Trey Burke, Michigan: There isn’t a player in the country that’s a better creator at this point in the season. He’s responsible for so much of what Michigan wants to do offensively, whether it’s the result of him creating shots for himself, running off of pick-and-rolls or kicking the ball out to the myriad of shooters on the perimeter. His go-to move? A filthy step-back jumper that makes Dwyane Wade jealous.
(GIF via Luke Winn)
Seth Curry, Duke: Curry’s been dealing with a leg injury that more-or-less keeps him from practicing, and that’s limited not only his explosiveness off the dribble, but his ability to create for himself. But there may not be a player in the country more dangerous in catch-and-shoot situations. He hasn’t hit many game-winners, but if there was a stat for “momentum-killing threes”, Curry would be among the league-leaders.
Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary’s: By now we all should have seen the shot that Dellavedova hit to beat BYU earlier this season, and while I would love to say I’m giving him credit for that, the bottom line is that that shot was all luck. No one practices 40-foot, double-pump runners. Where Delly is effective, however, is in the pick-and-roll. He’s the best in the country at reading the way the defense is defending him, and he’ll be able to get the open man the ball or make you pay for giving him an open shot.
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Kerron Johnson, Belmont: Ian Clark is the guy that gets all the buzz for Belmont, but Johnson is the one that had the ball in his hands in the most important possessions of the most important games of the season for the Bruins. The crafty lefty is a veteran that can break down a defender.
Shane Larkin, Miami: Miami is similar to Michigan and St. Mary’s insomuch as their offenses are heavily predicated upon ball-screens, which means that Larkin is the guy that is going to have the ball in his hands the majority of the time for the Hurricanes. And not only does he hit big shots for Miami, but he’s also been known to make the right pass.
Doug McDermott, Creighton: There’s a reason that his nickname is Dougie McBuckets. McDermott is such a dangerous player because of the variety of ways in which he can score. He’s terrific moving without the ball, he’s lethal when he’s got his feet set and a clean look at the rim, he’s got an array of low- and high-post moves, and his best skill may be his ability to establish position on the block against bigger defenders. Pick your poison, and McBuckets will make you McPay.
Otto Porter, Georgetown: What makes Porter so dangerous is that there are so many things that he’s able to do with the ball. He can drive and get to the rim. He can pull-up and hit an NBA-range three. He’s a very good passer. He can score in the post. You want the ball in his hands because you know he’s not only going to take advantage of what the defense is giving him, but he’s going to make the right decision with the ball.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State: The thing that’s great about Smart is that he doesn’t necessarily need the ball in his hands to make a big play in crunch time. He’s done it on the defensive end this year. He’s gotten offensive rebounds and putbacks to win games. He’s hit big jump shots and he’s made the correct pass for open jump shots.
Chase Tapley, San Diego State: Jamaal Franklin is the guy that gets all the publicity for the Aztecs, but Tapley is the guy that you want with the ball in his hands in crunch time. He’s a much better decision-maker than Franklin, and while his scoring and shooting numbers dipped a bit this season — largely due to a wrist injury he’s been battling all year — Tapley has a knack for hitting big shots in big moments.
Khalif Wyatt, Temple: Easily one of my five favorite players heading into the tournament. He’s slow, he doesn’t jump all that high, he doesn’t have a great handle, but he’s just a devastatingly accurate shooter in big situations. He’s one of those guys that seems to play better the bigger the stage. Oh, and he’s perfected the art of the post-bucket scowl.
Five more: Rotnei Clarke (Butler), Ramon Galloway (La Salle), Jerian Grant (Notre Dame), Mark Lyons (Arizona), Brandon Paul (Illinois)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.