The 10 Sexiest Player Matchups We’d Love To See in the NCAA Tournament
The NCAA Basketball postseason is finally upon us! After the conference tournaments are finished, Selection Sunday, which takes Mar. 14, will provide the answers as to which schools will be bracketed together, and will face off in the Big Dance,
This slideshow takes a look at 10 fascinating hypothetical matchups that pit some of the most athletically gifted college ballers against each other. The battles that college fans want to see most are the best players from the best teams who may not be in the college ranks next season.
Although 'hypothetical' is the operative word for the time being, some of these matchups could become a reality as soon as a week from now. Let's take a look at what might be on the horizon for some of the most skilled and intriguing players around the NCAA.
Battle No. 1: Scottie Reynolds (Guard, Villanova) vs....
Two of the best players from second-place teams in arguably the toughest conferences this season, both Reynolds and Pullen enter the Big East and Big 12 tournaments with chips on their shoulders.
Although No. 1 seeds in their respective brackets seem unlikely for Villanova and Kansas State, both of these guards have the talent to lead their respective programs to the Sweet 16 and beyond.
In order for ‘Nova to end the late-season swoon which has seen them lose four of their last five Big East matchups, Reynolds will need to step up and exhibit some much-needed leadership in the senior’s last March as a college player.
...Jacob Pullen (Guard, Kansas State)
Pullen is in a similar situation. K-State suffered two recent Big 12 losses as they missed a big opportunity to upset rival Kansas and then stumbled against eleventh-place Iowa State to finish the regular season on a downtrodden note.
Although Pullen is only a junior, he could hear the professional ranks calling if the Wildcats pull themselves together, and advance past the Elite eight in the Big Dance.
Should Kansas State meet Villanova during March Madness, these two guards would ensure that the game will prove to be a Wildcat fight.
Battle No. 2: Luke Harangody (Forward, Notre Dame) vs....
Harangody has been the face of Notre Dame basketball for almost four seasons. Although the Irish are in the middle of the Big East pack with a 21-10 record (10-8 in conference), they will likely get an invite to the NCAA Tournament. However, the 2008-09 Big East Player of the Year will serve as ND's sixth man given that he is still rehabbing a knee injury, and is not quite 100% recovered.
Luke demonstrated real class in taking to his reduced role, and has become a legitimate role model for young basketball players and fans given his selflessness.
...Patrick Patterson (Forward, Kentucky)
Sitting atop the Southeastern Conference, Kentucky will be in the catbird seat as a No. 1 seed within their bracket come tournament time. Unlike Notre Dame, UK will have a big bullseye on their back given the loads of publicity John Calipari’s team has received all season.
While Patterson, who averages 15 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, lives comfortably as a secondary scoring option for the Wildcats, Harangody has been Notre Dame’s franchise player. These two forwards are similarly sized and match up well, and would put on a competitive clinic should their two schools somehow meet in the postseason.
Battle No. 3: James Anderson (Guard, Oklahoma State) vs...
Anderson has become the focal point of the Oklahoma State offense in his third year as a Cowboy. Although OSU finished the regular season in seventh place in the Big 12, they were the only team to beat both Kansas as well as Kansas State.
...Greivis Vasquez (Guard, Maryland)
Vasquez begins his final college postseason after Maryland concluded their regular season with seven consecutive wins. Having averaged almost 20 points, five rebounds, and over six assists per game as a senior, Greivis brings an impressive all around game to the NCAA Tournament.
Given that the Terps tied Duke for the best record (13-3) in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland is a shoo-in to make the Big Dance.
While both Vasquez and Anderson play at an All-American level, a game that pits them against one another would make for a fascinating matchup because we may never get a chance to see these two guards play if the streaky Cowboys fail to make a run in the upcoming Big 12 tournament.
Battle No. 4: Cole Aldrich (Center, Kansas) vs...
Two premier big men of different ages that each have aspirations of David Stern announcing their name from a podium in a few months, both of these underclassmen have asserted themselves as go-to options in the low post for the Jayhawks and Wildcats, respectively.
Aldrich sports a 7’4” wingspan, and has proven to be an efficient scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. A specimen of physical fitness, he also won the National Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the year in March 2009.
...DeMarcus Cousins (Center, Kentucky)
Cousins is considered to have a higher ceiling of ability than Aldrich, but Kentucky head coach John Calipari has reportedly told Cousins he wants him to return to Lexington for his sophomore season.
Both players hear the calling of the professional ranks at the same time their current coaches are trying to keep their attention focused on winning a national championship. As UK and KU will be No. 1 seeds in their brackets, we may not get to witness Aldrich and Cousins face off until the Final Four.
Battle No. 5: Matt Howard (Forward, Butler) vs...
One of the more intriguing matchups pitting Howard, a feel-good story who has become the toast of the Horizon League, against...
...Devin Ebanks (Forward, West Virginia)
...Ebanks, whose underwhelming 2009-10 season with the Mountaineers has been marred by poor grades and alleged fistfights with teammates.
While these two athletes are similarly sized and play the same position, they couldn’t be more different off the court. Howard has overachieved while Ebanks has done just the opposite with erratic three-point shooting (3-27 on the season) and occasional boneheaded plays.
