The teams that succeed in March are the teams have leaders ready to step up when needed. Last year, Anthony Davis was huge for Kentucky. The year before, Kemba Walker was pivotal in UCONN’s unbelievable title run; but who will be this year’s hero to guide his side on a national title run? Let’s take a look at the candidates.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
While big man Tyler Zeller may be the best player and prospect on this team, Oladipo is the glue guy. Indiana goes as far as Oladipo takes them. Averaging 13.8 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game on the year, the junior is among the best in the nation at coming up big in big games. Just last night in Indiana’s comeback win at #4 Michigan State, Oladipo finished with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals. If the Hoosiers are to win a national title, Oladipo will co-lead the charge with Zeller.
Kenny Kadji/Shane Larkin/Durand Scott, Miami
While Miami’s NBA version of the Big Three may be impressive, the college team’s is not to be overlooked. The trio of Kadji, Larkin and Scott have guided the Hurricanes from irrelevance and a loss to Florida-Gulf Coast all the way to the #2 ranking in the country. With incredible balance, averaging 13.0, 13.2 and 13.4 points per game respectively, the Hurricanes can come at you with any of the three leading the wave. Tuesday night’s win propelled the ‘Canes to a 22-3 overall record and kept them undefeated in the ACC at 13-0. I myself am finally on the bandwagon of this team being for real, but we’ll find out how well these three can lead this veteran team come March.
Trey Burke/Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
I’ve probably been bigger on Michigan’s back court than anyone this year, but it is deserving. Burke is averaging an incredible 18.6 points per game and 6.9 assists per game and is my favorite to win the Wooden Award for National Player of the Year. Hardaway isn’t a bad second option either, averaging 15.2 points per game on the season while adding 4.5 rebounds per game. Still with games against Michigan State and Indiana at home, this team is capable of attaining a one seed and more than capable of winning a national championship, thanks to these two.
Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Syracuse’s best player is without a doubt MCW. While Brandon Triche, James Southerland and C.J. Fair are all great players, Carter-Williams has been the engine for this Orange team. He’s averaging 12.6 points, 8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game for ‘Cuse and can pull them to within a tie of the conference lead with a win over Providence tonight. Syracuse is another team with an outside shot still at a #1 seed but Jim Boeheim will surely have the Orange ready for March whether or not they’ve got that number next to their name, thanks in part to MCW.
Ben McLemore, Kansas
Folks, say hello to the first of two Freshmen on this list. McLemore has been absolutely outstanding in his first and most likely last year for the Jayhawks. The St. Louis native is averaging 16.7 points per game, while averaging over 18 a game in conference play and over 20 a game at home. Filled with highlight reel capability and incredible athleticism, McLemore, along with the other Freshman on this list, is a co-favorite for Big XII Player of the Year.
Otto Porter, Georgetown
Another Missouri native, Porter chose the Hoyas over Missouri after Mike Anderson bolted for Arkansas and since then, has become one of the nations best versatile post players. Averaging 15.3 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game for the eleventh ranked Hoyas, Porter possesses an offensive arsenal including a great game on the low block as well as the capability to hit a mid range shot or drive to the rim. Georgetown is a whole lot of fun to watch and could make a run in March if the Sophomore gets hot.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart was that other Freshman I was talking about earlier. The Cowboys Guard has been sensational this year, putting up 15 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. What makes Smart such a great player is his ability to both distribute the ball and take over the game going on a scoring binge. In his last five games, Smart has had three 20+ point outings, including 28 against Oklahoma, 23 at Texas and 25 at Kansas. If the Cowboys can beat KU again tonight, they will be tied atop the conference with Kansas State. Don’t be surprised to see Okie State make a Final Four run in the big dance.
While there are plenty of other players in the country who are more than capable of leading their team to great success in the postseason, these are just a few I’ve pegged who truly are extraordinary play makers. Only time will tell which of these men, or another not on my list, can lead his team to eternal glory.