10 Mid-Major Stars Ready to Make Their Teams This Year's Cinderella
From Weber State’s Harold “The Show” Arceneaux to Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, many of the best Cinderella stories of March Madness have had one transcendent star leading the charge. With this year’s brackets just a week away from being finalized, it’s time to take stock of the potential heroes on the teams hoping to bust those brackets.
Fittingly enough, Drew—now coaching his alma mater—has one of the top candidates on his own roster. The experienced Crusaders are one game away from a Horizon League title, and senior three-point gunner Ryan Broekhoff is a huge reason why.
Read on for more on Broekhoff’s value to Valpo, along with nine more names that could go down in history for leading the epic upsets of the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Note: Because this list deals in Cinderella stories, players whose teams have been in the Top 25 at any point during the season were excluded from consideration.
10. Marcos Knight, Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders’ upset loss in the Sun Belt semis puts a cloud over a great season, but the nation’s 24th-ranked team by RPI is still a good bet to earn a spot in March Madness.
Once they get there, senior guard Marcos Knight will give them a real chance to make some noise.
Knight not only leads Middle Tennessee in scoring (12.5 points per game), but at 6’2”, he pulls down a team-leading 5.6 rebounds a night.
He’s also a solid passer whose penetration helps set up sniper Raymond Cintron (.443 long-range shooting percentage) on the outside.
9. Kareem Jamar, Montana
Montana finished 19-1 in Big Sky action this season in spite of injuries that cost the Grizzlies several games apiece from standout seniors Mathias Ward (done for the year after foot surgery) and Will Cherry (who’s finally back in action).
The glue that held the team together through all those short-roster games was another senior, swingman Kareem Jamar.
The 6’5”, 210-pound Jamar leads the team with 5.9 rebounds per game, and with Ward out, he takes over as the leading scorer, too (14.1 points a night).
Though he’ll likely cede most of the ball handling work to the recovered Cherry, he’s also a first-rate passer who dished out 4.1 assists per contest for the season.
8. Taylor Smith, Stephen F. Austin
The Southland Conference’s NCAA tournament representative is always one of the field’s biggest underdogs, but Stephen F. Austin isn’t a typical Southland team.
The Lumberjacks boast the No. 1 scoring defense in all of college basketball, allowing a microscopic 50.3 points per game.
The heart of that performance has been 6’6” power forward Taylor Smith who grabs 8.9 rebounds and blocks 3.0 shots a night. The senior is also one of the Lumberjacks’ few offensive weapons, leading the team with 15.6 points per game.
7. Jake Cohen, Davidson
One of Davidson’s biggest assets in facing a higher-seeded March Madness foe will be a frontcourt that wouldn’t look out of place in the SEC.
Unlike many undersized mid-major rosters, the Wildcats feature 6’7”, 227-pound De’Mon Brooks at power forward and 6’10”, 235-pound Jake Cohen at center.
Leading scorer Cohen (14.8 points per game) is a versatile offensive weapon who can step outside for a three-pointer or bang in the low post.
He’s just as vital on defense, where he grabs most of his 5.6 rebounds a night and swats a team-leading 1.6 shots per contest.
6. Ramon Galloway, La Salle
Although La Salle’s two biggest wins of the year (over Butler and VCU) were of the defensive, slug-it-out variety, the Explorers’ offense has some impressive punch of its own.
The best weapon of the bunch is 6’3” Ramon Galloway, the team’s leader in both scoring (17.8 points per game) and assists (3.8 a night).
The senior is also an outstanding defender who racks up 2.1 steals per contest.
With plenty of help from backcourt mate Tyreek Duren—they’re both 40-percent shooters from beyond the arc—Galloway makes the Explorers an especially dangerous team in the final minutes.
5. Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso
If there was any question about whether Ryan Broekhoff is ready for the postseason yet, it was answered Saturday night.
The Valparaiso senior fought off a double-team at the three-point arc to nail a buzzer-beater that saved the Crusaders from an upset loss in the Horizon League semifinals.
For the year, the 6’7” Australian import leads Valpo with 15.9 points (including 43.4-percent long-range accuracy) and 7.5 rebounds per game.
He’s one of five senior starters for a team that would love to equal the school-record Sweet 16 finish by current coach Bryce Drew and his 1998 Crusaders.
4. Ian Clark, Belmont
Although backcourt mate Kerron Johnson played the hero in the Ohio Valley title game, Ian Clark has been the main man for Belmont all season long.
The 6’3” senior—part of a starting five that features two more seniors and two juniors—leads the team with 18.4 points a night.
Clark does most of his work from outside the three-point arc, where he shoots an absurd 46.9 percent on the year. He also grabs 1.6 steals a game, though that only makes him the third-best thief on Belmont’s playmaking defense.
3. Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Any higher-seeded teams who want to know just how dangerous Khalif Wyatt is are welcome to ask Syracuse.
The Orange took their first loss of the season against Temple, courtesy of a career-best 33 points (including 15-for-15 free-throw shooting) from the Owls senior.
Wyatt leads Temple with 19.5 points and 4.1 assists per game on the year. He’s also a major contributor to the team’s hard-nosed defense, grabbing 1.6 steals a night.
2. Mike Muscala, Bucknell
One of 2012’s biggest Cinderella stories was a Norfolk State team that outmuscled second-seeded Missouri behind 6’10” Kyle O’Quinn.
Bucknell has a better seed coming to it than Norfolk State had, and the Bison boast an even better center than O’Quinn in multi-talented Mike Muscala.
Muscala is a 6’11”, 239-pound senior who leads his team in per-game scoring (18.9), rebounding (11.1), blocks (2.5) and even assists (2.4).
With a pair of three-point gunners flanking him, Muscala will make opponents pay whether or not they double-team him on the low block.
1. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
When a player in the Summit League gets named as one of the 15 finalists for the Wooden Award, you know he’s having a ridiculous year. Nate Wolters has the most eye-popping all-around stats for any point guard (and arguably any player) in the country.
In addition to ranking fourth nationally with 22.7 points per game, Wolters averages 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.7 steals a night, all while shooting 40 percent from three-point range.
Wolters and his Jackrabbits gave a towering Baylor team a run for its money as a 14 seed a year ago, and their three-point shooting will make them a scary opponent again in 2013.
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