Regardless, everyone gets a fresh start when the NCAA basketball postseason begins. While the same can’t be said for NBA scouts, most basketball fans won’t care how good Howard was or how frustrating Ebanks has been until now.
Battle No. 6: John Wall (Guard, Kentucky) vs...
Another high-profile matchup pitting a freshman Wildcat against a senior Jayhawk, this matchup may not materialize until April when 61-63 teams in the tournament have already been eliminated.
Wall has been one of the best point guards to play the college game since Jason Kidd, and will be dearly missed once, barring injury, he is drafted as high as first in the NBA Draft on June 24...
...Sherron Collins (Guard, Kansas)
...However, just because Wall has gotten most of the press doesn’t mean that the more seasoned Collins should be relegated to chopped liver. Although he encountered some statistical regression in his senior year at Kansas, Collins is out to prove that he, not Wall, is the best point guard to play in the Big Dance.
These two athletes will serve as an interesting case study as to whether college basketball players should ignore their college commitments and go pro while their draft stock is highest, or stick around to obtain their degree and help their program win a national championship.
If Kansas edges Kentucky next month and Collins garners a first-round pick, one can point to this example that good things do come to those that exhibit patience in their development.
Battle No. 7: Edgar Sosa (Guard, Louisville) vs...
Louisville ended their regular season in inspirational fashion by knocking off then-No. 1-ranked Syracuse in the final home game at Freedom Hall. Having generated some much-needed momentum as the Big East Tournament begins, Senior Edgar Sosa will need to exhibit the necessary leadership to avoid another Louisville March letdown...
...Kalin Lucas (Guard, Michigan State)
Lucas heads into the 2010 postseason with higher expectations than last year, when he eventually led the upstart Spartans all the way to the Championship game against North Carolina.
The 2008-09 Big Ten Player of the Year needs to finish his college career on a high note if he is to attract sustained attention at the professional level.
Furthermore, Lucas and Michigan State will be sought out by a formerly No. 1-seeded program that they knocked out of the 2009 tournament as a member of the Elite Eight.
If the Cardinals and Spartans somehow meet in the NCAA Tournament, revenge will be on the mind of every Louisville player, coach and fan.
Sosa, who has demonstrated marked statistical improvement in almost every offensive category this season, will be the key component that dictates whether the Cardinals can return to last season’s top-seeded level of play, or if they’ll stumble at a critical juncture again.
Battle No. 8: Kyle Singler (Forward, Duke) vs...
Singler is one of the most decorated players in the ACC all year, and has helped restore Duke basketball to a championship-caliber after several consecutive seasons of serving as North Carolina’s whipping boy...
...Wesley Johnson (Forward, Syracuse)
Meanwhile, Johnson has been a blessing to the Orange program since he transferred from Iowa State last season.
These two players, each considered strong candidates for Player of the Year honors in their respective conferences, have the weight of their programs on their shoulders.
As Singler and Johnson could eventually meet each other three or four games into the tournament, the two of them facing off would provide a premier matchup that would garner the attention of most college basketball fans, as well as a few NBA scouts.
Singler and Johnson match up well against each other, size-wise. However, Johnson provides more of a physical presence inside while Singler is well versed in Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s system.
Outside of Singler and Johnson, the two schools they play for ended the regular season on entirely different notes. Syracuse relinquished its No. 1 ranking in the AP polls after losing to Louisville for the second time this season while Duke pummeled their archrivals, the defending national champion Tarheels, by over 30 points, to all but ensure a No. 1 seeding in their bracket come tournament time.
Battle No. 9: Greg Monroe (Center, Georgetown) vs...
Monroe is an elite center who was just named to the All Big East First Team while...
...JaJuan Johnson (Center, Purdue)
...Johnson was selected to be part of the All Big Ten Team.
Johnson and Monroe are two of the premier big men in their respective conferences. While one can argue that Johnson, a junior, is more battle tested given that he has more experience than Monroe, who is a sophomore, it is also important to note that Monroe outweighs Johnson by over 30 pounds, and plays in a tougher conference in the Big East.
Now that fellow Boilermaker big man Robbie Hummel will miss the rest of the season with an ACL tear, JaJuan will need to step up to try and replace Hummel’s production as the NCAA tournament draws nigh.
If Purdue draws Georgetown somewhere down the tournament road, one should expect a tough, physical matchup between Monroe and Johnson as they jockey for rebounding position underneath the rim.
Battle No. 10: Evan Turner (Guard, Ohio State) vs...
Two of the more remarkable stories to come from college basketball during the regular season were Evan Turner’s back-breaking performance that won him Big Ten Player of the year in a landslide vote in spite of missing six games...
...Damion James (Guard/Forward, Texas)
...and Texas’ precipitous plunge down the AP Polls. Ranked No. 1 as recently as six weeks ago, the ‘Horns lost eight of their last 14 regular season games, and now sit outside the Top 25 looking in.
Damion James, the versatile senior who led his team in scoring and rebounding, would guard Turner if the Buckeyes and the Longhorns were to meet up later this month.
Turner matches up well with James in terms of size and position, but the Longhorn is a slightly better on the boards with a superior long-range game. However, Evans is a remarkable passer, improves the play of his teammates with elite ball-handling skills, yet is also able to effectively create his own shots with impressive footwork.