Fifteen Unheralded Players to Watch in the 2010 NCAA Tournament
Every year a player comes out of nowhere to help his team make a deep run in the tournament, has a performance that plays a large part in his team springing a huge first round upset or plays so well that fans jump out of their seats and say wow!
In 2008, Stephen Curry nearly led Davidson to the Final Four. They came within one final shot of defeating Kansas in the regional final. Curry carried Davidson on his back.
Before the tournament, virtually no one heard of Curry or Davidson. Who are going to be this year's unheralded players? Here are the 15 players most likely to post performances that will be talked about.
1. Randy Culpepper—UTEP
Culpepper sparked the Miners to a 15-1 record in Conference USA and their first conference regular season title since 2005. Culpepper averages 18.1 PPG and is a prolific three-point shooter. He made multiple three pointers in 18 games. He also averages 1.8 SPG. He scored 39 points against Central Florida, 45 against Marshall, and 32 at Marshall. Since Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter's emergence, Culpepper has been more efficient.
2. Aubrey Coleman—Houston
Coleman is one of the most dynamic offensive players in the country. He led the country in scoring at 25.6 PPG. He scored in double figures in every game this season, including nine games over 30. He's not a great three point shooter, connecting on only 31.8 percent of his attempts. He did have 12 games with multiple three-point field goals made. Coleman is also strong on the defensive end. He brought down 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game. Coleman's backcourt mate, Kelvin Lewis, supports Coleman with 15.6 points per game.
3. Jerome Randle—Cal
Randle led the Bears to their first conference title since 1960. He finished fourth in the Pac-10 in scoring (18.1), second in assists, and first in free throw percentage. He also made over 40 percent of his three point attempts. He reached double figures in all but three games this season and had a high of 39 against Washington State. He is one of the best point guards in the country. For leading the Bears to their first conference title in 50 years, Randle earned the Pac-Ten player of the year.
4. Juan Fernandez—Temple
Along with backcourt partner Ryan Brooks, Fernandez makes Temple go. Fernandez is the Owls' second star from Argentina after Pepe Sanchez a decade ago. Fran Dunphy's first recruit is the heart and soul of the Owls. His contributions to Temple don't show up in large numbers, but he does virtually everything well. Sanchez's nightly contributions are 12.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 44.7 3FG percent, 83.1 FT percent.
5. Ryan Whitman—Cornell
Whitman is the player that Fernandez is most likely to be matched up against most against Cornell. The 6'7" senior is the son of former Indiana Star and Atlanta Hawks Head Coach Randy Whitman. Whitman averaged 17.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG and connected on over three made three-point field goals per game. Whitman scored in double figures in every game but one and amazingly had multiple three point fields in all but three games.
ESPN's Jay Bilas has picked the Big Red to make the Elite Eight. Whitman will be the key if they are to do that. Similar to former Davidson star Stephen Curry, it's going to take another former NBA's son to carry the load for a deep run.
6 and 7. Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas—Washington
Washington was mired in the Pac-10's slide into mid-major status this season. More was expected from the Huskies after winning the Pac-10 in 2009. They got hot at the right time to win the Pac-10 tournament and another trip to the NCAA. The Huskies finished ninth in the country in scoring with 80.5 PPG. Pondexter and Thomas combined for 37.4 PPG.
Pondexter put up 20.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and shot 54.3 percent from the field, and 83.3 percent from the line. Pondexter was a little bit up and down. He posted 17 games with 20 or above and had six double-double but he also failed to score in double figures six times. Pondexter was the Pac-10 tournament MVP.
Thomas is one of the fastest players in the country from end line to end line. He is the engine that makes the Huskies go. Thomas is a combo guard that frequently looks for his shot first. Not too many players in the country can guard him one on one. He only had three games that he failed to reach double figures and nearly matched Pondexter with 11 games of 20 or more points. Thomas struggled with his three point shot making only 31 percent from beyond the arc.
8. Tre'von Willis—UNLV
Willis is one of the most versatile players in the country. He averages 17.1 PPG (over seven PPG more than any other Rebel). He also puts up over three rebounds and assists per night and has a 1.4 to one assist to turnover ratio. He had 12 point games versus only three games in single digits.
9. Kawhi Leonard—San Diego State
Leonard was a pleasant surprise as a freshman. He was the Aztecs leading scorer and rebounder. He leads a balanced team that has four players that can lead them at any given time. Leonard posted 15 double-doubles on the season.
10. Jahmar Young—New Mexico State
The Aggies are led by their dynamic backcourt of Young and Jonathan Gibson. Young does almost everything well. He averaged 20.9 PPG, put up over three rebounds and assists per game, and shot over 37 percent from three point range. He scored 19 against Utah State in the WAC Championship to break their 17 game-winning streak and help his team earn an NCAA Tournament bid.
11. Gordon Hayward—Butler
Hayward is an NBA prospect who helped Butler achieve the 20-game winning streak they carry into the NCAA Tournament. Heyward is listed as a guard at 6'9". He averaged 15.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and shot 82.8 from the line.
12. Jordan Crawford—Xavier
After last year's run to the Sweet 16, Coach Sean Miller left for Arizona. Many questioned if the Musketeers could continue their success. Miller's assistant Chris Mack took over and X hardly missed a step. They steamrolled through the Atlantic Ten and captured the title going 14-2.
In his first season after transferring from Indiana, Crawford was the biggest reason why. He does just about everything for them. Crawford averaged 19.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.0 apg, and 1.3 spg. He's been very consistent. Crawford only failed to score in double figures once and had 17 games of more than 20 points.
13. Armon Bassett—Ohio
Bassett was Crawford's teammate at Indiana before he also transferred to OU. He was on fire in the MAC Tournament averaging 28.5 ppg on his way to capturing the tournament MVP. Bassett is more than a score. He also averages over three rebounds and assists per game. He scored 38 points in their quarterfinal upset of No.one seed Kent State.
14. Omar Samhan—St. Mary's
Samhan is one of the most productive bigs in the country. He averages 21.5 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.9 bpg, and shot 54.6 percent from the floor. He was a very consistent player scoring in double figures in every game but their WCC Championship victory over Gonzaga. He is also a good free throw shooter, making 73.7 percent from the foul line. Samhan's one downfall could be a propensity to get in foul trouble. He fouled out of five games this year and had seven games with four fouls.
15. Jimmer Fredette—BYU
Fredette does everything for BYU. He is an extraordinary scorer. Florida Coach Billy Donovan (BYU's opponent in the first round) called Fredette more dangerous than John Wall or Devan Downey. On the season, Fredette averaged 20.6 ppg, 4.7 apg, shot 88.1 percent from the line, and made 47.2 percent of his three point field goals.
He set a McKale Center (Arizona) record with 49 points in December. He had seven games with more than 30 points and scored 75 in his two games in the Mountain West Tournament.