Every March a previously unknown star from a small-school program gets introduced to the national stage and creates his “One Shining Moment.” The NCAA tournament showcases talented players that the casual fan wouldn’t normally watch. Top performances from mid major players are great stories, whether a star leads their team to a one game miraculous upset like Georgia State’s RJ Hunter, or they lead their small school to the title game like Butler’s Gordon Hayward. There are many good mid major teams in the tournament and here are the names that you will need to pay attention to.
Keon Johnson Winthrop: The 5’7 point guard is one of the most exciting players to watch in college basketball. Johnson can be the Steph Curry of the 2017 tournament if the Eagles make a run. The Big South player of the year is an electric scorer and a fantastic shooter who averages 22 points per game. Keon Johnson’s spirit, energy, and effort are what separates him from everyone else. If Winthrop can get past Butler after Johnson displays high arching circus three point shots, contrious layups, hesitation dribbles, nasty crossovers. In a state of basketball, where there is huge emphasis on physical metrics and benchmarks, Johnson success gives young basketball players hope. Check out Johnson’s 38 point performances against Illinois this season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkLAtWcabjY. Here’s an excerpt from the player’s tribune to learn about Johnson’s inspirational story: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/keon-johnson-winthrop-ncaa-tournament/.
Cameron Oliver F Nevada: Cameron Oliver has been on of the best rising sophomores in the entire country. Oliver lead the Wolfpack to a Mountain West regular season and conference tournament championship leading the team with 15.8 points 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. Oliver is a great talent and he will be on an NBA roster within the next two years. Oliver has a great post game, and he is the backbone of a defense that ranks 98th in the country in defensive efficiency. Oliver is one of the few players who has the size, strength, and athleticism to slow down Iowa star Deonte Burton. A great performance in the tournament can make Oliver a household name among NBA executives.
Jared Terrell: I mentioned Jared Terrell in my Rhode Island article here http://www.studentunionsports.com/college-basketball/bracket-buster-rhode-island/amontgomery. Terrell is one of the best two ways in the country, and he is one of the main reasons why Rhode Island will make it into the second weekend. Terrell lead the Rams in scoring during his first two years accumulating 1,000 points during his tenure at Rhode Island. However during the 2016-2017 campaign, Terrell become the third scoring option behind E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin averaging 12.9 points per game. The entire RIU team is fun to watch, but Terrell is a player you should look out for.
Mike Daum South Dakota State: The kid from small-town Nebraska is the nation’s second-leading scorer averaging 25.3 points per game for the 16th-seeded Jackrabbits, who will face Gonzaga in the first-round. Daum has been on a tear averaging 33.8 points in his last 5 games including a 37 point performance in the Summit league championship game. A sixteen seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but if Mike Daum gets hot the Jackrabbits can give Gonzaga a scare.
Jacorey WIlliams Middle Tennessee St: The graduate transfer from Arkansas was the Conference USA player of the year averaging 17.3 points for a Blue Raiders team that enters this year’s Tournament with a 30-4 record. Williams complements a team that returns to the tournament after upsetting tournament favorite Michigan St in the first round last year. Williams is shooting 54.1 percent from the field, and the 6-foot-8 forward also chips in 7.3 rebounds per game. Williams is a dynamic player and is a huge reason why Middle Tennessee is a favorite to beat Minnesota as a 12 seed.
Jimmy Hall Kent St: Hall will be able to demonstrate his versatile offensive arsenal in a very high uptempo and high scoring game against UCLA. Hall will be able to make a name for himself on college basketball’s biggest stage. Hall was one of the players who declared for the NBA Draft after last season but was able to return due to new NCAA rules. The 6-foot-8 forward has excelled during his senior campaign leading the Golden Flashes in scoring (18.9 points per game), rebounding (10.5) and assists (2.6) and has recorded 22 double-doubles, which are tied for the fourth-most in the nation. Everyone will be tuning into the the UCLA and Kent St matchup to watch Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, and the UCLA offense. However, the Kent St big man is certainly a player to watch out for.