2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament logo2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

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

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2011

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

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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!

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