Remember the push brooms.
Over the past four days, these humble cleaning tools and the brave men and women who operate them worked around the clock in office break rooms, sports taverns and college dorm corridors around this nation.
Whenever another hapless hoops Nostradamus reduced his or her bracket to confetti in a fit of grief and shame, the push brooms were there. When another billion-dollar dream joined the dust, they were there. Whenever another Duke or Wichita State or Kansas went down, time and again, they were there.
Now, with the dust having settled, the push brooms find themselves in much-needed repose. Bruised, battered, but unbowed. Yet this terrible symbiosis continues unabated, as the work of the fan is now ramping back up.
Who do we pull for in the tourney's second weekend, where only 16 teams will compete? Which upstarts stand a real chance to survive and advance in, you know, the big dance? And which players will make must-see TV out of themselves and their teams?
These are the most underrated players still alive and lurking somewhere in this wonderful debacle—just waiting to surprise everyone in their path and press those valiant but exhausted push brooms back into service. Don't you let them do it. Be forewarned, and be forearmed.
Players selected based on one or a blend of the following factors: their high value to but relatively unsung status on a top-performing team, or being a top player on a team not widely known by casual fans and/or expected to reach the Sweet 16.