With less than a quarter of the original 68-team field remaining in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, let’s take a look at some of the players that have stood out from the rest on Sweet Sixteen rosters…
Jeff Withey – Kansas – 16.5 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 6.0 BPG, 65.0 FG%
There’s nothing flashy about the senior big man’s game, but ask Kansas if they mind. Withey has been a beast on the defensive end and crashing the boards while converting with astonishing efficiency on the offensive end for the No. 1 seeded Jayhawks. If anyone was doubting Withey’s worth as a first round pick in this June’s NBA Draft, his first two games of the tournament should have put those doubts to rest.
Russ Smith – Louisville – 25.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 5.0 SPG, 54.8 FG%, 45.5 3PT%
He’s been the best player on arguably the best team in the tournament so far (and the No. 1 overall team), and he’s getting it done on both ends of the floor. Smith, a junior guard from Brooklyn, has created havoc on the defensive end (he had eight steals against No. 16 North Carolina A&T) while getting to the free throw line and knocking down 5-of-11 attempts from behind the arc. The Cardinals are way more than a one-man team, but in two tournament games so far, Russ Smith has been the catalyst for both Louisville’s efficient offence and their swarming defence.
Sherwood Brown – Florida Gulf Coast – 20.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG, 57.1 FG%, 55.6 3PT%
The Eagles have upset No. 2 Georgetown and No. 7 San Diego State thanks in large part to a total team effort (see honourable mentions below), but the face of their ultimate Cinderella run has been senior guard Sherwood Brown. Brown has been lights out on offence, where he’s scored 41 points through two games while taking just 21 shots (call him the anti-Marshall Henderson), with his three-point efficiency especially standing out. The 21-year-old can space the floor for the high-powered FGCU offence, but he does a great job of mixing up his shot selection, as evidenced by his 12 free throw attempts against Georgetown. And in case you thought Brown was a strictly offensive threat, his team-leading 17 rebounds in the tournament and his season average of 6.6 say otherwise.
Arsalan Kazemi – Oregon – 9.5 PPG, 16.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 53.3 FG%
The Iranian-born Kazemi, who fled to the U.S. when he was 17, has been a dominant force on the boards through two games for the Ducks. While he flirted with averaging a double-double in the pre-tournament portion of his senior season (9.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG), nobody saw the 33-rebound explosion of the last two games coming. The 6-7 forward is more than just a rebounding specialist for the underrated No. 12 Ducks though, as he never seems to force anything on the offensive end and has become a dependable option for Oregon.
Deshaun Thomas – Ohio State – 23.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 61.5 FG%
Aaron Craft got all of the attention after hitting the game-winning three-pointer to carry Ohio State into the Sweet Sixteen, but make no mistake, Thomas has been the most valuable Buckeye through two games of the tournament. The junior forward has been virtually unstoppable on the offensive end (averaging 23 points on only 13 field goal attempts) while proving to be one of the anchors for Ohio State’s impressive defence. If there is one complaint I have with Deshaun in the tournament so far though, it’s his lack of rebounding after averaging over six per game in the regular season.
Bernard Thompson – Florida Gulf Coast – 23.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 3.0 SPG, 50.0 FG%
Vander Blue – Marquette – 22.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.5 SPG, 46.7 FG%, 50.0 3PT%
Brett Comer – Florida Gulf Coast – 11.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 12.0 APG, 1.0 SPG