As the final four games of the tournament approach, some players have stood out from the rest, both as leaders and as role players.
March Madness is considered to be the most pure, exciting, and intense basketball event of the year, and its cult-like following reflects that. The pressure to stand out among the enormous amount of talent present in the sixty-eight teams who compete is immense. It is amazing for a player to take this pressure in stride and make their name known. This year, countless players have shown their unique talents and even if their tournament run came to a close before they would have liked it to, they deserve to be recognized for their dedication and performance.
Zion Williamson – Duke University
This player needs no introduction. Standing at six-foot seven and weighing an astonishing 284 pounds, Zion Williamson is built like a tank. His amazing athleticism pushed his name into the spotlight during his early high school career, but over time he has only gotten better. Complementing his ludicrous explosiveness and speed, Williamson developed his ball handling and and passing skills to make him the ideal modern forward. Since his departure from Spartanburg Day School in South Carolina, he has added a lethal three-point shot to his arsenal, making him devastating from any position on the court. Going into March Madness, under Zion’s leadership, Duke was projected to win the championship, but unfortunately fell to Michigan State University in the Regional Finals. Despite his shortcoming in the tournament, Zion displayed his generational ability and no doubt made a great impression on all who watched him play.
Tacko Fall – University of Central Florida
Tacko Fall is a very large man. His seven-foot six height along with his eight-foot wingspan set him apart from almost any other player in the nation. He attended the University of Central Florida for four years, making his biggest impact during his senior year, averaging 11.1 points per game on an incredible 74.8% field goal percentage. Fall received his moment in the limelight when he lead his UCF Knights in a nail-biter game against Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, only losing by one point at the last second. Nonetheless, Tacko Fall is a force to be reckoned with and basketball fans will certainly see more of him in coming years.
Josh Perkins – Gonzaga University
Park Hill native and senior guard Josh Perkins showed off during his senior year. A fifth-year senior out of Gonzaga University, Perkins had a rough start to his successful college basketball career. In a 2014 regular season game versus the University of Georgia, Perkins was kicked square in the jaw, breaking it and forcing him to sit out the rest of the season. Despite this, Perkins came back his sophomore year with a vengeance, averaging impressive stat averages in every category and he carried this momentum through to his senior year. Under his impressive 6.3 assists per game, he lead his team to a first seed position in the west going into the tournament. Perkins’ court vision is highly developed and allows him to snake passes through defenders to open teammates. Sadly, the Gonzaga Bulldogs lost in the Regional Finals to Texas Tech University, but as far as Perkins’ story goes, this is just the beginning.
Ja Morant – Murray State University
Another stand-out player from the regular season, Ja Morant is in a league of his own. While the six-foot three, 175 pound guard might not have the size or length of many top players, he makes up for it in speed and handles. Morants ability to maneuver through traps, presses, and double-teams makes him unique, especially because he makes it look so easy. He averaged 24.5 points per game, finishing eighth in the nation for that category. Although his Murray State Racers fell off the bracket in the second round to the Florida State Seminoles, Ja Morant is projected to be a top-three pick in the NBA draft and is already receiving comparisons to world-class talents like Russell Westbrook. Morant will be a force to be reckoned with, wherever he ends up in the professional scene.
Carsen Edwards – Purdue University
Not many players can near single-handedly lead their team in game after game during the NCAA tournament, but Carsen Edwards proved he had the grit to do so. Edwards is a solid guard, both physically and fundamentally, but his ability to score is what makes him a top-tier player. Over the span of his team’s four game run in the tournament, Edwards averaged 34.8 points per game and gave the number one seed Virginia a run for their money in the South Regional Finals. In this game, Edwards scored 42 out of his teams 75 points on 56.0% field goal percentage. Games like these highlight the influence that one player can have when they “get hot,” and Edwards will certainly be showing off his skills as he continues his basketball career.