Party Crashers: Introducing Three Stars Who Are Leading Cinderellas into the Big Dance
They’re the big-time players you likely haven’t heard of before now.
The NCAA Tournament has been filled with these stars who have become household names before our eyes on the biggest stage of college basketball. Stephen Curry was still a guy the country was getting to know in 2008 when he led Davidson to a surprise Elite Eight run as a No. 10 seed.
Who might those guys be in this year’s tournament?
Here are three players on non-Power 6 double-digit seeds who could fuel upsets and take March Madness by storm.
While Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are the WCC’s NCAA Tournament mainstays, don’t sleep on the conference’s other at-large bid this season. Led by the two-time All-WCC guard Bouyea, the Dons boast a well-rounded roster that earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998.
Experienced guard play is often the key to a deep run in March and Bouyea brings that in spades. The dynamic guard led the WCC in minutes and has started over 100 games in his five years with the program.
While he’s certainly a capable offensive player averaging 16.7 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 53.9% from 2, 37.0% from 3 and 75.5% from the free-throw line, defense is Bouyea’s true calling card. He leverages his quickness, reaction speed, burst, and 6-foot-7 wingspan to wreak havoc as a defensive agent of chaos on the perimeter.
Bouyea makes opponents consistently uncomfortable with momentum-shifting, game-changing defensive playmaking and is more than capable of catalyzing a first-round upset.
While the Racers are slightly favored by 1.5 points, TRACR favors the Dons on both sides of the ball. And as of Wednesday afternoon, the model gave San Francisco a win probability of 59.0% in the opening-round matchup.
If TRACR were to be translated into tournament seedings, these teams’ seeds would effectively flip-flop.
Look out for Bouyea to make life extremely difficult for Murray State star Tevin Brown and for the Dons to give the Racers a run for their money in pursuit of their first NCAA Tournament win since the 1970s.
Could the man known as “Jelly” be this tourney’s Max Abmas? I can hear it now…“Jelly…ONIONS!” A combination that can only be found appealing in March.
Walker, who gained a significant social media following in high school as a member of the “jelly fam” with a slick array of accentuated, stylistic finger rolls, has the moxie and flair for March Madness stardom and the game to back it up.
After a circuitous route with lackluster pit stops at Seton Hall and Tulane, Walker has found his groove in Birmingham. The Conference USA Player of the Year has the juice to get hot and completely take over a game. He’s already on an absolute tear in March, averaging 27.6 points while shooting 44.0% on 10.0 3-point attempts per game and 90.0% on 8.0 free throw attempts per contest.
Players to Shoot 40.0%+ From 3 on 15.0+ 3-PTA per 100 Poss. With a 30.0+ USG%, Last 15 Seasons
That’s a fun crop of guard to say the least.
While his name was derived from slick rim-finishing, Jelly makes his living from beyond the arc. Despite standing under 6-feet tall, he needs only a sliver of space to get his shot off.
Here’s a glimpse of Jelly’s shooting escapades from the C-USA tournament:
Irrational confidence? Hard to call it that when you’re shooting 40+% from deep on outlandish volume.
Taking down Houston would be no small feat. Despite losing Marcus Sasser just before Christmas for the remainder of the season, Houston finished ranked second in TRACR behind only Gonzaga. They are a GOOD team – which makes a Jelly-incited upset special all that more enticing.
UAB has an interesting formula in place to defy the odds (8.5-point underdogs) in that they boast the second-best turnover differential in the tournament (trailing only Iowa) and have a dynamic creator capable of putting the team on his back.
Jelly is lightning in a bottle and poised to take America by storm.
The Jackrabbits, who are riding a 21-game winning streak, have scored the most points in the nation this season (trailing only Gonzaga on a per-game basis) and lead the NCAA Tournament field with a blistering 44.9 3-point percentage.
The Summit League Player of the Year is the straw that stirs the drink.
Scheierman’s combination of production and efficiency is almost difficult to fathom: 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 51.2 field-goal percentage, 47.3 3-point percentage and an 80.7 free-throw percentage.
The Summit League’s leader in minutes played, rebounds, assists, and just about every all-in-one offensive, defensive and overall value metric available brings a uniquely versatile skill set to the table.
Like absurdly deep shooting range.
And facilitation wizardry.
Not to mention he cleans the defensive glass on par with the big boys.
Division I Defensive Rebound Leaders
|1||Fardaws Aimaq||Utah Valley||6-11||245||339|
|3||Dillon Jones||Weber State||6-6||235||299|
|8||Baylor Scheierman||South Dakota State||6-6||205||247|
|9||Johni Broome||Morehead State||6-10||235||246|
|10||Justin Bean||Utah State||6-7||210||240|
(Scheierman size variance from top 10 average: Three inches, 27 pounds)
Players of this mold don’t come around often, but the most apt comparison that comes to mind is current Cleveland Cavalier and former Belmont Bruin Dylan Windler.
Windler is a fellow mid-major analytical darling with a stylistically similar game who hung 35 points on Maryland in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Baylor Scheierman/Dylan Windler Head-to-Head Comparison
|Baylor Scheierman||South Dakota State||[no-pill]2021-22||Jr.||[no-pill]6-6||16.2||22.5||64.9||24.1||80.7||46.6|
While Windler’s Belmont squad wasn’t able to take down the Terps, they gave them a real run for their money in a 79-77 thriller.
South Dakota State hasn’t lost in more than three months and has a legitimate chance of advancing with their headbanded left-handed assassin at the helm.
Providence is firmly on upset alert.
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