman, he averaged 18 points per game and 11.4 rebounds per game, and as sophomore he averaged 15.9 and 11.3.
He had 16 double-doubles this year, bumping his career total to 52.
Standing at 6'7", Gaston has struggled when he has a size disadvantage. If he can develop a better perimeter game, he will be a front-runner for Atlantic 10 Player of the Year in 2012-13.
Deonte Burton, Nevada
2011-12 Stats: 14.9 ppg, 4.3 apg
Deonte Burton was far from being efficient this year as a scorer, shooting just a hair over 40 percent from the field, but he still possessed the ability to rack up points in a hurry.
Burton had six games with 25 points or more, including a season-high 31 points against Washington of the Pac-12. That game against the Huskies was his best overall performance, as he made four three-pointers and also had six rebounds and six assists.
If Burton works on being a more efficient scorer, he has the potential to be one of the best in the country for the next two years.
Mark Lyons, Xavier
2011-12 Stats: 15.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.7 apg
Mark Lyons is by no means a secret to the college-basketball nation. Lyons helped Xavier to the Sweet 16 this season, backing seniors Tu Holloway and Kenny Frease.
But in 2012-13, Lyons will become the main man for the Musketeers, and he could even become a potential All-American.
As Holloway's wingman, Lyons scored in double figures in all but three regular-season games.
He had a chance to get his name on the map in the NCAA tournament, but he ended up struggling during March, averaging 10.3 points per game on 31.3 percent shooting.
Javon McCrea, Buffalo
2011-12 Stats: 14.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg
Javon McCrea won MAC Freshman of the Year two seasons ago, and this past year, he did not disappoint. McCrea made the All-MAC First Team and was in the top five in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage.
The sophomore had a number of great performances this season, but his best outing was against Youngstown State, when he dropped 29 points and 13 rebounds. Against the Penguins, he shot 14-of-17 from the field.
George Beamon, Manhattan
2011-12 Stats: 19.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 42.7 3P%
No one knew about George Beamon because the junior was overshadowed in the MAAC by Iona stars Mike Glover, Scott Machado and Momo Jones. In 2012-13, Beamon will be one of the favorites for MAAC Player of the Year, and here is why.
Beamon used to be a one-dimensional player, but during his junior season, he developed his jump shot. After shooting a combined 6-of-41 during his first two seasons with the Jaspers from three-point range, he shot 61-of-143 from beyond the arc.
Beamon absolutely dominated over the last few months of the 2011-12 season, averaging 22.5 points per game over the final 10 games.
The 6'4" guard should also get more opportunities for publicity next year, as Manhattan will be one of the top dogs in 2012-13.
Vincent Council, Providence
2011-12 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 7.5 apg, 4.1 rpg
Vincent Council flourished during his first year under Ed Cooley's direction. The junior led the Big East in assists during the 2011-12 season, and he also finished No. 10 in scoring.
Unfortunately, Providence struggled throughout the season, finishing No. 15 in the Big East, so Council did not get as much national attention as he deserved.
Council could lose some playing time to incoming freshman Kris Dunn, a ESPNU Top 100 recruit and McDonald's All-American, but either way he is set up for a stellar senior season.
Kyle Vinales, Central Connecticut State
2011-12 Stats: 17.9 ppg, 3.6 apg
Kyle Vinales was the No. 1 scorer among freshmen during the 2011-12 season with 17.9 points per game. Vinales had a couple of off-nights here and there, as any freshman would, but he also had a number of explosive outings.
Against Niagara, Vinales posted 39 points on 15-of-23 shooting and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc, and he also scored 32 points against Robert Morris on eight three-pointers.
The freshman also had three 27-point performances against Northwestern, St. Francis (Pa.) and Quinnipiac.
And even though he quickly earned a reputation as a scorer, he was also a solid point guard, dishing out as many as 11 assists in a single game.
Torrey Craig, USC Upstate
2011-12 Stats: 16.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg
Torrey Craig led USC Upstate to the second-best turnaround in NCAA Division I this season, as the Spartans increased their win total from last season by 14. Not only was Craig the best player on USC Upstate, but he was also the best in the Atlantic Sun, despite being just a sophomore.
Craig led the conference in scoring by more than a point per game, and he also finished No. 2 in rebounding. In addition, he was in the top 10 in blocks.
Craig scored in double digits in most games this season, including a career-high 30 points against Florida Gulf Coast in February.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas
2011-12 Stats: 14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 56.7 FG%
After de-committing from Missouri, Tony Mitchell landed at North Texas of the Sun Belt Conference. Mitchell was not eligible to play until Dec. 18, but he made quite an impact once he was allowed to step onto the floor.
The freshman got off to a relatively slow start, averaging 10.3 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game during his first six games as a member of the Mean Green, but then he caught fire starting in January.
