– Kemba Walker, UConn: The UConn ringleader once again threw the Huskies on his back. He had 18 points, 12 assists, and eight boards in UConn’s opening round blowout of Bucknell. He followed that up with 33 points, grabbing six boards, and handing out five assists as the Huskies pulled away from Cincinnati in the second half. No player has scored a higher percentage of his team’s points through the first two games.
– Kendall Marshall, North Carolina: The threesome of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson had 84 points, 36 boards, and nine blocks against Long Island and followed that up with 55 points, 17 boards, and five blocks in the win over Washington. But those numbers were the result of the 24 assists that Kendall Marshall had over the course of those two games.
– Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Playing without Brandon Davies, the chances for BYU to advance past the first few rounds of the tournament rested (even more) squarely on the shoulders of Jimmer Fredette. And The Jimmer responded, averaging 33.0 ppg and 6.5 apg, despite not playing his best basketball.
– Brandon Knight and Josh Harrellson, Kentucky: Brandon Knight was the hero in the first round, scoring his only points of the game with 2.0 seconds left to break a 57-all tie. In the second round, Knight scored 30 points against West Virginia, including six crucial free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Harrellson, however, may have been the most important player on the Kentucky team. He’s averaged 15.0 ppg and 9.0 rpg while providing Kentucky with their only physical presence in the paint. The Wildcats will need even more out of Harrellson next week, as they have Jared Sullinger and Ohio State to deal with.
– Matt Howard, Butler: Shelvin Mack put up the better numbers, averaging 22.5 ppg and 4.0 apg including a 30 point outburst in the win over Pitt, but Howard was the hero. He averaged 15.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg in the first two rounds, but his biggest contribution was the buzzer-beating layup he had against Old Dominion and the free throw he hit with 0.8 seconds left that beat Pitt.
– Derrick Williams, Arizona: The Wildcats power forward had 22 points and 10 boards against Memphis, but it was his block of a Wesley Witherspoon layup attempt on the final Tiger possession that saved the game for Arizona. Williams didn’t play his best game against Texas. He had just three points and two boards in the first half, but scored 14 in the second half to help the Wildcats avoid blowing a 13 point lead. His and-one basket with 10 seconds left was the game winner.
– Joey Rodriguez, VCU: The Rams were arguably the most impressive team in the tournament’s first weekend, beating three major conference opponents en route to the Sweet 16, including 18 point wins over Purdue and Georgetown. Rodriguez was the facilitator, averaging 12.3 ppg, 7.7 apg, and just 1.0 t/o’s for an offense that put 94 points on Purdue and 76 on Georgetown.
– Kyle Singler, Duke: With Kyrie Irving back in the saddle, the load on Singler’s shoulders has been lessened. But what makes Duke so dangerous is that they now have three players on their roster capable of taking a game over, and Singler has not played that way in the tournament. Through two games, he is averaging just 12.5 ppg and 5.5 rpg while shooting just 42.9% from the floor and 2-8 from three.
– Chris Singleton, Florida State: Its tough to blame Singleton for struggling in the tournament. He’s coming off of a broken foot, is seeing his first action in over a month, and there is probably an argument to be made that he is not yet ready to be on the court. That said, Singleton is still struggling. He’s played just 26 minutes in the first two games, scoring five points, shooting 2-7 from the floor, and committing seven fouls in the process.
– Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, Kentucky: I’ve said it multiple times in this space — if anyone in the East region is going to beat Ohio State, I think that the Wildcats have the best chance. Josh Harrellson and Brandon Knight are doing their part. Now, its time for Jones and Lamb to step up.
In the two games, Lamb had just 13 points on 5-12 shooting. Jones wasn’t much better, averaging 11.0 ppg and 6.0 rpg while taking a grand total of just 13 shots in the two games. Those two will need to be more aggressive and more assertive offensively if they are going to have a shot at knocking off Ohio State.
– Chandler Parsons, Florida: Parsons hasn’t exactly been struggling through the first two games of the tournament. In the blowout of UC-Santa Barbara, Parsons nearly had a triple-double, finishing with 10 points, 10 boards, and seven assists. But against UCLA, the 6’10” point forward had just seven points, five boards, and five assists. He is shooting 7-17 from the floor and 2-7 from three in the two games.
– Keaton Nankivil, Wisconsin: Nankivil is a key piece for the Badgers. He’s big enough that he can block a few shots, grab a few rebounds, and defend on the block. The fact that he is a threat to score 20 points on a given night and that he shoots 45.6% from three spreads the floor offensively for Wisconsin. But Nankivil hasn’t been scoring or shooting well in the tournament. He’s scored 10 points in two games, hitting just 2-6 from three.