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2011 NCAA Tournament: Top Ten Stars of This Year's Tournament

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2011

2011 NCAA Tournament: Top Ten Stars of This Year's Tournament

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    The 2011 NCAA Tournament lived up to it's billing as a wide-open, anything-can-happen type of scenario.

    Throughout the Cinderella runs, big shots and even bigger wins, several stars emerged with the ability to take their respective teams deeper into the tournament.

    These 10 players showcased their ability to the highest level, and allowed their teams to dance just a little bit longer.

10. Justin Harper, F, Richmond

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    Justin Harper, the lanky 6'10'' senior forward, helped elevate the Richmond Spiders to a Cinderella status in 2011.

    Averaging 18 points per game, Harper used his athletic frame to gain an advantage over the slower forwards attempting to guard him.

    Harper also averaged over six rebounds per game to help the underdog Richmond Spiders play three games in this year's Big Dance.

9. Harrison Barnes, F, North Carolina

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    A highly-touted freshman from Ames, Iowa, Harrison Barnes managed to quell the concerns regarding his early-season struggles with an impressive run through the second half of ACC conference play.

    The tournament was no different. Barnes averaged 21 points per game, and allowed the young North Carolina Tar Heels to make a run to the Elite Eight.

    Barnes showed his ability to knock down shots from all over the court. He also showed the ability to take a game over by himself on several occasions—including his individual 9-0 run in the second half of North Carolina's loss to the Kentucky Wildcats.

8. Tyler Zeller, F, North Carolina

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    Averaging 25.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, Tyler Zeller put an exclamation point on an already great season for the Tar Heel forward.

    With a seemingly routine right-handed jump hook, Zeller—coupled with Harrison Barnes—was able to lead the Tar Heels into the Elite Eight before they eventually lost to the Kentucky Wildcats.

    Many players lead their teams quietly and, as players, fly under the radar all season. Count Tyler Zeller in that category.

7. Brandon Knight, G, Kentucky

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    Brandon Knight showcased his abilities as a freshman point guard, leading his team into the Final Four under the tutelage of head coach John Calipari.

    Knight, averaging 16 points and 4.4 assists per game, was a catalyst for the Wildcat offense. He was also a reliable shooter in crunch time.

    Showing the confidence when the chips were down in the Sweet Sixteen, to hit the go-ahead jumper from just inside the arc, was Knight playing basketball well beyond his years.

6. Jamie Skeen, F, VCU

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    Leading the way for the most improbable run in tournament history, Jamie Skeen was able to propel the VCU Rams all the way to the Final Four in Houston.

    Averaging 17.5 points per game, Skeen saved his two best performances for last. He scored 27 points against Kansas in VCU's Elite Eight upset, and 26 in their Final Four loss to the Butler Bulldogs.

    Skeen's versatility helped to facilitate the run-and-gun style of Shaka Smart's offense. It gave the Rams a truly dynamic threat to score on the outside or the inside.

5. Jeremy Lamb, G, UConn

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    Every Batman must have a Robin.

    For the Connecticut Huskies, Kemba Walker is Batman and Jeremy Lamb is a dangerous Robin.

    Averaging 16.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, the long and lanky Lamb gained confidence and caught fans' attention with his smooth offensive ability throughout the tournament.

    Lamb gave the National Champion Huskies a formidable number two option to go along with the dynamic Kemba Walker in the backcourt.

    Keep an eye on Lamb, as he tries to become Batman for UConn next season.

4. Derrick Williams, F, Arizona

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    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    To put it simply, Derrick Williams is a force.

    Averaging 22.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in the Big Dance, Williams carried his Arizona Wildcats all the way too the Elite Eight.

    Highlighted by the upset of Duke in the Sweet Sixteen—in which fans were able to witness Williams dunk the ball so hard you could feel it in your living room—Williams also managed to hit four of five three's in the upset.

    Few players can their teams to victory. Derrick Williams happens to be one of those players.

3. Jimmer Fredette, G, Brigham Young

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    It's Jimmer time!

    College basketball fans nationwide know the phrase means only one thing: Jimmer Fredette is here, and he is going to score some points.

    Averaging 32.7 points per game, Fredette carried the BYU Cougars to two tournament victories before losing in the Sweet Sixteen to the Florida Gators.

    Fredette, who recently won the Associated Press National Player of the Year award, became an elite household name while playing at a school that doesn't necessarily carry big-name credentials.

2. Shelvin Mack, G, Butler

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    Despite a championship performance to forget, Shelvin Mack is the reason the Butler Bulldogs got a shot at redemption in Houston.

    Mack, who shot 4-15 from the floor in the National Championship game against UConn, averaged 20.3 points per game throughout the tournament.

    With a knack for hitting big shots at big moments, Mack became a true go-to-guy for everyone's favorite Cinderella.

1. Kemba Walker, G, UConn

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    Kemba Walker is dynamic, tough and a quintessential leader for the UConn Huskies.

    After winning the national title, in which Walker only shot 5-19 from the field, Walker has solidified himself among the greats in UConn history.

    Walker averaged 23.5 points per game, and always had an answer when the the young Huskies struggled for offense.

    Whether it be through penetration, from the perimeter or a layup after a fast-break, Walker impacted every facet of the game for the 2011 National Champion Connecticut Huskies.

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