Here are six players whose stat lines best align with top stars from past NCAA Tournaments.
The NCAA Tournament is one of the most electric, exciting sporting events in the world, and there’s nothing quite like it when a superstar (or group of them) puts their stamp on the Big Dance.
You may not remember all the details — the opponents, the seeds, the final scores — but some performances are so wholly dominant that the finer points feel unimportant. You just remember the dominance.
It can be hard to put a finger on exactly what sets these stars apart from the rest of the field, but that’s one of the things I’ve tried to do with some of my work at Heat Check CBB. To that end, I decided to try pinpointing the statistic profiles of some of the most incredible March runs in recent memory.
Shout out to Bart Torvik‘s powerhouse of a website, which reaches back to 2008 and allows users to filter through player statistics with ease. Using that feature, as well as a little bit of historical research to fill in the gaps back to 2003, I have identified five NCAA Tournament archetypes — and the six players from this year’s field of 68 who fit into them.
Let’s jump right in, starting with our first profile: The Kemba.
The Inspiration: Kemba Walker (2011 UConn)
The Profile: Usage ≥ 25; O-Rating ≥ 110; Assist % ≥ 25; Steal % ≥ 3; Min% ≥ 75
Other Examples: CJ McCollum (2012 Lehigh); Shabazz Napier (2014 UConn); Fred VanVleet (2015 Wichita State); Thomas Walkup (2016 Stephen F. Austin); Jared Butler (2021 Baylor) — full list
This Year’s Candidate: Kendric Davis, Memphis
Kemba Walker’s incredible run back in 2011 might be the most memorable NCAA Tournament performance in the past 20 years, although there are some other guys with convincing cases. But here’s a feather for Kemba’s cap: Only two players have ever notched at least 130 points and 30 assists in the same tournament. One is Walker, and the other is Duke’s Jay Williams, who did it back in 2001. Both players ended up hoisting the national championship trophy.
With Kendric Davis entering the 2023 NCAA Tournament averaging 22.1 points and 5.6 assists, the Memphis guard is uniquely positioned to join that 130/30 club. It is, of course, worth mentioning that those Duke and UConn teams were 1- and 3-seeds, respectively. Davis’ path to six games is tougher, as Memphis sits on the 8-line — but March memories aren’t made easily.
If you need some help believing in the impossible, however, consider some of the other guys in this group: Shabazz Napier led a 7-seed UConn team to the national title; Fred VanVleet took his Wichita State team to a Sweet 16 as a 7-seed; and both Thomas Walkup and CJ McCollum architected massive first-round upsets. These players made the list precisely because they defy limitations.
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