Point Guards Who Can Have a Kemba-Like NCAA Tournament
By Zack Cimini
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Just a few seasons ago March Madness was solely dominated by one individual player in Kemba Walker. A UConn Huskies team that had been mired in a slump in February revitalized their season with stunning dramatic wins in the Big East tournament, eventually winning the championship. The tournament featured one of the top Garden moments when Walker crossed up a Pittsburgh big man for a game-winning shot.
Analysts across the country treated the Huskies like they were finished after the title. Every win they had was followed by remarks of it’s been a great ride but they have to be gassed. It was truly a run of runs that hasn’t been duplicated in that capacity since.
In a year that truly doesn’t feature a dominant team the Kemba factor could be in place this tournament. Riveting point guards that possesses that spark ability – deflections, steals, facilitating and the ability to take over a game with his offensive skill set.
Here are my top point guards that can ignite their individual teams game by game in March Madness…
Louisville – Russ Smith
Smith comes as no surprise for several reasons. He displayed his innate abilities to carry the Cardinal a year ago during their title run. He also has a chip on his shoulder as he wanted to exit to the NBA Draft last season but was told he wasn’t a first round caliber athlete. Smith possesses that all around defensive presence combined with his streaky shooting. This year it’ll be much more difficult for Louisville to make a complete run but they have the ability. It’ll require Smith to shoulder an equal share of Kemba’s run for the Cardinal to stand a chance.
UConn – Shabazz Napier
Napier’s one of those guys that seems like he has been at UConn beyond four years. That’s the nature of a guy that plays high minutes from day one as a freshman. Napier learned from Kemba during that title run alongside standout Jeremy Lamb. During Napier’s second year imposed sanctions were levied that would disqualify the Huskies from tournament play in Napier’s junior season. That sophomore year featured a woeful performance from a team still filled with caliber players and led to a blowout March loss. Napier was one of the guys that stood behind the UConn program unlike Roscoe Smith, Alex Oriakhi and others. He’ll play like a true senior this tournament. UConn’s draw isn’t bad and would feature a familiar matchup against Villanova if the two meet in the round of 32.
ASU – Jahii Carson
One of the traits of a surprise tournament team is one that under performed during the regular season. Don’t forget just two seasons ago the Pac-12 received zero bids. These six teams in the tournament all feature upperclassmen from that woeful year and is a reason why I’m high on the Pac-12 to be a top conference representative during the tournament. The Sun Devils were all over the place during the regular season and their play resembled a scatter plot of inconsistency. But this team features solid talent in senior transfer Jermaine Marshall, big man Jordan Bachinski, slasher Shaq McKissic, and sharp shooter Jon Gilling. I believe they’ll play to a level higher than what they showed in the regular season.
The reasoning for that lies behind Jahii Carson. He is as electrifying of a guard as there is in the country. His play was nullified in the Pac-12 because of familiarity of his style of play. In the tournament though there won’t be any Pac-12 teams that have faced Carson numerous times and game film isn’t enough for an athlete of Carson’s caliber. Before the season he declared himself for the draft and likely needs this tournament to showcase himself. Currently he isn’t projected high on draft boards as he has not had an outstanding season. Look for Carson to pull off typical March Madness magic and shoot himself up draft boards. Draws against Texas and likely Michigan in round two are favorable for the Sun Devils.
Others of high note…
Joseph Young – Oregon
Can play off the ball or handle point guard duties if necessary. When Oregon wins games check the box score and you’ll see Young’s ability to shoot the three. As the Pac-12 season winded down Young stopped relying on the three and showcased an ability to score off of drives. Oregon is one of those teams no one wants to face.
Bryce Cotton – Providence
More than likely Providence won’t bypass the second round against North Carolina, but if they do it will be because of Cotton. Providence has one of the strongest two-wins over one team in the country defeating Creighton multiple times. As Cotton goes, so does Providence.
Jordan Aaron – Wisconsin-Milwaukee
It was a shame that the NCAA committee had to answer questions on why Wisconsin Green Bay didn’t make the tournament. Your answer lied with this Milwaukee team. They did what they were supposed to do and took over the Horizon tournament. They also nearly defeated Green Bay three times on the season, losing once in overtime. One of my shockers to put on upset alert is the Villanova Wildcats. They live by the three ball and suddenly their sharp shooters in James Bell, Ryan Archidiachino, and Darrun Hillard have all hit a slide at the same time. Jay Wright has tried shaking up the lineup with his talented underclassmen in Dylan Ennis, Kris Jenkins, and Josh Hart. Their press may be the most effective of any team but it’s highly impacted on the ability to make threes.
This is a confident Milwaukee team and if the upperclassmen continue to struggle for Villanova watchout. Underclassmen in an unfamiliar role if called upon by Jay Wright might feel the pressure. Jordan Aaron is a dynamic point guard at 5-10 and hails from the same city as Kemba Walker (Bronx). The senior lifted his points per game average of 15 to 22 a game for the Horizon tournament. For those of you that look at wins and losses as an indicator of picks be leery here. During a four game slide in mid-February Aaron missed three games with injury and returned to early for the fourth.
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