We’re identifying the 30 NCAA Tournament players who will be the most influential in shaping this year’s March Madness bracket.
March Madness is finally here, and while college basketball is a team sport, the games in the NCAA Tournament are often won and lost on individual performances. Whether it is a buzzer beater three, clutch free throws to secure a win, or simply a stifling defensive performance, the players who play the game shape how the bracket breaks.
Not every player that impacts the game is a star, and not every star player will impact the game. This list will try to identify the 30 players whose individual play could be the most influential into determining what happens this month.
—Tournament Index: March Madness projections, Cinderellas, more
—March Madness: Cinderellas | Contenders | Mid-major stars
—Region Previews: South | Midwest | West | East
The Kemba candidate is a player, usually a guard, who has the ability to put a team on his back and lead a team further than expected — maybe an unexpected Elite Eight run, or even a National Championship. This list includes one player for each line between the 5- and 10-seeds.
Mike Miles, TCU
While each of the other 6-seeds are relatively balanced in their scoring attack, the TCU Horned Frogs have relied heavily on Mike Miles’ 17.3 points per game to lead them to their 21-12 record. His 35.8 percent shooting from deep isn’t awe-inspiring, especially considering he might be TCU’s most dangerous shooter, but his strengths play well into the teams he could face in the Second Round and Sweet 16. Gonzaga has struggled at times this season against guards who can run off screens and attack the basket, and UCLA will be without their best perimeter defender for the rest of the season. TCU might not have the easiest road among the 6-seeds, but Mike Miles could go on a rampage in the Big Dance.
Boo Buie, Northwestern
Boo Buie has already had somewhat of a “Kemba-like” season for Northwestern this year. After the Wildcats were picked to finish 13th in the Big Ten preseason polls, they rode an elite defense to a Top 2 finish in the conference. Their two-headed backcourt of Boo Buie and Chase Audige complimented each other well, with Buie leading the scoring attack and Audige anchoring the perimeter defense. The team’s success in March will hinge entirely on Buie’s playmaking, both for himself and his teammates. His route is similar to Mike Miles’, in that he is not the best shooter, but will likely be defended by Tyger Campbell, UCLA’s weakest perimeter defender, in the Second Round before a possible matchup with Gonzaga, who can be exploited.
Log in to your HC+ account or sign up now to view this content.