The Talented Unknowns of the NCAA

Marco RomanellCorrespondent IFebruary 23, 2009

With Selection Sunday right around the corner, college basketball "fans" will be popping up from everywhere.

Tons of people will fill out brackets without any clue as to who the best teams and players are. While players like Blake Griffin, DeJuan Blair, Tyler Hansbrough, and Hasheem Thabeet are receiving all of the national hype, there are many talented players that  fans nationally are less aware of.

Here is my "All-Submarine Team" of players, those who are under the radar.

So pay attention now, before the tournament comes around and they leave you shredding your bracket.

Levance Fields; Guard, Pittsburgh

It is tough to call the point guard for the top-ranked team in the country under the radar, but Levance Fields is precisely that.

After the win against UConn, it was DeJaun Blair who was receiving all the hype. But it was Fields who I believe won that game for his team.

He will not fill that stat sheet on the scoring end, but his leadership, decision making, and ball security makes him the Panthers most valuable player. With a 4.4 assist-to-turnover ratio, Fields protects the ball and distributes it to the scorers.

In addition to his 7.5 assists per game, Fields also contributes 10.9 PPG and hit a few big time three-pointers to help oust UConn. There is no doubt in my mind that Levance Fields cares more about his team’s success than his own.

But maybe, just maybe, fans will realize how good he really is.

Tyrese Rice; Guard, Boston College

Tyrese Rice is the heart and soul of a Boston College team that has far exceeded everyone’s expectations this season.

The senior guard averages 17.8 PPG and has helped put the Eagles on the verge of a tournament appearance. Any time fans discuss best players in the ACC, it usually takes them a while before they get to Rice’s name.

He has scored in double figures in all but one game this season.

Also, he has scored 20 or more points in 11 games this season.

Rice has the respect and adoration of everyone he plays against, but is not well known nationally among the fans. If the Eagles make some noise in the tournament, then fans all over the country will be introduced to Tyrese Rice, four years too late.

Antonio Anderson; Guard, Memphis

Does anyone even know Memphis is 24-3, ranked No. 6 in the poll, and in line for another No. 1 seed in the tournament?

Memphis is  flying under the radar as a team and that most certainly means nobody is paying attention to Antonio Anderson.

While he is averaging only 10.5 PPG, Anderson remains the focus of his opponents. Last week on PTI, Memphis coach John Calipari said that if he had to put the ball in the hands of one player to make a game winning shot, he would choose Anderson.

Anderson already delivered in that situation earlier this season against Tulsa. People might want to start paying attention to Anderson, before him and his Tigers leave people ripping up their brackets.

Devan Downey; Guard, South Carolina

South Carolina is known as the school that Steve Spurrier coaches at, but they also have a really good basketball team that nobody has noticed.

South Carolina basketball is best known for wearing the same color uniforms as Syracuse in the NIT Final a few seasons ago, and for losing to 15th seeded Copin St. in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.

The Gamecocks are 19-6 this season and in prime position to get into the Big Dance, thanks in large part to Devan Downey and his 20 PPG.

Downey and his 23 points led his team to an upset win at Kentucky earlier this year.

He followed up that performance with a 33-point outing at Florida.

Downey maybe diminutive in size at only 5’9”, but he is a giant in heart and talent—something his opponents this season know all too well.

James Harden; Guard, Arizona State

Many teams on the West Coast believe there is an “East Coast Bias." and the Sun Devils might just be the biggest victim of this theory.

The Sun Devils are 20-5 overall and ranked No. 11 nationally. However, there are many people who can not even name one player on their team.

I live on the east coast, but I have stayed up late a few times this season to watch Arizona State and James Harden play. Harden averages 21.3 PPG. He is likely the Pac-10 Player of the Year, as well as an NBA Lottery pick this season.

The smooth-shooting lefty has carried the Sun Devils on his back this season and seems to be playing his best basketball of the year, all at the right time.

Last season, Arizona State was the tournament committee’s biggest “snub”.

But thanks to Harden, they do not have to worry about the same fate this season.

Jerel McNeal; Guard, Marqutte:

Marquette was in the news a lot this offseason only because of the departure of Coach Tom Crean. The Golden Eagles are known as “Dwayne Wade’s alma-mater” by most fans. But they should be known as one of the better college programs over the last few years.

Marquette is lead by a trio of senior guards in Wesley Matthews, Domenic James, and Jerel McNeal. With a 20 PPG average, McNeal has led Marquette to a 23-4 record and has them challenging for Big East title.

McNeal opened some eyes with his play in the tournament last season, but he is still not regarded by most fans as one of the best players in the Big East. He will likely not win Player of the Year in the Big East.

But come tournment time, fans nationally will realize what an explosive, talented player he is.

Honorable Mention: Robbie Hummel (Purdue), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), K.C Rivers (Clemson),Nick Calathes (Florida), Toney Douglas (Florida St.)


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