NCAA Tournament 2011: Power Ranking the 10 Best Players in the Sweet 16

Donald Wood@@Donald_WoodFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2011

NCAA Tournament 2011: Power Ranking the 10 Best Players in the Sweet 16

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars celebrates after a play against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Phot
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Now that our brackets are thoroughly busted, it’s time to look ahead to the Sweet 16.

    There are a few top seeds that look to continue their success and there are a few surprises that look to keep shocking the world.

    One thing that the Sweet 16 doesn’t lack, is an abundance of talent.

    The following slideshow is of the 10 most important players in the Sweet 16. Enjoy!

10. Josh Harrellson—Kentucky

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Josh Harrellson #55 of the Kentucky Wildcats attempts a dunk against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (P
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Josh Harrellson is the defensive centerpiece for John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. His biggest challenge is when they play Ohio State and their big man Jared Sullinger.

    Both players are 6’10” and are a lot to handle in the low post.

    If the Wildcats want to have a chance against the top seeded Ohio State, they need to get one of the best career performances out of Harrellson.

9. Jimmy Butler—Marquette

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Jimmy Butler #33 of the Marquette Golden Eagles drives with the ball against John Flowers #41 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle O
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Jimmy Butler is the engine of the Marquette Golden Eagles team.

    While Butler averaged 16 points and six rebounds per game during the regular season, he hasn’t played as well during this year’s tournament.

    If Marquette wants to advance to the Elite Eight, they need Butler to play at a high level to beat the tough North Carolina Tar Heels.

8. Nolan Smith—Duke

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Nolan Smith #2 of the Duke Blue Devils calls a play in the second half while taking on the Michigan Wolverines during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in C
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Before all of the hype around Kyrie Irving's return to the Duke Blue Devils, the main man on campus was Nolan Smith.

    Smith leads the team in scoring with 21.3 points and 5.2 assists per game and remains one of the focal points of the team’s offense.

    With Irving back in the mix, defensive coverage won’t be as intense because of the wealth of talent on offense.  Look for Smith to get some easy, open looks.

7. Matt Howard—Butler

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  Matt Howard #54 of the Butler Bulldogs celebrates with fans after their victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Matt Howard played a big part in last season’s run to the national championship against Duke and he knows what it takes to get there.

    The Butler Bulldogs have won 11 games in a row to make their team one of the hottest in the nation.

    Howard leads the Bulldogs with 16.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, and looks to be a huge force against Wisconsin.

6. Marcus and Markieff Morris—Kansas

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    TULSA, OK - MARCH 20:  Marcus Morris #22 and Markieff Morris #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks celebrate after a play against the Illinois Fighting Illini during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 20, 2011 in Tuls
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The Richmond Spiders have been one of the most shocking stories of this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the dream season will be ending soon.

    The Kansas Jayhawks come into the game as one of the hottest teams in the nation and look to end Richmond’s Cinderella run.

    Marcus and Markieff Morris look to be keys for success against the Spiders. The Morris twins account for over 30 points and 15 rebounds per game for the Jayhawks.

5. Brandon Knight—Kentucky

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Brandon Knight #12 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts in the second half agianst the West Virginia Mountaineers during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Flo
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The Kentucky Wildcats look to another young freshman in Brandon Knight to help carry the team through the tournament.

    Knight averages 17.4 points, 4.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game this season.

    While the inexperience may be a concern in the upcoming game against Ohio State, Knight seems to thrive in big situations.

4. Kemba Walker—UConn

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    WASHINGTON - MARCH 17:  Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies is congratulate by teammates during their game against the Bucknell Bison during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Verizon Center on March 17, 2011 in W
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    UConn may be the most surprising underdog in the Sweet 16, and is one of the best teams left in the tournament.

    The Huskies won five games in five days to take the Big East tournament. They have added two more wins in the tournament, with the help of Kemba Walker.

    Walker averages 23.5 points, 5.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game and has been lights out for UConn this postseason.

3. Kyrie Irving—Duke

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 18:  Kyrie Irving #1 of the Duke Blue Devils lays the ball up against the Hampton Pirates during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 18, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Duke Blue Devils were already one of the top rated teams in the NCAA this season before they got Kyrie Irving back from injury.

    As good as Nolan Smith has been, freshman Irving is the best player on the team when he is 100 percent healthy.

    In the few games that Irving played this season, he averaged 16.4 points, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He can also be a threat from beyond the arc, shooting .457 percent from three-point range.

2. Jared Sullinger—Ohio State

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    CLEVELAND, OH - MARCH 20: Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after a play in the first half against the George Mason Patriots during the third of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 20, 2011 in Cleve
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Jared Sullinger is a man-beast for the Ohio State Buckeyes and is the biggest part of their success.

    Not many teams in college basketball can matchup with the 6’10” Sullinger down low.

    They have a tough matchup playing against the Kentucky Wildcats, but Sullinger’s 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game may be too much for the Wildcats to handle.

1. Jimmer Fredette—BYU

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 11:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young University Cougars drives against Kendall Williams #10 of the New Mexico Lobos during a semifinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Ce
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The single most important player on a team is Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette.

    Fredette was the Mountain West Conference player of the year and has been the backbone of the team since the suspension of leading rebounder Brandon Davies.

    While Fredette averaged 28.8 points per game (first in the nation) during the regular season, he has turned it up in this year's tournament by averaging 33 points per game.

    If BYU wants to beat a tough Florida Gators team, they need Fredette to come up big again.

    If you like this article, see how I screwed up my bracket!