March Madness 2013: Under-the-Radar Studs Who Could Run Tournament's Table

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2013

Feb 20, 2013; Syracuse, NY, USA; Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (5) on the floor during the second half of a game against the Providence Friars at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse won 84-59.  Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Every March Madness, there is one player who comes out of nowhere to wow the fans and, be it for a short period of time or a long one, runs the table. Even if it's just for two games, these players' performances stick with us as fans and leave us talking about them for years to come.

Take Shelvin Mack, for example. His Butler Bulldogs were a team nobody expected to take out top teams. Yet, in 2011, he scored 30 points and sank seven three-pointers en route to a victory over No. 1 seeded Pittsburgh.

The year before that, center Omar Samhan led the St. Mary's Gaels' charge to the Sweet Sixteen with 29 points and 12 rebounds over Richmond followed by a 32 point, seven rebound performance over heavily favored Villanova.

The fact is that though every tournament is going to have its stars, there are bound to be some players who come out of nowhere to control their own destiny and, in some cases, the pace of the tourney itself.

This year is no exception, so teams had better read the scouting reports on this small group of players who could wreak proverbial havoc once the big dance begins.


C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse

Syracuse may have fallen off the horse over the past few weeks, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this junior can be a force to be reckoned with if on a hot streak.

Fair has good size for his position at 6'8", 215 pounds, and led the Orange this year with 14.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He also did a fine job of picking his shots, shooting 49 percent from the field and even showing an occasional touch from downtown, making 44 percent of his long range attempts.

All numbers aside, however, Fair can go into freak athletic mode in the blink of an eye. He can drive the lane, has a decent jump shot, and is also a phenomenal dunker.

If the Orange can come together and put together a hot streak, definitely expect this young man to be leading the charge in playing spoiler for other teams.


Jack Cooley, F, Notre Dame

Notre Dame isn't expected to make a great deal of noise this tournament, but that can change if Cooley goes into beast mode. The senior isn't overly athletic at 6'9", 246 pounds, but has been a lock for a double-double in averaging 13.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, plus 1.3 blocks.

That said, a lot of how far Notre Dame goes in this year's tournament depends on how far the offense takes them. The team ranks 88th in the nation in scoring, but is third in assists and 24th in field goal percentage. Whenever this team does score, they do so efficiently.

Cooley has led the charge on offense for the Fighting Irish all season long, and that means that the team can potentially make a lot of noise in the tournament with a favorable draw. If Cooley can get hot in the paint, the rest of the team will rally behind him and prepare for a prosperous tournament run.


Joe Jackson, G, Memphis

At 6'1", 171 pounds, Jackson does not look like someone who handily carries a team. However, he is the prime reason that the Memphis Tigers went undefeated in conference play and are a sleeper team entering the tournament.

Jackson has led the Tigers in scoring this season with 13.7 points and 4.8 assists per game, and has also done an excellent job shooting the ball. He has shot 53 percent from the field and 49 percent from three-point land, and has also managed 1.6 steals per contest.

Thus, depending on seeding and positioning, don't be surprised if Jackson and his teammates blow past the competition and enjoy a lengthy tournament run. This young man has proven extremely reliable on both sides of the floor, and the tournament will only be the beginning of March Madness fans beginning to love him.