NCAA Tournament Watch: Most Outstanding Players

March 16th, 2009

Aaahh, mid-March, my favorite time of the year.  ESPN has finally switched to covering college basketball full-time, and I’m sweating bullets over which 12-seed will get past the first round.


As usual, this tournament shouldn’t disappoint.  There seems to be more parity this year than others, and the trip to Detroit looks wide open.


Any great tournament run is led by a key player or two.  We all remember the Christian Laettners and Stephen Currys over the years.  So which players are likely to be this year’s most outstanding?


Most Oustanding Player Candidates


Toney Douglas (Florida State) – This guy has been absolutely dominant for the Seminoles.  Putting up 20+ ppg, making the first team All-ACC and winning ACC defensive player of the year are just a few of his well-padded resume features.  Douglas is the perfect example of a player who will put his team on his back and carry them deep into the tournament.


Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) – Did anybody else see Oklahoma play when he was out of the lineup?  Let’s just say brother Taylor doesn’t quite cut it compared to Blake.  One of the key points to look at in a strong tournament team is the NBA prospects on the roster.  Is there a better prospect in the tourney than Blake Griffin?  I don’t think so.


James Harden (Arizona State) – You know you’re an important part of the team when Ken Pomeroy lists you as a go-to guy.  Harden is one of the most versatile players in the game today, and can score in a wide variety of ways.  To complement his 21 ppg, he’s also got 4.2 apg and 5 rpg, making him a very well-balanced guard.


Ty Lawson (North Carolina) – It looks like Lawson should be ready to go come Thursday, and boy will the Tar heels need him.  This guy wrote the book on clutch performances.  Skeptics should watch both of this season’s UNC/Duke games to get a taste of how he can take over a game.  I’m looking forward to Lawson’s next go ahead and-1 bucket with 5 seconds left in the game.


Jeff Teague (Wake Forest) – The Demon Deacons have fallen a bit under the radar, and that could prove to be just what they need right now.  The clear-cut MVP on this team is Jeff Teague, and that shouldn’t change anytime soon.  He strokes the ball beautifully from beyond the arc, and can beat just about anybody off the dribble.  If the CHN staff’s predictions prove to be right and Wake Forest beats Louisville in the Sweet 16, it’ll be largely due a dominant performance by Jeff Teague.


Other Top Stars to Watch: DeJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Tyreke Evans (Memphis), Tyler Hansbrough (UNC), Gerald Henderson (Duke), Kalin Lucas (Michigan St), AJ Price (UCONN), Terrence Williams (Louisville)


Mid-Major Pick:


Kenny Hasbrouck – There’s a lot of talk about the Saints being this year’s Cinderella.  If they do make a deep run, it’ll be because of this guy.  He’s averaged 16 ppg and 5 apg over his last 4 games, and is playing his best basketball at just the right time.