Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Top College Basketball Players 2010-11, Poised To Make A Difference In The NCAA Tournament

The little man from Connecticut, Kemba Walker,  could have a huge impact on the outcome of the tournament. 
March Madness is right around the corner as the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season is coming to an end.

Here is a list of some of the year's top players that could make huge impacts for their teams in tournament season.

Jimmer Fredette, BYU- This season has been a showcase for BYU's 6'2 point guard.  He has shredded opponents in a variety of ways, showing his craftiness and ability to finish at the rim in traffic, beating his man off the dribble, or using his unlimited range on his deep shot.  The results have been BYU's ascension to the top of the collegiate basketball world.  He is the NCAA scoring leader averaging 28 points per game.  He has been able to go for 40 on any given night.  BYU will need to utilize his scoring ability if they are going to make a run in the tournament.  He will have to exhibit the scoring prowess that fans have been seeing on Sports Center seemingly every night.

Nolan Smith, Duke- Smith has been the scoring, and floor leader, for a Duke team that has been at the top or near the top of the rankings all season.  In his senior year Smith is showing the scoring ability that had him rated as one of the top recruits in the nation when he joined the squad.  He is averaging 22 points per game while dishing out almost six assists.  Smith is not the only weapon Duke has, but in crunch time expect him to take the big shots for the Blue Devils.  He is also an athletic lock down defender on the wing, he will guard the opponents best wing player.  His ability to run the offense has been on display all season, and he will have to continue his great play in the tournament.  Duke has had its fair share of missteps this season, but they are full of senior leadership and are poised to make a run for their second straight championship.

Jared Sullinger, Ohio State- Sullinger has burst on the college basketball season this year, and is a candidate for player of the year.  Ohio State is a very well rounded team with lots of experience with Buford and Lighty, but the player that has taken them over the top has been Sullinger.  He has dominated opponents' big men all season, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.  He is the team's top scorer and has had big time performances against some of their top opponents.  Teams have had some success against OSU when they are able to keep the ball out of Sullinger's hands.  For Ohio State to have a chance at a national championship they will have to make sure that Sullinger gets the ball early and often down low in the post, where he is almost unstoppable.

Johnson's improved offensive game
 could take Purdue deep in the tournament.
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue- Johnson had to fill the shoes of Robbie Hummel who missed the entire season with a knee injury.  Johnson responded to the challenge and has taken his game to a new level.  He has showed that he has a very solid offensive game with the emergence of his mid-range jumper.  This year he is averaging 21 points per game and is grabbing 8 rebounds per game. Even more important for a man his size, he shoots 81% from the free-throw line.  This means that at the end of the game Purdue can keep the ball in his hands for a big shot.  He is still a defensive play maker, averaging over 2 blocks per game.  Johnson will have to take his game to an even higher level in the tournament, but if he can do it his draft stock could sore to lottery status.

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina- Barnes has not had the impact that many thought he would this year.  He has struggled to find his game on the offensive game, and sometimes seems lost on the defensive end.  That being said, he always competes.  He has found his stride the second half of the season and has helped the Tar Heels win the ACC conference title.  He averages 14 points per game and grabs 5 rebounds per game.  In the tournament he will have to step it up a notch or two.  Zeller and Henson should help a lot too, but Barnes will need to stand out if North Carolina is going to bring home another national championship to Tobacco Road.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut- Walker stands only  6'1 feet tall, but he has a big game.  This season he has averaged 23 points per game and is the heart and soul of Uconn.  He has hit a number of game winners and usually comes up big in clutch situations.  He has lifted his team up the rankings and made them a mainstay at the top this year.  Walker showed what he can do in a tournament setting at the beginning of the year as Uconn won the Maui Invitational.  If he can put together a string of games like he did in Maui, opponents are in for a hand full.

Derrick Williams, Arizona- Williams is a tremendously talented scorer.  He can score on the post, or he can shoot the three with 60% accuracy.  He lead the Wildcats to a Pac

Jon Leuer, Wisconsin- Leuer is a fundamentally sound big-man with a sweet shooting stroke.  He does
Together, the Morris twins give opponents fits.
 not get enough love for a player who averages 19 points per game.  He pulls down about 8 boards a game, and plays on the defensive end, getting one block per game.  His game reminds me a lot of Ryan Anderson from Cal a few years ago.  Wisconsin has a lot of scoring options and they have a real chance of making some noise, but they will need Leuer to keep his 46% 3-point average up to stretch the defense and pull opponents big-men away from the lane.

Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State- San Diego State has had a great year, they just couldn't get over the hump against BYU.  The Aztecs are led by Leonard, who is a great defender, solid rebounder and can get to the basket with a quick first step.  The knock on Leonard is that he is not a good shooter, he averages only 25% from the 3 point line. He gets most of his points on slashes to the basket, put backs, and drives.  That being said, he does put in 17 points per game.  He will have to lock down opponents best player and keep his averages on offense up, if not improve them, for the Aztecs to win some games.

Morris Twins, Kansas- Marcus and Markieff are the combined face of Kansas this season.  Kansas has lots of talent and ever position but the Morris brothers are the heart of the squad.  Both crash the boards and have good offensive games.  Marcus is averaging 17 and 7 this season while Markieff is averaging 13 and 8.  Kansas is set to make a deep run, but they will need both of the twins to have big tournaments to end up where they want to be.

Jordan Hamilton, Texas- Hamilton's improvement in his sophomore season has been key to Texas' success this year.  He is averaging 19 points per game this season and adding 8 rebounds.  The knock on him during his freshman season was that he took too many shots, many of which were bad and not part of the offense.  This season he has done a better job in the area.  Texas will need him to be more aggressive in the tournament, but his ability to be more aggressive without taking bad shots will be the deciding factor for the Long Horns.

Kentucky's fate rests in the hands of
 their talented freshman class.
Terrance Jones, Brandon Knight, Kentucky- Kentucky will once again be led into the tournament by their talented freshman class.  This class is led by Jones and Knight, both of whom are averaging around 17 points per game.  Kentucky has struggled at the free-throw line this season, something that could cost them when it counts.  The Wildcats will need consistent and steady play from Knight at the point guard position, and they will need Jones to be a beast on the boards while using his versatility on offense.  Lamb, another freshman playing a key role, will also need to play well and continue shooting the 3 with confidence.

Ben Hansbrough, Notre Dame- Just like his big brother, Hansbrough is the heart of his team.  He is a scrappy player, and hustles on every play.  He is the team leader in scoring, averaging 19 points per game, and he shoots 45% from the three.  Notre Dame has a lot of talent surrounding him, but Ben is the engine that makes the team work.  He is a great floor general and knows how to spread the ball around.  His toughness will be needed, but it looks as if Notre Dame has assembled a team that could make a lot of noise.

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