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Ranking the Top 15 players in the Final Four


The cast of characters in this year’s Final Four covers a wide range of careers and personalities, and pretty much all are at the top of their games.

Michigan’s Trey Burke is the only Associated Press All-American still left competing for a title, but there are plenty of standout players in the mix. Peyton Siva and Michael Carter-Williams were All-America caliber players at midseason, and Russ Smith was a potential national player of the year contender. All have returned to that form in the last two weeks.

Meanwhile, players like Michigan’s Mitch McGary and Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng have hit their stride in the postseason. And the well-traveled veterans at Wichita State now stand alongside McDonald’s All-Americans.

Ranking the top players remaining in the NCAA Tournament is no easy task. We ranked our top 15 players in the Final Four based on talent, value to his team and overall production, weighted to the last few weeks.

Related: How the Final Four teams were built


1. Trey Burke, Michigan
Particulars: 6-0/190, So.
Last school: Columbus (Ohio) Northland
Burke never led Michigan in scoring in any of the Wolverines’ four tournament wins, but he’s never been more valuable. And it’s not just his deep three-pointer to tie Kansas at the end of regulation in the Sweet 16. He’s had at least seven assists in each tournament game, including 10 against Kansas.

2. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-6/185, So.
Last school: Barrington (R.I.) St. Andrew’s School
The point guard had a slump earlier this season, but he’s back to form in the tournament. Stop him from scoring and he’ll pick you apart with his passing. Shut down his passing lanes, and he can drop 20 as he did against Indiana.

3. Russ Smith, Louisville
Particulars: 6-0/165, Jr.
Last school: South Kent (Conn.)
Smith had his scoring woes at midseason, but he’s been even better than his early-season form. The enigmatic shooting guard is averaging 26 points per game in the tournament on an average of 15.3 shots from the field per game.

4. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Particulars: 6-11/245, Jr.
Last school: Huntington (W. Va.) Prep
The top big man in the Final Four, Dieng has needed three years to develop his all-around game, and it’s been worth the wait. In the regional against Duke and Oregon, Dieng averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. As recently as the Big East championship, he had eight assists out of the post.

5. James Southerland, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-8/215, Sr.
Last school: Fitchburg (Mass.) Notre Dame Prep
Southerland hasn’t had the breakout in the NCAA Tournament he’s capable of producing, at least from the offensive end. The senior was one of Syracuse’s most productive players on a per-minute basis with 18.3 points per 40 minutes

6. Peyton Siva, Louisville
Particulars: 6-0/184, Sr.
Last school: Seattle (Wash.) Franklin
One of Rick Pitino’s all-time favorite players may lead the Cardinals to a national championship. The point guard leads the Cardinals at both ends of the floor as Louisville is playing as well as it has all season on both offense and defense.

7. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-8/215, Jr.
Last school: Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
With his length and ability to create his own shot, Fair is tough to guard. Fair and Georgetown’s Otto Porter were the only two players in the Big East to rank in the top 10 in the league in scoring and rebounding.

8. Mitch McGary, Michigan
Particulars: 6-10/250, Fr.
Last school: Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy
The Wolverines’ freshman big man has been one of the true breakout players in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He started only six games this season, but he’s averaging 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in the tourney. McGary has given Michigan a sorely needed inside presence, and he’s been tabbed as a possible first-round draft pick if he leaves school early.

9. Carl Hall, Wichita State
Particulars: 6-8/238, Sr.
Last school: Northwest Florida State
Wichita State used its edge in rebounding to carry it to the Final Four, and one of its best on the glass is Hall. The junior college transfer who needed to treat a heart condition before playing college basketball also has 12 blocks in his last three games.

10. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Particulars: 6-6/205, Jr.
Last school: Miami Palmetto Senior
Hardaway has done in the tournament what he did all season, giving Michigan a secondary scorer and a veteran presence. The junior is averaging 13.5 points per game in the tournament on 41.7 percent shooting.

11. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Particulars: 6-8/215, Jr.
Last school: Sullivan Junior College
Sometimes Early needs to jarred into maintaining his focus, but that’s been the case in the tournament so far. When Early finds his scoring touch, watch out. He also had seven rebounds in every game so far and launched four three-pointers against Gonzaga.

12. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Particulars: 6-6/190, Fr.
Last school: Southborough (Mass.) St. Mark’s School
Another one of Michigan’s freshmen who took advantage of all the focus going to Burke, Stauskas proved what can happen when he gets hot from three-point range. Stauskas broke out for 22 points with a 6-for-6 mark from beyond the arc against Florida.

13. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan
Particulars: 6-6/210, Fr.
Last school: St. John (Ind.) Lake Central
Robinson didn’t match the 21 points he had against South Dakota State in the round of 64, but he grabbed a combined 17 rebounds and blocked give shots against VCU and Kansas. With Burke’s playmaking ability, McGary’s play inside, Stauskas’ play from the perimeter, Robinson adds a dimension to the offense by slashing to the basket and running the floor.

14. Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State
Particulars: 6-0/205, Sr.
Last school: Oregon
The well-traveled point guard started at Chipola Junior College in Florida, transferred to Oregon and then paid his own way to Wichita State. The lefty is unflappable, averaging 15.5 points per game in the tournament.

15. Brandon Triche, Syracuse
Particulars: 6-4/210, Sr.
Last school: Jamesville (N.Y.) Jamesville-DeWitt
Syracuse needs Triche to make shots to be at its best in the Final Four. That was clear during Syracuse’s struggles in early March. The senior bounced back late in the year and hit 6 of 12 shots for 14 points against Indiana in the Sweet 16.