2013 NCAA Tournament:The Ten Best Players (+1) to Watch From Chicago

Jack Cooley (Glenbrook South-Glenview) Notre Dame

After being selected as second team All-Big East in 2012, Cooley earned first team All-Big East this season. ND Head Coach Mike Brey appearing on Colin Cowherd’s show on ESPN said Cooley is an old fashioned back to the basket player.

Cooley averaged 13.1 PPG and 10.4 RPG this season. Cooley needs to turn things around. After only two single digit games though February, Cooley has had four in March. He seemed to turn things around with 14 points and six rebounds in their loss to Louisville in the Big East Tournament Semifinals. The Irish open with Iowa State

Ben Brust (Mundelein) Wisconsin

Brust was a second team all-state performer at Mundelein. He has had a breakout season for the Badgers. He has started all 34 games. On a team with balanced scoring, Brust’s 11.2 PPG led the Badgers.

His high water mark came against California when he scored 22. He hit a pair of big three-pointers, including a buzzer beating half court shot to tie the game and send it into overtime against Michigan, a game the Badgers would eventually win.

The Badgers open with Mississippi in the second round in Kansas City. If they advance they would take on the winner of Kansas State and LaSalle-Boise State.

Wayne Blackshear (Morgan Park-Chicago) Louisville

Blackshear missed most of miss freshman season because of a torn labrum. He has bounced back well in 2013. The sophomore has started 28 of 33 games and averages 8.0 PPG.

After combining for 35 points in early season wins over FIU and Western Kentucky, Blackshear has struggled lately. He has not reached double figures since the Cardinals win over South Florida over a month ago. He averaged under 15 minutes per game in the Cardinals run to the Big East Tournament crown. The Cardinals open with North Carolina A&T friday.

Brandon Paul (Warren-Gurnee) Illinois

Paul is the Illini’s most dynamic players. He averages 16.6 PPG, but has averaged 20.0 PPG over the Illini’s last four. Paul blitzed West number one seed Gonzaga for 35 points earlier this season. That was arguably the Illini’s biggest win of the season. He is capable of putting the Illini on his back. The seventh seeded Illini open with tenth seed Colorado.

Tracy Abrams (Chicago-Mt. Carmel) Illinois

Part of the Illini’s three guard attack, Abrams is the Illini’s third leading scorer. He led the Illini is assists and steals.

Lenzelle Smith (Zion-Benton)

Smith has gotten better each year, but has struggled after scoring 24 at Northwestern to end February. He has averaged 5.0 PPG in March. Smith has shot a respectable 37 percent on his threes. Smith gives Thad Matta a steady 9.5 PPG and 4.7 RPG. The Buckeyes open with Iona close to home in Dayton.

Sam Thompson (Whitney Young) Ohio State

Thompson’s dunks have earned him his own page on the Big Ten Network’s website. He is one of four players to start every game for the Buckeyes this season. He is arguably the Buckeyes most versatile player.  The 6’7 sophomore averages 7.4 PPG and 3.2 RPG, leads the team with a 40.8 three-point field goal percentage and is the only Buckeye with at least 20 steals, blocks and assists.

Derrick Marks (Plainfield Central) Boise State

Marks is the Broncos second leading scorer at 16.6 PPG. He also leads the team in assists steals, blocks and free throw shooting and is second in three point percentage. Marks is capable of carrying Boise State on any given night. He was exceptional in most of the big games this season. He put up 24 at Michigan State, 38 against Colorado State and 27 against both New Mexico and San Diego State, all NCAA Tournament teams.

Boise State opens up with LaSalle in the first round in Dayton Wednesday night.

Mike Black (Fenwick) Albany

Black has had a steady four year career at Albany averaging in double figures his last three seasons. His 14 points led the Great Danes in their 53-49 victory at Vermont to earn the school’s first NCAA big since 2007.

Black was Albany’s leading scorer this season with 14.9 PPG. He had a season high 28 points at Maine. Black proved he can play with the best, scoring 42 points on 15-26 shooting in back to back games against Ohio State and Washington early in the season. Albany upset the Huskies in Seattle. They draw Duke in the first round friday.

Mike McCall (Foreman) St. Louis

St. Louis has had amazing season after losing coach Rick Majerus in December. The Billikens won the regular season and tournament titles in the Atlantic Ten. This will be just the second time in school history they are playing in back to back NCAA Tournaments. The last time was under Charlie Spoonhour in 1994-95.

McCall, a junior guard was fourth on the Billikens in scoring, second in assists, first in steals and led the team in three-point shooting. In a balanced attack, he averaged 9.7 PPG and shot 41.6% on threes and made 81.6 percent from the line. Like many other players on the list, he’s struggled in February. McCall has just 27 points in his last four games. The Billikens open the tournament on Friday in San Jose against 13th seeded New Mexico State.

Dwayne Evans (Neuqua Valley) St. Louis

Evans has taken a big step forward as a junior. He leads SLU in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. He has seven 20 points games and six double doubles. He has gotten stronger later in the season. He is averaging 19.8 PPG and 11.1 RPG in March. On the season, the 6’5 230 forward is averaging 13.7 PPG and 7.7 RPG.

Many are picking the Billikens as one of the teams that could surprise. In a region with Louisville, Duke and Michigan State, that’s going to be difficult. Interim head coach Jim Crews played on Indiana’s undefeated national championship team in 1976. The last team to run the table. If the Billikens are going to pull surprises later in the dance, Evans could become one of the breakout stars this year.

Filed under: College Basketball

Leave a comment