He exploded for 34 points and 16 rebounds against South Alabama in the first game of the new year, and he ended up finishing the year as the best freshman in the Sun Belt.
DeAndre Kane, Marshall
2011-12 Stats: 16.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.5 apg
DeAndre Kane followed up an impressive freshman season with a stellar sophomore campaign. Kane finished second in Conference USA in scoring, and he was also in the top 10 in assists with 117 for the year.
The sophomore had a number of great outings this past season with his regular season-high 29 points coming in a win over Belmont. Kane then exploded for a career-high 40 points against Tulsa in the Conference USA quarterfinals.
Arsalan Kazemi, Rice
2011-12 Stats: 12.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 59.4 FG%
Arsalan Kazemi's scoring and rebounding numbers were slightly down from last season, but overall, the Iranian improved his game, with his field-goal percentage and defensive numbers taking big leaps.
Kazemi punched out double-doubles pretty consistently during the 2011-12 season, posting 18 total. From Dec. 3 through Jan. 14, he had a double-double in 10 of 11 games.
His best overall performances this season were when he scored 23 points and 12 rebounds against Lamar, and 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists against St. Thomas (Texas).
Keith Rendleman, UNC-Wilmington
2011-12 Stats: 15.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg
Keith Rendleman ranked No. 4 in rebounding and No. 6 in scoring in the CAA during his junior season and was one of four players in the conference to average a double-double.
The UNC-Wilmington Seahawks did not make any noise this year (the only time they received national publicity was when they lost to Towson, snapping the Tigers' 41-game losing streak), so Rendleman's accomplishments went unnoticed.
The Seahawks could be a surprise team in the CAA next year since they are returning all of their key parts, and if they do any damage in 2012-13, Rendleman will be leading the charge.
Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart
2011-12 Stats: 22.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 86.2 FT%
After sitting out and redshirting his sophomore season, Shane Gibson has had a pair of very strong seasons as he continues to make his case to be the best player in Sacred Heart's history.
Gibson was No. 5 in the nation in scoring for the 2011-12 season with 22 points per game, but he did not get national attention because Sacred Heart finished 14-18, 8-10 in the NEC.
Gibson scored in double figures in every game this year, and he even hit the 30-point mark four times.
Ike Azotam, Quinnipiac
2011-12 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg
Ike Azotam had a breakout sophomore season in 2011-12, bumping up his scoring average by more than 10 points per game. He also ended up finishing in a tie with Julian Boyd for the NEC rebounding title.
Azotam was only a sophomore this year, so there is plenty of time for him to become a truly dominant big man. The Boston native had 14 double-doubles this year and scored 10 or more points in 27 of 32 games.
Augustine Rubit, South Alabama
2011-12 Stats: 15.2 ppg, 9.2 rpg
Augustine Rubit has been a double-double machine during his two years with South Alabama, but nobody really knows who he is because of the Jaguars' recent lack of success.
Rubit had 14 double-doubles in his freshman campaign, and in the 2011-12 season he posted 12. This year, Rubit led the Sun Belt in rebounds, and he finished No. 2 in scoring behind Florida International's DeJuan Wright.
Amin Stevens, Florida A&M
2011-12 Stats: 17.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg
Amin Stevens was part of the select group of players to average a double-double during the 2011-12 season. Stevens missed the first 12 games of the season after being suspended due to academic issues, but once he returned, he became possibly the most dominant forward in the MEAC.
Stevens missed double digits in scoring only three times this past season, and six times he had 20 or mores points. In the 21 games that he played, he had 13 double-doubles.
It will be hard for a school like Florida A&M to get any attention unless it wins the MEAC, but either way, Stevens could put up some unreal numbers during his senior season.
Kevin Dillard, Dayton
2011-12 Stats: 13.3 ppg, 6.0 apg
Kevin Dillard had a pair of good seasons with Southern Illinois before transferring to Dayton for his junior season. In his first year with the Flyers, he finished No. 2 in assists in the Atlantic 10 behind Chaz Williams.
Along with Williams, Dillard will once again be one of the top point guards in the conference, and we may even see him ranking among the nation's leaders in assists next year.
Carl Jones, Saint Joseph's
2011-12 Stats: 17.0 ppg, 3.3 apg
Carl Jones stayed under the radar this season after Saint Joseph's missed out on the NCAA tournament and was relegated to the NIT.
Jones led the Hawks in scoring this season and was No. 5 in the Atlantic 10. He hit a small funk near the end of January, but aside from those few games, he was one of the best scorers in the nation. The junior scored 20 or more points in 10 games this year.
Saint Joseph's has the looks of a NCAA tournament team for next season, so Jones could get a chance to make some more noise on the national stage.