NCAA Tournament 2013: Underrated Studs Who Will Thrive in the Limelight

Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 18, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 16:  Kerron Johnson #3 of the Belmont Bruins dribbles the ball against the Georgetown Hoyas during the second round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament on March 16, 2012 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

March Madness makes heroes.

It's as simple as that. College basketball may not tickle everyone's fancy, but once the most thrilling postseason in sports rolls around, everyone pays attention, and the spotlight grows as fast as the Grinch's heart. 

While some players tend to fold on such a massive stage, others use it to make names for themselves and win over America. 

There are obviously a slew of talented stars out there who serve as prime candidates to "win" March Madness, but as we have learned with guys like Kyle O'Quinn, Ali Farokhmanesh and Omar Samhan, it's the lesser-talked about players who make for more tantalizing stories. 

Note: Be sure to click here to download a printable NCAA bracket. You can also follow along with a live, updated bracket here. 

Also note: All advanced statistics come from, unless noted otherwise.


Kerron Johnson, Belmont

Ian Clark is deadly from the outside and deservedly gets most of the attention on this Bruin team, but Kerron Johnson is a galvanizing talent in his own right. 

The 6'1" senior is electrifying. Thanks to his road-runner-like quickness, he is impossible to keep out of the lane and has gotten to the free-throw line a staggering 210 times this season. According to, he is 20th in America in free-throw rate. 

That's all the more incredible when you realize, as a 27.5 percent shooter from the outside, he is hardly a threat to do anything but penetrate.

There's a word for that: unstoppable. 

Morevoer, Johnson is akin to making big plays in even bigger moments, as Murray State knows all too well:

Not only did he knock down those two massive shots in Belmont's most important game of the season, but he did it after taking a nasty fall just minutes earlier. 


Richard Howell, North Carolina State

While the Wolfpack have struggled with inconsistent, underwhelming play in 2013, there's a good reason Mark Gottfried's team entered the season as No. 6 in America.

Talent, talent and maybe even a little talent mixed in on the side. 

C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren are all future NBA players, but you know what?

In the college basketball world, I would take Howell over every single one of them, and with the exception of Brown, I would do it without thinking twice. 

The 6'8", 257-pound senior is one of the hardest workers in America. He isn't overly athletic, but he has a unique nose for the ball, and unless you have a stun gun or pepper spray or some other deterrent, you aren't going to stop him from getting where he wants. 

As a result, Howell averages 10.7 rebounds, sixth best in the country. According to, he is 35th in offensive rebounding rate and 11th in defensive rebounding rate. 

But Howell also has a quietly efficient offensive game. Whether he is racking up putbacks off the offensive glass or dropping in mid-range jumpers, he is shooting 56.6 percent from the field for 12.7 points per game.


Murphy Holloway, Mississippi

I wonder what it's like to be Murphy Holloway. 

The dominant big man is putting up drool-worthy numbers as a senior, averaging 14.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

And hardly anyone is noticing. 

That's because teammate Marshall Henderson is busy jacking up almost 11 threes per game, doing the land shark, doing the Gator chomp, pissing off Auburn fans and turning himself into the Bill Walton of beer pong.  

Henderson is undoubtedly the most energetic, balls-to-the-wall, polarizing player in America. You can put me on the side that enjoys his antics, but it's forcing one of the best big men in America to fly under the radar—at least on a national level. 

Holloway is much like Howell in his ferociousness on the glass, but he has much more to his offensive arsenal. Most impressively, the senior has the ability to put the ball on the deck, drive past his defender and finish with unreal athleticism.

Essentially, he's a 6'7", 240-pounder who knows how to use his powerful size to his advantage around the rim, but also has the penetrating mindset and ball-handling ability of a guard.

To me, Wisconsin needs to be more worried about that than the land shark. 


Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game