NCAA Brackets 2013: Biggest Mid-Major Stars to Watch in 1st Round

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2013

Temple G Khalif Wyatt
Temple G Khalif WyattUSA TODAY Sports

The NCAA tournament is always littered with mid-major stars who make their names in the biggest games of the season.

On one hand, these players know that in order for their teams to progress to the next round, they'll have to have huge games. In addition, the tournament offers a great chance for mid-major players to improve their draft stock.

Had Stephen Curry not led the Davidson Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2008, the Golden State Warriors might have never considered him an option for the No. 7 pick in the 2009 NBA draft.

This year will be no different as there will be plenty of players looking to back up gaudy numbers with stellar play in the most vital of scenarios.

Here are three players you must be watching.


Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

Pretty much the only thing college basketball fans know about the South Dakota State Jackrabbits is Nate Wolters. If South Dakota State is going to get past the Michigan Wolverines, it will need a standout performance from its star guard. If he has an off game, the Jackrabbits are doomed.

Wolters is averaging 22.7 points a game, which is fourth in the country. He also leads the Jackrabbits in assists and steals and second in rebounds. He does a little bit of everything on the court, which makes him so vital for his team.

Trey Burke will also be opposing Wolters. This will be one of the more enjoyable individual matchups to watch in the first round. Should Wolters go for 20-plus points and shackle Burke, he will have done everything humanly possible to help Jackrabbits advance.


Zeke Marshall, Akron

Zeke Marshall has blocked an average of 3.69 shots a game this season, third in the country. He's got the kind of skill in the post to change games with his defense alone. Even if he doesn't block a ton of shots, there's no stat for the way that players have to change their shots or refrain from attacking the post because Marshall is waiting for them.

Averaging 13.0 points a game and fourth in the country in shooting percentage, Marshall is also a threat on the offensive end of the floor. His scoring average has steadily increased in each of his four years with the Akron Zips.

At 7'0", Marshall's always had the size to become a very good collegiate big man. This year it has all come together for him. He also has to atone for his performance in Akron's last tournament appearance, in which he shot 2-of-13 from the floor en route a 69-56 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.


Khalif Wyatt, Temple

The Saint Louis Billikens are getting the most attention of the Atlantic 10 teams in the tournament, but they don't have a player like Khalif Wyatt on their team. Wyatt is the conference's leading scorer at 19.8 points per game.

The Temple Owls have a very winnable game against the NC State Wolfpack. NC State has shown flashes of being a very talented basketball team, however, the Wolfpack have been very inconsistent this year.

Although Wyatt's scoring average is the highest of his career, his efficiency has steadily declined over the past few seasons. He's especially struggled in the tournament, only shooting 13-of-32 over three games. Much like Marshall, Wyatt has a massive chip on his shoulder that he should be looking to unload this year.


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