10 Unsung Heroes Who Are Key to Sweet 16 Success
Are you set for the Sweet 16?
Eight closely contested games will go down on Thursday and Friday.
Some of the best performances in these matchups will come from players who aren't their teams' stars. Let's take a quick look at 10 unsung heroes who are key to their teams' regional semifinal success.
Some of these under-celebrated players are starters; others are studs who come off the bench. Let's go!
10. Kevin Parrom (Arizona)
Kevin Parrom's skill set is a curious combination of in-your-face toughness and silky smooth shooting touch.
The 6'6" senior wing gives the Cats a physical player who can fill lots of slots.
Parrom, who averages 8.3 points and 4.9 boards off the bench, is Arizona's best three-point shooter. He will be counted on heavily when Sean Miller's squad goes up against Deshaun Thomas and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
9. Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)
Montrezl Harrell is on fire at just the right point of the season.
Starting with the Cards' Big East tournament championship win, Harrell has averaged 13 points and four boards in 20 minutes over the last three games.
His 20-point, seven-rebound performance against Syracuse at MSG gave us all a sneak preview of what is still ahead.
Even though Louisville is favored against Oregon in their Sweet 16 game, head coach Rick Pitino will be ready to unleash the 6'8" 235-pound freshman on the Ducks.
8. Tyler Thornton (Duke)
Tyler Thornton may not start at the point for Coach K, but he still fills a major role in the Blue Devils attack.
His eight-point, six-rebound performance against Creighton in the round of 32 demonstrated that he's not just a pass-first playmaker.
Thornton is not likely to put up 20 in Duke's Sweet 16 matchup against Michigan State, but he is bound to have an impact on the outcome of the game.
7. Johnathan Loyd (Oregon)
Johnathan Loyd has had an eventful junior season.
He spent part of the season filling in for the injured Dominic Artis, and the 5'8" combo guard has shown that he can light it up on occasion.
The Ducks have a tough Sweet 16 assignment against No. 1 seed Louisville. Oregon needs Lloyd to be ferocious if it is going to have any chance in Indy.
6. Evan Ravenal (Ohio State)
Every coach loves to have an Evan Ravenel on their team. He’s a blue-collar big who is super-productive off the bench (5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds in 17-plus minutes).
The 6’8”, 260-pound post clogs the land and works the glass. When Ohio State goes up against Arizona’s giant front line, Thad Matta will be counting on Ravenel to come in and bang.
5. Trey McKinney Jones (Miami)
While Trey McKinney Jones doesn’t get much of Miami’s backcourt spotlight, he still helps the 'Canes get it done.
The 6’5" senior wing’s 9.2 points per game is a great complement to what Shane Larkin and Durand Scott bring.
McKinney Jones has a nice stroke from beyond the arc. He hit six of nine threes against North Carolina in the ACC championship game.
The Hurricanes will need McKinney to bring the action against Marquette so that they can continue the dream season.
4. Denzel Valentine (Michigan State)
Denzell Valentine comes in and contributes for Michigan State. Sometimes it's points, sometimes it's boards or maybe an assist or three.
In the Spartans' last victory over Memphis, Valentine put it all together, scoring nine points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out six assists.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo will be ready to use Valentine's length and strength on the perimeter against Duke.
3. Scottie Wilbekin (Florida)
With all of the talent that is on the floor for Florida, Scottie Wilbekin fills in a lot of gaps. He runs the show, delivers the ball to the Gators' multiple scorers, and plays some nasty defense.
Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune says that Wilbekin is "a big part of why Florida has morphed in the last couple years from a team that was known mainly for its offense, to a balanced squad with a reputation for smothering D."
The 6'2" junior PG will play a vital role in how Billy Donovan's bunch does against Florida Gulf Coast and beyond.
2. Nik Stauskas (Michigan)
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas is the lower-profile member of the Wolverines' high-profile perimeter unit.
While Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III grab the headlines, Stauskas makes so many things happen with his slick outside shooting.
Stauskas knocks down 43.4 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. When other teams get out and guard the 6’6" freshman, it opens up the lane for all of the slashing and dashing that Michigan loves to do and will need to do against Kansas.
1. Yogi Ferrell (Indiana)
Even with having two national player of the year contenders on the floor, the Indiana Hoosiers still may not be in the place they are right now without Yogi Ferrell.
The 6’0” freshman PG runs the IU show exceptionally with his distribution to the team's collection of scorers.
Ferrell had his best game in the tournament-opening game against James Madison, when he went off for 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 27 minutes.
Ferrell has a monster Sweet 16 challenge when he goes up against Michael Carter-Williams, one of the top PGs in the country. If Ferrell holds his own in this individual matchup, Indiana wins and moves on.
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