March Madness is about the little guys—not literally, of course—as much as it is about the superstars.
Sure, watching players like Trey Burke or Ben McLemore take over and enter "God" mode is fun, but role players win games.
While they may not light the nets on fire or even always show up in the box score, role players who work hard and find positive ways to impact the game are incredibly undervalued, critical parts to good teams.
Let's take a look at some of these under-the-radar studs who will need to be at their best in their teams' upset bids.
Carlos Emory, Oregon
If Oregon is going to even keep it close against Louisville, the Ducks—one of the worst teams in America at protecting the rock—must handle the Cardinals' suffocating pressure.
Dana Altman will likely play point guards Dominic Artis and Johnathan Loyd at the same time to give his team more ball-handlers, but Emory is a sneaky option to help in the backcourt (via CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein):
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
Altman on Carlos Emory "He's one of the guys that's going to have to attack their pressure."3/25/2013, 3:58:28 PM
Peyton Siva and Russ Smith can take any point guard in the nation out of the picture with their quickness and active hands on the ball. Against Louisville's press, it's key to have a big man who can bring the ball up the court and limit the Cardinals guards.
The 6'5", 205-pound Emory is more known for his gaudy athleticism, but he has the handle necessary to relieve some of the pressure Artis and Loyd will be under.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
This really wouldn't be an upset, but with Duke as a 1.5-point favorite, it technically fits the definition, so you're going to have to live with it.
Valentine is one of the most unique players in the country.
He has the look of a forward at 6'5" and 220 pounds, but the true freshman can handle the ball and has arguably the best vision on the team.
In 20.9 minutes per game this season, he only averages 5.0 points, but he also chips in 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 0.8 steals. Void of elite athleticism, MSU's sixth man uses his elite intelligence and playmaking ability to impact the game across the board. He is the perfect glue player.
When he produces off the bench like he did against Memphis (nine points, six rebounds, six assists), the Spartans are tough to beat.
Bernard Thompson, Florida Gulf Coast
I'm not sure if it's appropriate to call any Florida Gulf Coast player "under the radar" at this point, but Google tells me that Thompson is getting significantly less attention than some of his teammates.
And Google doesn't lie.
Anyways, despite the lack of talk surrounding his game, Thompson has been spectacular in FGCU's two wins, averaging 23 points on 50 percent shooting to go with three steals per contest.
The points are far better than his season average of 14.5, but the steals are more of the same. The 6'3", 166-pound scrappy defender entered the tournament averaging a staggering 2.8 thefts per contest, fourth most in America.
Thompson may not partake in Dunk City as much as some of his teammates, but his defense keys the breaks and his scorching outside shooting will be crucial when Florida attempts to make it a half-court game.
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