Every season, there are a few talented players who fly under the radar from November thru February only to explode onto the national scene in March. Some names that come to mind are D.J. Cooper (Ohio 2012), Joey Rodriguez, Bradford Burgess and Jamie Skeen (VCU 2011), Kenneth Faried (Morehead State 2011), and Gordon Hayward (Butler 2010).
Here are some players that have not received a whole lot of attention to this point in the 2012-13 season but should make their names known in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
Cody Ellis, Saint Louis—A senior who has been through the good and the bad, Ellis won the Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year award coming off Saint Louis’ bench. Although he hit a slump towards the end of the season, he is still a deadeye three-point shooter and has a knack for knocking down buckets when his team needs them most. The spark that he provides off the bench is a big part of why Saint Louis is a reasonable sleeper pick for the national title.
Sim Bhullar, New Mexico State—Bhullar stands at 7-foot-5 and clocks in at 355 pounds. He has struggled at points during his freshman season, but he has generally been playing very well since December. He averages 10.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, and he shoots 62.3% from the field. Even if New Mexico State cannot pull off the upset against Saint Louis on Thursday, Bhullar could have a big game because of his size advantage.
Ryan Broekhoff, Valparaiso—Broekhoff is an ideal stretch four. At 6-foot-7, he can score both inside and out, and he can really extend a defense with his 43.2% three-point shooting.
Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, Memphis—This tandem in Memphis’ backcourt deserves much more recognition, combining for more than 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals per game. If the Tigers make any sort of run over the next week or two, these two guards, especially Crawford, will be at the center of it. Crawford has not missed double-digit scoring since February 16, and he has scored 20 or more in each of his last four games entering the Big Dance.
Jordan Dykstra, South Dakota State—At this point, basically everyone knows about Nate Wolters, South Dakota State’s star point guard. But Dykstra also plays a huge role on this team. The junior forward averages 12.5 points and 7.9 rebounds, and, like Broekhoff, his 43% three-point shooting stretches defense. He is coming off an 18-point performance in the Summit League title game against North Dakota State.
Sherwood Brown and Brett Comer, Florida Gulf Coast—Brown is a great scorer with 15.3 points per game, and Comer is a great point guard with 6.3 assists per game. When Florida Gulf Coast upset Miami early in the season, Brown led the way with 14 points and Comer’s six points, seven rebounds and eight assists flirted with a triple-double. They can cause trouble for No. 2 seed Georgetown in the second round.
Kareem Jamar, Montana—Will Cherry was widely regarded as Montana’s star when it made the NCAA tournament last season, but junior Kareem Jamar has had the better 2012-13 campaign. Averaging 14.5 points, six rebounds and 4.1 assists, Jamar is a threat for a triple-double every game. Against Davidson, he posted 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Jeff Elorriaga, Boise State—Elorriaga is a phenomenal shooter who makes three-pointers at a 45.1% clip. The Broncos play La Salle, one of the top three-point defensive teams in the nation, in the First Four on Wednesday night, so it oculd be tough for him to get free and have a big game. But remember that we’re talking about a guy who has hit as many as 10 three-pointers in a single game this year.
Ian Clark, Belmont—Clark is the Co-OVC Player of the Year (with Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan), and he is the top scorer in Belmont history. The Bruins are poised for a second round upset against No. 6 seed Arizona, which defends the perimeter very, very poorly, so Clark’s 46.3% shooting from the beyond the arc will be crucial. Also watch out for Belmont’s point guard, Kerron Johnson.
Siyani Chambers, Harvard—Harvard is probably still a year away from winning a game or two in the NCAA tournament, but it still has a lot of good, young talent. Chambers, a freshman point guard, has been tremendous for the Crimson this season with 12.9 points and 5.8 assists. Facing New Mexico’s tough defense in the second round will be a good test for this young Ivy Leaguer.
David Laury, Iona—Momo Jones is a big-time name and at this point Sean Armand is pretty well known for his three-point shooting, but Laury was a big part of Iona’s turnaround at the end of the season and its run in the MAAC tournament. In his last five games, Laury is averaging 13.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists. At 6-foot-8, he has very good ball handling skills, drawing some Royce White comparisons.