5 Players Who Will Be Unsung Heroes in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

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5 Players Who Will Be Unsung Heroes in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Adreian Payne turned in a dominant first-round performance against Delaware. Luke Hancock rediscovered his March magic to rescue the defending champs against Manhattan. Then, Shabazz Napier showed why he's the nation's top point guard in UConn's disposal of Villanova.

These college basketball veterans are expected to rise to the occasion this time of year, but what catches the eye of the fans are performances like that of Stephen F. Austin's Desmond Haymon and Stanford's Chasson Randle (a player who doesn't get near the amount of respect he deserves).

Unsung heroes make March Madness, and here are five more that will leave their mark in the Sweet 16.

 

5. Dustin Hogue, Iowa State

After Georges Niang was ruled out for the tournament after suffering a broken foot against North Carolina Central, Hogue's value skyrocketed.

In the Cyclones 85-83 victory over North Carolina, the forward turned in a solid performance, logging 14 points and seven rebounds as Iowa State was able to overcome the loss of Niang.

Hogue will get the chance to return to his home state when the Cyclones head to Madison Square Garden for their Sweet 16 matchup:

In the Sweet 16, the Cyclones meet the Connecticut Huskies, who are coming off a Napier-lead upset of second-seed Villanova. UConn's bigs lack experience, and Amidah Brimah and Phillip Nolan are nowhere near athletic enough to keep up with Iowa State's frontcourt duo of Hogue and Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim.

With the majority of the focus presumably on Ejim, Hogue should be able to have his way on the block and post a double-double en route to a Cyclones victory.

 

4. Norman Powell, UCLA

The Bruins' backcourt is highlighted by Jordan Adams and arguably the most versatile player in the country, Kyle Anderson.

UCLA's next opponent is top overall seed Florida, a team who plays only two guards in Michael Frazier III and SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin.

Although Powell has scored 31 points in the tournament so far, he may still fly under the radar in the Gators' scouting report because of the dangers Adams and Anderson bring.

Here's Powell showing off a behind-the-back move against Stephen F. Austin:

Florida's 2-guard, Frazier, has struggled to find a rhythm, as the sharpshooter has gone 3-of-13 from distance thus far. If that trend continues, Powell should be able to win that matchup and even help win the game for UCLA.

 

3. Dyshawn Pierre, Dayton

After knocking off Ohio State and Syracuse, Dayton has to be considered the biggest surprise of the tournament thus far.

Pierre has been the head man, leading the Flyers in scoring in each upset.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor
Pierre drives past Syracuse's Tyler Ennis in the Flyers' upset of the Orange on Saturday.

A combined 26 points and 14 rebounds in the first weekend has Stanford on high watch, and the inside tandem of Stefan Nastic and Dwight Powell may be in for a tougher test than they had against a Joel Embiid-less Kansas squad.

Pierre also has the ability to step outside the arc and score, as he's hit a three in each tournament game. This versatility is something the Cardinal weren't able to contain against New Mexico, as Cameron Bairstow went for 24 points. 

Stanford was able to squeeze out a victory then, but the Cardinal may not be as lucky this time around.

 

2. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona

Everyone knows about Arizona's main freshman, Aaron Gordon.

But anyone who has watched the Wildcats' first two games now knows their "other" diaper dandy, Hollis-Jefferson.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport
Hollis-Jefferson denies the shot of David Stockton in Arizona's win over Gonzaga on Sunday.

After averaging 8.9 points in the regular season, Hollis-Jefferson has posted 13 and 18 points in the first two tournament contests on a combined 10-of-12 mark from the field and 11-of-13 mark from the charity stripe.

San Diego State, Arizona's next opponent, boasts one of the countries best guards in Xavier Thames, but the Aztec big men are nothing special. Josh Davis will be put on either Gordon or center Kaleb Tarczewski, giving Hollis-Jefferson yet another chance to shine.

He should do just that as the Wildcats should easily march on to the Elite Eight.

 

1. Josh Richardson, Tennessee

If you hadn't heard of Richardson before the tournament, now you have.

Josh Richardson throws down a ferocious dunk against Iowa.

The Volunteers' guard has combined for 58 points on 20-of-33 shooting in three games, while leading yet another "First Four" team into the Sweet 16.

Tennessee faces a daunting task in defending runner-up Michigan, a team that seems to be clicking on all cylinders after a convincing win over Texas.

Even so, Richardson's ability to penetrate the lane, as only three of his 20 baskets have been threes, may cause problems for a Michigan team who already has to worry about big man Jarnell Stokes down low along with the explosive Jordan McRae.

Big 10 Player of the Year Nik Stauskas is a tough matchup, but Richardson is playing as well as anybody right now and looks primed to lead the Volunteers to the upset.

 

 

 

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