We are now on the cusp of a Sweet 16 that has it all. We have a Cinderella in Saint Peter’s. We have the young guns from Arizona and the defensive juggernaut in Houston. Michigan and North Carolina are the talented underachievers that have gotten it together at just the right time. We also have the traditional blue bloods in Kansas, Gonzaga, UCLA and Duke continuing their postseason dominance.
Today, I want to take a look at the players that are going to lead their teams into the elite on Thursday. One for each winner. Here we go!
Look, we all know about Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. Timme is that guy that every color commentator talks about like he’s more of a ballerina than a basketball player. Look at that ‘stache folks, he’s actually neither, he’s a night club owner that backs up the trash talk.
Nembhard is the guy that is making this team hum at the moment. Over his four postseason games (WCC and NCAA) has averaged 17 points and eight assists per game while shooting 12-22 from behind the arc.
He’s not turning the ball over, he’s spreading the wealth and he’s making teams pay when they collapse on the two future pros in the paint. I am not sure there is a team in the nation that can slow this group down prior to their eventual final four appearance.
You guys seeing the trend? I said it on the Rockin Pregame with Erik Haslam prior to the tournament, coaching and point guard play is what my money is going on. Is there a better point guard and coaching story than the one at Villanova? Championship winning senior point guard blows his knee out and comes back for a free year and makes that run. The headlines write itself and Jay Wright knows how to get him there.
Villanova has one of the best top seven in the tournament and arguably the best point guard though Gillespie is far from the flashiest. The Villanova mainstay has eight helpers against just two turnovers in the tournament but is only 6-18 from distance. He is too good to not have a breakout game from distance. Playing a Michigan team that ranks 115th in the nation in defensive three-point percentage feels like a solid opportunity to “get right”.
Kevin Obanor-Forward-Texas Tech
Here he is! Obanor is the guy (along with a ridiculous defense) that is going bring Coach K’s career to a screeching and abrupt conclusion. The former Oral Roberts’ star posted a 15 point, 15 rebound game in the round of 32 against Notre Dame in a that saw neither team score a point per possession.
Here is why Obanor is the choice. Of the 15 rips he logged against the Irish, seven of those came on the offensive glass. The Blue Devils have surrendered a dozen offensive rebounds in each of their first two tournament games and rank 217th in the nation in opponents offensive rebounding percentage.
The Devils were able to overpower Cal-State Fullerton and Michigan State but neither of those two teams play defense the way that the Red Raiders do. Obanor and Mark Adams roll and Coach K puts on a show in the presser.
What is really going to lead the Houston Cougars over the Arizona Wildcats is their ridiculous defense. However, you have to outscore the other team to win as well and Edwards has been up to task so far in this tournament.
The 6-4 wing scorer is 10-20 from deep en route to a 20 point per game average over this season’s first two tournament games. He has a reputation going back to his days Texas Tech as a clutch performer. In fact, over his career, Edwards has connected on nearly 54% of his three point opportunities in ten NCAA Tournament games.
Arizona is young and will be my favorite to win the title next season if they decide to run it back, but believe in Kelvin Sampson and that beautiful defense.
You can read our previous X-Factor article for more info. Enjoy the Madness!