Andrew Wiggins is one of the marquee names that fans will need to keep an eye on during the upcoming 2014 NCAA tournament.
His Kansas Jayhawks finished the season with a 24-9 record, earning a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance from the selection committee. The superstar swingman will undoubtedly be the lynchpin for the team’s success, or lack thereof, this postseason.
Wiggins is coming off an up-and-down freshman season in Lawrence, as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2014 occasionally failed to live up to lofty, somewhat unreasonable expectations.
Let’s take a look at Wiggins’ player profile, note a fun fact about the star guard/forward and make some predictions about how he and his team will perform during March Madness.
|6’8”||200 lbs.||G||19||FR||Vaughan, Ontario, Canada||Huntington Prep|
Wiggins finished the 2013-14 campaign with averages of 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game, which are extremely solid numbers for a young man right out of high school. Factor in that the Jayhawks played the toughest schedule in the country, per CBS Sports, and these numbers look even more impressive.
However, Wiggins' status as a transcendent talent was often called into question.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated pointed out that it didn’t appear as though Wiggins was even on the court in some games:
Andrew Wiggins having another one of those games where you catch yourself wondering if he's even out there.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) December 21, 2013
The Canadian native led his team in scoring and steals, but he was sometimes outshined by teammate Joel Embiid—the seven-foot freshman that will likely be competing with Wiggins to become the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
A strong showing in the postseason could completely change the storyline that surrounds Wiggins, however, as he could change the perception surrounding him from "tantalizing talent that hasn’t been quite as great as expected" to "bona fide No. 1 pick that will make a huge impact in the NBA."
To say the least, there will be a lot of pressure on Wiggins’ shoulders this coming tournament, and that’s not even factoring in the stakes of guiding his team to a championship.
But first, let’s check out a fun fact about Wiggins before we predict how he and his Kansas team will fare in the NCAA tournament.
Fun Fact: Wiggins is From a Family of Athletes
Most everyone is aware that Wiggins hails from Canada, but it’s the family that raised him that should be drawing more attention.
The 19-year-old was born to Mitchell Wiggins and Marita Payne-Wiggins, who were two star athletes in their own right.
Mitchell attended Clemson and Florida State to play basketball, averaging 23 points and nine rebounds during his time with the Seminoles. He went on to be selected No. 23 overall in the 1983 NBA draft and played six years in the Association.
The elder Wiggins bounced around the league, having stints with the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers—as well as a handful of CBA and USBL teams—before moving to Europe to finish out his playing career.
Mitchell could have been more successful in the states, but he was ultimately suspended from the NBA for cocaine usage during his prime. He’ll be getting a second chance in the league through his son shortly. The 54-year-old told Michael Grance of The Globe and Mail:
I played pro for 13 years, but only six were in the NBA. The issues I had took me 4 1/2 years to get through; I can't hide it. Kids look me up and that's the first thing they see. But I speak to them about it; they know.
Wiggins’ mother is also a notable athlete. Payne-Wiggins won two silver medals in the 1984 Olympics, helping Team Canada win the 4x400 and 4x100 relays in Los Angeles.
The parents also have another son that is currently playing basketball at a high level, as Nick Wiggins just completed an undefeated regular season as a member of the Wichita State Shockers.
The two parents are intrigued about the chances of their sons facing each other in the tournament final, according to Dave Skretta of the Associated Press (h/t USA Today):
"Believe me, they'd want to face each other," said their father, former NBA first-round draft pick Mitchell Wiggins, "but I think they'd rather play each other in the final. And Nick would probably be Andrew's matchup, so I don't know who would come out on top."
"Don't ask me," chirped their mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, wearing a broad smile.
It’ll definitely be interesting if the brothers meet up in the final game of the NCAA tournament, and there is a good chance that it could happen. The Shockers made a Final Four run just a year ago, while Kansas is hoping to advance further than last season’s Sweet 16 exit.
The Jayhawks navigated the nation’s toughest schedule with poise and grace, finishing with a 24-9 overall record and going 14-4 in the Big 12, an impressive feat that Wiggins definitely deserves credit for.
The team pulled off notable victories against Duke, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas and others throughout the season, and it has been more battle-tested than any other premier squad in the country.
While Kansas’ record has some blemishes, this roster knows what it takes to beat the best and has been under the microscope in tough situations throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
How far will Kansas go in the tournament?
That will end up paying dividends in the Big Dance, as Wiggins and Co. will not be afraid of the crowds, the pressure and the stakes. You can expect them to waltz through the opening rounds and make it to the Sweet 16 before being strongly tested.
This group has what it takes to go all the way, too, especially if Wiggins takes the next step. If he becomes the transcendent scorer that Kansas knew he could be when it recruited him, there isn’t a potential opponent in the 68-team field that could stop the Jayhawks.
Wiggins has it in him to average over 20 points per game during the tournament and single-handedly carry the Jayhawks to a championship, so keep a close eye on this young man and see if he’s willing to step up and take over.