March Madness 2013: Showcasing NCAA Tournament MVPs Through Sweet 16

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 28:  Vander Blue #13 of the Marquette Golden Eagles reacts after a dunk against the Miami (Fl) Hurricanes during the East Regional Round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 28, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

There have been many individual breakout performances this March. Whether it's Jeff Withey throwing a Kansas block party or La Salle's Ramon Galloway going bananas from beyond the arc, several stars have made names for themselves this March by creating memorable tournament moments. 

But the difference between a breakout performer and an MVP is that the latter strings together multiple championship moments while leading his team on a deep run. 

With four rounds in the books and the Elite Eight on deck, here we'll showcase the top contenders for 2013 NCAA Tournament MVP honors.


Russ Smith, Louisville

Louisville's Russ Smith has been sensational for the overall top-seeded Cardinals this March, scoring baskets and stealing passes at a tremendous rate. 

The junior averaged 25 points (on 55 percent shooting) and five steals per game through the tournament's first weekend, leading the way for Rick Pitino's fearsome full-court press as Louisville won by 31 in the second round and 26 in the third round. 

As if Smith couldn't deliver a more impressive performance, he outdid himself in the Sweet 16 against Oregon, lighting up the Ducks for 31 points, going 12-of-14 from the foul line and picking up three assists and two steals.

Through three tournament games, Smith is averaging 27 points and four steals per game and looks to be the biggest reason Louisville returns to the Final Four for the seconds straight year in 2013.


Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas has been delivering one elite performance after another this March, averaging 22 points per game on 57.5 percent shooting from the field (61.5 percent from behind the three-point line) in NCAA Tournament play.

Although Thomas has struggled on the glass, averaging just three rebounds per game for the tourney coming into Saturday's Elite Eight matchup with Wichita State, his incredibly efficient play on the offensive end has been an undeniable key to Ohio State's success thus far. 

The junior is even shooting 86 percent from the foul line this March.

Whether he's scoring from beyond the arc, inside or at the foul line, Thomas is keeping Ohio State's offense on schedule and giving the Buckeyes are real shot at winning it all this spring.


Vander Blue, Marquette

Much like Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Marquette junior Vander Blue has provided the Golden Eagles with more than just a go-to scorer this March; he's a go-to superstar in big moments.

Blue began the tournament with a bang in the round of 64, scoring a layup in the waning moments against Davidson to give Marquette a one-point come-from-behind win in its opening game. And if the clutch factor isn't enough to warrant MVP consideration, Blue's impressive shooting numbers certainly are. 

The 6'4" guard is averaging just under 20 points per game in tournament play and shooting 50 percent from the field and behind the three-point line. Blue is also 12-of-12 from the foul line coming into Saturday's showdown with Syracuse.


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