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NCAA Tournament: Breakout Players


The brackets are out, and the NCAA Tournament begins in just days. The editors at Athlon Sports are debating some of the hot topics regarding the Field of 68.

Which player are you most looking forward to watching on a national stage?

Mitch Light: Nate Wolters of South Dakota State is a scoring point guard who plays an exciting brand of basketball. The 6-4 junior from St. Cloud, Minn., is averaging 21.3 points per game but doesn’t do too much damage from 3-point range (one made three per game). He is a high-volume 2-point shooter who also gets to the foul line a bunch (7.1 shots per game). Earlier this season, he erupted for 34 points in the Jackrabbits’ 92–73 win at Washington. SDSU will need Wolters to be at his very best to have a chance of knocking off Baylor in the first round this Thursday in Albuquerque.

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Mark Ross: Creighton's Doug McDermott has already received a lot of press this season as the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. That said, I am curious to see how he fares against Alabama in the Bluejays' opening game. McDermott is 6-7 and could be at a slight height disadvantage against the other Crimson Tide big men (depending on lineups). McDermott may need to alter his game somewhat to try and stretch Bama's defense and take advantage of his quickness, range and shot-making ability. If Creighton gets by Alabama then presumably a matchup with No. 1 seed North Carolina looms, which would pit McDermott against his former high school teammate, Harrison Barnes. North Carolina has seven players who are all athletic and 6-7 or taller which they can use to defend McDermott, including ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson. This should be a perfect opportunity for McDermott to show the nation, not to mention NBA scouts who are sure to be watching, what he can do on the big stage.

Nathan Rush: Now is the time for North Carolina's Harrison Barnes to show he can be a consistent leader, defender and late-game closer on basketball's biggest stage. The sophomore from Ames, Iowa, will be counted on to carry the Tar Heels to the Final Four in New Orleans, after falling one win short of the national semifinals last season. In the process, the 6'8", 215-pound small forward will answer several questions about his pro potential. Barnes has been compared to former Roy Williams product Paul Pierce and 2003 national champion Carmelo Anthony. With UNC's supporting cast, Barnes will be cutting down the nets on Monday night, April 2, if he has that type of All-Star killer instinct.
Patrick Snow: I think Doug McDermott of Creighton has a chance to have a Stephen Curry- or Jimmer Fredette-like effect on this year’s tournament. The 6-7 sophomore averaged 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year, and he shot an amazingly efficient 61 percent from the field. McDermott dropped 36 points on Long Beach State in the BracketBusters game and had 33 in the Bluejays’ victory over Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Tournament Championship. Creighton has a tough draw with a physical Alabama squad and then a potential North Carolina matchup in the next round, but McDermott is the type of dynamic scorer who fans will love to watch.

Braden Gall: From the little-guy-early-upset category, I will have to go with Long Beach State's Casper Ware and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters. I like both of these teams to pull the upset in the first round. But if you are asking me about the star player I can't wait to see push his team to New Orleans, none will be more fun to watch than Flip Pressey of Missouri. His vision and speed make him arguably the most difficult point guard in the nation to stop, and the Tigers looked poised to make a deep run — if they can get past their mirror image from Marquette in the Sweet 16.