It’s that time of year again. March Madness brings out the best of all 68 tournament teams, which also means that the spotlight shines brightest on the star players in big moments.
You may know a few of these names, from top seeded teams like Kansas and Kentucky, whose top players are gearing for the NBA draft next season. However, there are countless star players on each team that go under the radar for most of the year that deserve your attention come March.
Keep your eye out for these players from each region while watching the games this weekend, and make sure to account for these players when you make your picks, as many of them could single-handedly take down one of your Final Four picks.
Luke Kennard, Duke: Prior to the season, all eyes were on Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum, but Kennard has led the Blue Devils in scoring with 20.1 points per game. He has scored in double digits in every game but one, and has been consistent all season despite the issues Duke had with Coach K gone and Grayson Allen being unable to play.
Josh Hart, Villanova: No team has made it back to the Final Four the year after winning the title since the 2007 Florida Gators team, but this Wildcats team has a lot of talent returning, with Josh Hart leading the way. While he may not be a top NBA prospect, he plays his heart out every game, leading his team with 6.5 rebounds per game, and shooting over 40 percent from the three point line.
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: When you think of scoring leaders in the SEC, you think of Malik Monk, but Thornwell actually scored 21 points per game, the most in the conference. He has averaged double digit scoring in all four of his collegiate years, and will appear in his first NCAA Tournament. While his team may struggle to score the ball as a whole, Thornwell’s experience alone could get this Gamecock team a win.
Semi Ojeleye, SMU: Ojeleye is just as underrated as his team is going into the Tournament. SMU has won 16 games in a row, and only has four losses on the year. The Mustangs are led by the transfer from Duke, who hadn’t even scored 50 points in his career before this season, and now averages almost 19 per game. He’s a freak athlete who allows SMU to play small ball, and can stretch the floor extremely well, shoots 42.8 percent from the three point line.
T.J. Cromer, ETSU: This 6’3″ senior guard is putting up 19 points per game and recently highlighted his three point shooting abilities when he hit nine threes in a Southern Conference tournament game against Samford. This high scoring offense could pose a threat for Florida in the first round of the Tournament.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: The best player on the team with the best record, Williams-Goss does everything for the Bulldogs. He leads them in scoring, assists and steals and is top ten in the country in free throw percentage. If Gonzaga is going to make a deep run, it’s going to be on the back of this junior guard.
Mike Daum, South Dakota State: While it is unlikely that this 16 seed takes down the first seed Gonzaga, don’t be surprised if the Jackrabbits give the Bulldogs a run for their money. Daum was second in the country in scoring, averaging 25.3 points per game, and recently put up 51 points in one game. He is a future NBA prospect at 6’9″, and can shoot the ball as well as any player in the country.
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: The Musketeers had potential to get a much higher seed at the beginning of the season, but losing Edmond Sumner for the season really crushed this team. Bluiett still manages to dominate games however, and has put up over 20 points in 16 games this season, including a season high 40 points.
Brandon Goodwin, FGCU: If you are looking for a surprising upset pick, look no further than the interstate rivalry between Florida State and FGCU. The Eagles have done it before, and Goodwin has only put up single digit scoring numbers in two games this season.
Allonzo Trier, Arizona: While his teammate Lauri Markkanen may get a lot of the attention on this team due to his future potential, Trier is currently the better player, especially after the performance he put on in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Frank Mason III, Kansas: One of the most prolific scorers in the Tournament, Mason III is a top candidate for the Naismith Award this season. If you haven’t heard of him, you probably haven’t watched any college basketball this year because he has been the talk of college basketball all year.
Cameron Oliver, Nevada: Another future NBA prospect that goes under the radar, Oliver is a 6’8″ forward that is top fifteen in the country in blocked shots. He is a freak athlete and has a sweet stroke to back it up. Iowa State may struggle in the first round against the combination of Oliver and his teammate Marcus Marshall.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: One of the best true big men in college basketball right now, Swanigan is second in the NCAA in rebounds and scores over 18 points per game. He has a solid jump shot and is a tough matchup for anyone in the paint at 6’9″ and 250 pounds. Not many teams have good enough big men to guard him, which leads to double teams and open shots for the Boilermakers.
Jordan Washington, Iona: Going up against a banged up Ducks team in the round of 64, Washington is prone to having a breakout game. He has put up over 25 points in eight games this season, most of those points coming inside. This is another upset alert that should be on your radar.
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: One of the best point guards in the league, Evans is one of two players in the NCAA to average over 19 points and six assists per game. He has three double-doubles this season with assists and points, and will be fun to watch against Michigan.
Justin Jackson, North Carolina: The ACC Player of the Year, and the Tar Heels’ best perimeter player, Jackson leads North Carolina into a region filled with Kentucky and UCLA. While he was relatively quiet in the ACC Tournament, don’t second guess the Tar Heels’ go-to player.
Keon Johnson, Winthrop: Don’t let the 5’7″, 160 pound stature fool you: Johnson is a fearless scorer that puts up over 22 points per game. He has been scoring in double figures his entire college career, and now has a chance to prove his worth against a Butler team that has lost its last two games.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Even though UCLA has six players that average in double figures, Ball gets most of the credit for the Bruins’ success due to his versatility variety of skills. He has only scored over 20 points six times this season, but he averages 7.7 assists per game, which is the most in the NCAA.
Jimmy Hall, Kent State: Hall is fourth in the NCAA in double-doubles, as he averages 19 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. While the Golden Flashes don’t shoot the three pointer exceptionally well, they will give the Bruins a run for their money due to Hall’s play in the paint.
Malik Monk, Kentucky: Malik Monk could be the best player in the tournament, if he could dominate on a consistent basis. At times, Monk can absolutely take over a game – just ask the Tar Heels when he scored 47 points against them. On the other hand, he recorded outings of six and two points in two of their last four games. If he brings his A-game, this Kentucky team could get back to the Championship.