Top Players to Watch on Day 6 of NCAA Tournament
A lot of the top players who will be taken early in this year’s NBA draft are sitting at home watching the NCAA tournament rather than playing.
Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Anthony Bennett of UNLV and Otto Porter of Georgetown all went out of March Madness early. Alex Len of Maryland didn’t even make the Big Dance, and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel suffered a season-ending knee injury.
On Sunday, the majority of the best players still in the tournament will be in action. Ben McLemore of Kansas will lead the Jayhawks against North Carolina. Cody Zeller and Indiana will face Temple.
These players not only have bright professional futures, but their play will decide if their teams win or lose.
Here are 10 players to watch on day six of the NCAA tournament.
Sherwood Brown, Florida Gulf Coast
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Best Asset: Sherwood Brown is extremely versatile. Listed at 6’4”, 200 pounds, Brown can go inside or outside, shooting 46 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from beyond the arc. He is Florida Gulf Coast’s best defender and will more than likely draw the assignment of trying to slow San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin.
Top Showing: Brown has had his fair share of big games this year, but no performance was more important than what he turned in on Friday against Georgetown. He scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds while scoring in a variety of ways. Brown was 6-of-13 from the field, 3-of-6 from three and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line.
Pro Potential: Brown is a senior who could see some doors open professionally thanks to this run in the NCAA tournament. While his versatility is nice, his basketball career will probably have to continue overseas.
When to Watch: 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS, No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 7 San Diego State
One More Thing: Brown was named the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year after averaging 15.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
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Best Asset: James Michael McAdoo is an excellent athlete. He runs the floor well and has great leaping ability. That shows up on the defensive end and on the glass.
Top Showing: McAdoo played an excellent all-around game back on Jan. 19 in a 62-52 win over Maryland and its talented frontcourt. He had 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting while also pulling down 11 rebounds, blocking two shots and registering two steals.
Pro Potential: Coming into this season, McAdoo was a potential top-five pick in the NBA draft. However, as the season has progressed, it has become clear that he is not yet ready to make the jump to the next level. His skills and decision-making still have a ways to go.
When to Watch: 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS, No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 1 Kansas
One More Thing: Since Roy Williams went to a small lineup with P.J. Hairston starting, McAdoo has been forced to hold the fort down low as the only post player. After scoring nine points in each of the first two games with the new lineup, McAdoo has been in double figures in the last 10 games.
Ramon Galloway, La Salle
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Best Asset: Ramon Galloway is a scorer, and he can put the ball in the basket in a variety of ways. He is athletic enough and can get in the lane off the bounce. Galloway can finish in transition, and he can also knock down shots from deep (40.6 percent from three).
Top Showing: Galloway scored 31 points in a crucial road win at VCU back on Jan. 26. He did an excellent job handling VCU’s “Havoc” defensive pressure, making 9-of-18 from the field, 4-of-8 from three and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Pro Potential: Galloway will get more of a look at the next level after La Salle’s run in the NCAA tournament. At 6’3” with his ability to shoot from the outside, he could potentially be drafted in the second round of the upcoming NBA draft.
When to Watch: 7:40 p.m. ET on truTV, No. 13 La Salle vs. No. 12 Ole Miss
One More Thing: Galloway transferred to La Salle in his hometown Philadelphia from South Carolina in 2011 and was granted a hardship waiver to play immediately because his grandfather has liver cancer. He has made the most of his return home, making first-team All-Conference in his senior year after averaging 17.2 points and 3.8 assists per game.
Patric Young, Florida
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Best Asset: Patric Young is excellent defensively thanks to his strength and athleticism. He is constantly in the right place and makes life difficult for opposing post players down low. Young’s ability to patrol the paint is a big reason Florida is second nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.
Top Showing: Young bullied Kentucky back on Feb. 12 in Gainesville. He had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks while physically overwhelming young Wildcats like Alex Poythress, who was 1-of-9 from the field.
Pro Potential: Whenever Young decides to enter the NBA draft, he will be a potential first-round pick. His offensive skills have improved in his three years at Florida, but he still is raw at that end of the floor. Young also is not an excellent rebounder given his size and strength, averaging just 6.3 boards per game.
When to Watch: 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT, No. 3 Florida vs. No. 11 Minnesota
One More Thing: Young has struggled mightily at the free-throw line lately. He is 10-of-27 in the last four games, including a 4-of-10 effort against Northwestern State in the round of 64. That could make a difference in a tight game.
Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
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Best Asset: Jamaal Franklin does it all for San Diego State. He leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals. That was apparent in Friday’s win over Oklahoma, when Franklin had 21 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Top Showing: Franklin had 28 points and seven rebounds in a 78-69 win over UCLA back on Dec. 1 in Anaheim, Calif. He had 21 of those 28 points in the second half as the Aztecs beat the Bruins for the first time since 1940.
Pro Potential: If he decides to leave San Diego State, Franklin will be a first-round pick in the upcoming NBA draft. With his motor, size and athleticism, he will be able to physically make the jump at the next level. What will determine his ceiling as a pro is whether he improves his outside shot. He is shooting 27 percent from three this year.
