It’s a common narrative in March for schools and players to come out of “nowhere” and excel on the national stage. That does happen to a certain extent, particularly given the way players develop on different schedules, but certain players choose a spot where they can develop and find success.
The recent flurry of weekend commitments were primarily important for BCS schools, but in extending a lens out to a week or more, some easy to identify difference makers have made their pledge for college basketball outside of major media attention. Some commitments that seem to be future March stars include the following:
- Murray State is one of the programs du jour lately, and it landed their point guard of the future in Memphis-native Cameron Payne. After playing against some of the top high school basketball leagues in the country, Payne emerged as Murray State’s top target for the all-important lead guard slot. He’s a guy who could emerge after some seasoning as a standout.
- North Carolina combo forward Tyrone Outlaw garnered more than his share of high major scholarship offers, and was a back-up option for some recognizable programs. Still, he’s a bit undersized to play power forward and doesn’t quite equate to a wing player in college. Outlaw’s overall production cannot be argued, and he’ll star at UNC-Greensboro after committing as their top target. Young head coach Wes Miller has already amassed a few supporting pieces to go with Outlaw.
- Jack Whitman is a skilled competitor who does not have the ideal strength and frame on his 6-7 height to fill a role at power forward at the high-major level. After impressing against stronger and more athletic players in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League, don’t bet against Whitman doing the same in college for William & Mary.
- Anders Broman is among the best pure shooters in his region (Minnesota) and is taking his game to South Dakota State. Their opponents will be forced to guard him once he passes half court. Also, jet quick, attacking lead guard Jordan Wilson doesn’t have ideal height at 5-8, but it should be fine in the Big Sky, where the SoCal lead guard will be playing at Northern Colorado.
- Quinnipiac scored a gritty, undersized point guard in Kasim Chandler. He may take some time to physically adjust to college hoops, but the backcourt skills are there. Also in the Northeast, Boston dipped in Florida for shooting guard Cedric Hankerson, who looks to be a multi-year starter for them. Hankerson will have to adjust to the weather, but is an extremely important recruit for Boston.
Kellon Hassenstab runs Hoopniks.com. Follow him on Twitter @hoopniks.
No. 25 Texas A&M made a statement on Turkey Day, as they knocked off No. 10 Gonzaga 62-61 in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Danuel House led the way with 19 points for the Aggies while Tony Trocha-Morales finished with 14 points as Texas A&M picked up the win despite the fact that they did not score for the final eight minutes of the game.
Billy Kennedy’s club looked the part of an SEC contender, playing tough defense and keeping Gonzaga’s massive and talented front line in check. Perhaps most impressive was that they were able to hang on despite blowing a lead late in the second half, and that they did it with their defense. Gonzaga can score. They have big bodies inside and shooters to surround them, but Domantas Sabonis struggled with foul struggle throughout the game while Kyle Wiltjer did not score in the final 12 minutes.
Kentucky, at this point, is the clear-cut favorite in the SEC, and while Vanderbilt looked really good in Maui this week, A&M looks like they’re going to end up giving the Commodores a run for their money for second-best in the league.
On the other hand, this loss wasn’t a total disaster for the Zags. They had the final possession with a chance to be a good team on a day when Domantas Sabonis was rendered completely ineffective. And, more importantly, point guard Josh Perkins was terrific. He did have a late turnover, but he scored all 15 of his points in the second half as he helped keep the Zags within striking distance.
Texas A&M will play the winner of Syracuse and No. 18 UConn for the title.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.