NCAA Basketball Tournament 2013: Stars to Watch for on Friday Evening

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 22, 2013

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13:  Lamont Jones #2 of the Iona Gaels calls a play in the second half while taking on the Brigham Young Cougars in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2012 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament wraps up on Friday evening, there are several notable stars to keep an eye on.

A lot of the nation's best players will be in action for some of the tournament's top seeds. In addition, though, there are some underrated studs that have the opportunity to produce even more March Madness with monster performances to cap off the round of 64.

Here is a breakdown of some of the players that will have the biggest impact on tonight's outcomes and largely determine how entertaining the action is.

Erik Murphy, F, Florida Gators

It will be interesting to see how the Gators react in general to the extremely unconventional style of the Northwestern State Demons. The sharpshooting, 6'10" Murphy relies heavily on spreading the floor and shooting the three-pointer, which requires a lot of work off the ball.

As Edgar Thompson of the Orlando Sentinel points out, the Demons have 10 players who average 15 or more minutes per game, as Mike McConathy substitutes five players out at a time.

With so many pairs of fresh legs coming in and Murphy likely to log big minutes in this win-or-go-home scenario, it remains to be seen if he can handle it.

The Demons are also the highest-scoring team in the nation, and their depth and relentlessly attacking style translates to the defensive end of the court as well. They stole the ball from Oral Roberts 21 times in a regular-season victory.

Murphy and the Gators have one of the best defenses in the country, but they haven't faced anything like this and are all likely to get fatigued despite sporting pretty strong depth in their own right.

Since Northwestern State is such a strong rebounding team, Murphy should make a concerted effort to crash the glass and use his finesse in the post to slow the pace down.

Lamont Jones, G, Iona Gaels

The Arizona transfer puts up 23 points per contest for the second-highest-scoring offense in the NCAA. He also carries an inspiring story behind his reasoning to transfer from Tucson.

As reported by Tom Pedulla of the New York Times, Jones made the move to tend to his ailing grandmother in Harlem as she was suffering from hepatitis. Jones led the Wildcats to the Elite Eight as a sophomore, but he prioritized his family ahead of his personal aspirations to play basketball professionally.

The Gaels will be a heavy underdog against the West region No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes, especially they're playing in Dayton, Ohio. It's not difficult to root for Jones and Co., though.

Jones also leads Iona with 3.5 assists per game and has a strong supporting cast in fellow guard Sean Armand and double-double machine David Laury on the inside.

Unfortunately, Jones will likely draw the Buckeyes' Aaron Craft as the man assigned to him defensively. There might not be a better on-the-ball perimeter defender in the country and Jones will definitely have his work cut out for him.

Do keep in mind, though, that Jones isn't the typical mid-major stud. He has gotten it done for a historic program in March before and perhaps he can pull off some incredible magic to cap off his interesting collegiate career.

Jamaal Franklin, G, San Diego State Aztecs

As the leader in the statistical categories of points, rebounds, assists and steals for the Aztecs, there is little question where their NCAA fate lies. The Oklahoma Sooners are a formidable but inconsistent foe, so it remains to be seen which squad shows up.

However, the Sooners are led by big man Romero Osby, who is an intimidating paint presence on both ends of the floor.

Franklin's game typically depends on slashing to the rim, as he averages just over seven free-throw attempts per game. If Osby can neutralize that element and force Franklin to settle for jumpers, San Diego State will be in trouble.

As it is, Franklin shoots too frequently from beyond the arc, averaging 4.5 attempts per game while only stroking it at 27 percent. If the dribble-drive isn't there, he must rely on his teammates and become a facilitator rather than pressing and risking foul trouble.

This should be an extremely physical battle that is won above the rim. Franklin will have to be judicious with his shot selection if the Aztecs are meant to advance to the South region round of 32, where No. 2 seed Georgetown likely awaits.

Jonathan Givony of points out the potential NBA draft ramifications should the battle between Franklin and the Hoyas occur.

A win in this Oklahoma contest would likely make Franklin's decision on whether to go pro or not a bit easier, too.

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