NCAA Tournament 2013: Best Defensive Players in Big Dance

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIMarch 19, 2013

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 15: Will Spradling #55 of the Kansas State Wildcats passes against Marcus Smart #33 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second half during the Semifinals of the Big 12 basketball tournament at the Sprint Center on March 15, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Players that can put up 30 points and make big plays on offense are exciting, but it’s the stingy guys on defense that help win national titles. 

This year’s NCAA tournament features some of the most exciting players in the country, including some explosive defensive players.  Here are just a few that will be really fun to watch.

Aaron Craft

The starting point guard for the Ohio State Buckeyes may not be the most prolific scorer or have the most assists, but what he does have is an overall great skill set and aggressive play on defense.

Craft makes up for his small size by smothering opposing players with his stingy defense.  He forces opponents to make mistakes, and capitalizes on them.  Since the start of his college career, he’s averaged an impressive 2.2 steals per game, the most in the Big Ten over the past decade.  His 2.0 steals per game this season are the second best in the B1G as well.

Whether you like him or not, he’s an aggressive defender that helps shift momentum and big times in games for the Buckeyes.


Gorgui Deng

If you’re looking for a guy that’s more dominant defensively than Deng, you’re probably not going to find him.

Deng is one of the big reasons the Louisville Cardinals earned the No. 1 overall seed.  He can do anything on defense and simply gives opposing teams nightmares.

The numbers say it all for Deng.  He averages 9.9 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals per game.  According to, Deng allows an estimated 80 points per 100 possessions, the third lowest rating in the entire nation. 

There isn’t a better center in the country defensively, and Deng will look to keep it that way during the tournament.


Marcus Smart

Not a lot of people know about Oklahoma State, but they feature one of the best pickpockets in the country in Smart.

Smart has been great at forcing turnovers and starting fast breaks all season.  He’s averaged 2.9 steals per game, the second best mark in the NCAA this year.  His defensive rating of 86.3 is the third best in the Big 12, according to

As far as dominant defensive guards go, you can’t do much better than Smart.  He was the Big 12 Player of the Year this year, despite being a freshman.  Just looking at his defense, you can clearly see why.


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