When to Watch: 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS, No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast
One More Thing: Franklin had perhaps the dunk of the year against Fresno State on Jan. 9, when he threw the ball to himself off the backboard before flushing it home. The play came from a transition situation, but there were three defenders in front of him as he threw the “pass” from beyond the three-point line.
Cody Zeller, Indiana
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Best Asset: There aren’t many seven-footers who can run the floor the way Cody Zeller does. Every time out, he puts pressure on the opposing big men to keep up, forcing them out of their comfort zones in a lot of instances. His mobility at his size makes him a tough matchup.
Top Showing: Zeller and the rest of the Hoosiers had an excellent day on Feb. 10 at Ohio State, beating the Buckeyes 81-68. Zeller had 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds as Indiana bounced back from losing at Illinois its last time out.
Pro Potential: Zeller will be a lottery pick in the NBA draft, but it doesn’t seem like he is in the conversation for the top pick like he was at the start of the year. Zeller is a seven-foot tweener, and there is some debate as to where he would fit at the next level. He has the size of a center but struggles with physical play at times.
When to Watch: 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS, No. 1 Indiana vs. No. 9 Temple
One More Thing: The arrival of Zeller will be marked as a turning point for Indiana’s program under Tom Crean. In Crean’s first three years on the job, the Hoosiers won 28 games. Last year, Zeller’s first season, Indiana won 27 games, and this year, the Hoosiers have national title expectations.
Mason Plumlee, Duke
Best Asset: Mason Plumlee’s athleticism is what makes him so effective. He is an excellent leaper and finishes above the rim with ease.
Top Showing: Plumlee was everyone’s leader for National Player of the Year after the month of November. He closed out the month scoring 21 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in a win over Ohio State on Nov. 28.
Pro Potential: Plumlee will more than likely be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. His athleticism and size will keep him in the league for a long time, but his ability to develop a consistent post game will determine just how good he’ll be.
When to Watch: 9:40 p.m. ET on TBS, No. 2 Duke vs. No. 7 Creighton
One More Thing: Recently, Plumlee has started to play the way he did early in the year. In the last three games, he is averaging 21.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
Shane Larkin, Miami
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Best Asset: Shane Larkin’s improvement from a year ago is the reason Miami is in this position. His poise running the team is something one would expect from a senior, not a sophomore. There aren’t many point guards in the country better than him.
Top Showing: Larkin was always in control of the action in the ACC title game against North Carolina. He had 28 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Hurricanes cut down the nets in Greensboro.
Pro Potential: The main question about Larkin at the next level is his size. He does an excellent job running a team while blending scoring with distribution. He can shoot with range and is an excellent passer.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Larkin decides to leave for the NBA after this season. The Hurricanes are losing a lot of seniors, and next year will be a lot tougher for him and Miami.
When to Watch: 8:40 p.m. ET on TNT, No. 2 Miami vs. No. 7 Illinois
One More Thing: Miami coach Jim Larranaga trusts Larkin completely to run his offense. Larranaga told reporters he called one or two plays the entire game against Pacific.
“When you have a player of his skill level and basketball IQ, it’s very easy to have confidence and trust that he’ll do the right thing,” Larranaga said, according to The Palm Beach Post.
Ben McLemore, Kansas
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Best Asset: Ben McLemore is an efficient star in college basketball. He is shooting 50.5 percent from the field, 43.1 percent from beyond the arc and 86.8 percent from the free-throw line. McLemore rarely forces bad shots, instead letting the game come to him.
Top Showing: With his team riding a three-game losing streak, McLemore scored 30 points in an 83-62 win over Kansas State on February 11. He was efficient, making 9-of-13 from the floor and 6-of-10 from three.
Pro Potential: McLemore is in the conversation for the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. His ability to knock down shots along with his physical talent will make him a good pro for a long time. He will need to demonstrate more of a killer instinct to be a go-to player in the NBA, though.
When to Watch: 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS, No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 North Carolina
One More Thing: McLemore had to sit out last season because the NCAA ruled he was not fully qualified academically. It would have been fun to see what last year’s Kansas squad—which made it to the national title game—could have done with McLemore in the lineup.
Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
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Best Asset: Deshaun Thomas is one of the best scorers in college basketball. He can bang down low and get points in the paint while also showing the ability to step outside and hit threes. Thomas has even improved his free-throw shooting, making 83.6 percent from the charity stripe this season.
Top Showing: Thomas played one of his better games of the season in Friday’s win over Iona. He had 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting and made all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.
Pro Potential: Despite his excellent college numbers, there isn’t much buzz about Thomas and his ability at the next level. He is a classic tweener and not an elite athlete. Thomas will get a shot, but teams might be a little wary about drafting him in the lottery, or maybe even the first round, whenever he leaves Ohio State.
When to Watch: 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS, No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 10 Iowa State
One More Thing: Thomas' scoring output has been incredibly consistent this season, as he has registered at least 14 points in 33 of Ohio State’s 34 games this season.