(CBS Local) – The NCAA tournament is often a launch pad for players from smaller and sometimes larger schools to gain completely new prominence in the national consciousness. Think of Steph Curry’s run with Davidson, who introduced us to a shooter who has become an even bigger star in the NBA. Or in 2019, when we fans across the country were introduced to the 7’6 ″ Center Tacko Fall, when he fought Duke and future number 1 Zion Zionson.
There are also plenty of names over the years from guys who didn’t necessarily become NBA stars but grew in popularity over the three short weeks of March. Ali Farookmanesh from Northern Iowa or RJ Hunter from Georgia State come to mind. All of these players had magical March moments that live on in the highlight reels that are played when we remember past tournaments.
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With the 2021 tournament scheduled to start with the top four tomorrow evening, before the 64th round begins on Friday, we’ve decided to take a look at the field and find some players whose names will hit the headlines over the next few weeks will be seen. Chris Walker, an analyst at CBS Sports Network, came over to us and gave his five guys you want to meet this March.
Jaquori McLaughlin, Guard, UC Santa Barbara
Notable Statistics: 16.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 5.2 APG, 40.4% 3PT
“This kid is 40 percent out of three, 48 percent off the field as a guard, which is incredible,” Walker said. “He’s a great guard and I think he has NBA potential. He’s a kid who has the chance to become a breakout star, especially if they get upset against Creighton in the first round. “
The Gauchos top scorer McLaughlin originally played in the US state of Oregon before moving to UCSB after his second season with the Beavers. He has improved his score in each of his three seasons at UCSB and has had eight games with 20 or more points this season. Against a Blue Jays team that allowed Georgetown to score 10 out of 26 threes in the conference title game, McLaughlin could have a breakout night.
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Jason Preston, Guard, Ohio
Notable Statistics: 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 7.2 APG, 40.8% 3PT
“I think he has a chance to be a LaMelo ball player. He’s absolutely phenomenal, ”said Walker. “He shoots at it, he’s the engine that makes it run. He’s dealt with a couple of injuries this year. He just has a great story too. I’m starting at UCF, I’m a kid playing pickup ball and all of a sudden this breakout star. He’s a great story for the tournament and will be in the NBA. “
Preston’s backstory is one that you are likely to hear a lot during your Ohio run. He had no offers from high school and enrolled in journalism classes the summer after his senior year at UCF thinking that at least that was how he wanted to get involved in the game. A few weeks later, he was recruited to fill a vacancy on a team at an AAU tournament where he attracted the attention of a prep school coach. After attending Believe Prep Academy in Tennessee, he put together a highlight mixtape playing on the academy’s third team, which then caught the eye of Ohio who offered him a scholarship.
We are here three years later. The 6’4 “Preston has averaged nearly triple doubles and currently ranks 34th on CBSSports.com’s NBA Draft Big Board. What if Ohio excited and ran the first round against Virginia? Well, Preston’s stocks could just keep going up.
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Cameron Krutwig, center, Loyola-Chicago
Notable Statistics: 15 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3 APG, 57.9% FG
“I’m telling you you are going to the park, you are not choosing it for your team. But this guy can hit the basketball
If you put a couple of riflemen around him, he’ll drop pennies on back door passes, ”said Walker. “1,800 points, 500 rebounds, 400 assists. The only ones who do that are the Big O (Oscar Robertson), Larry Bird, and Hersey Hawkins, the only others who do that at the Missouri Valley Conference. They had a lot of great players and he does a great job of catalyzing this team. “
Don’t let Krutwig’s looks fool you, as Walker points out, he can control a basketball game with all his might. The Do it All Center first came on the scene during the Ramblers tournament in 2018 when it averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and one assist per game as they advanced to the Final Four. Now, three years later, he has up to 15 points, almost seven boards and three templates. He also adds one steal and block per game on defensive for a Ramblers team that is the best defensive team in the country. Loyola does a tough job as an 8-seed in the Illinois area. But can they win the opening round game and piss off the Illinois? We’re probably going to talk about Krutwig as a big reason why.
Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland, Guard, VCU
Notable Statistics: 19.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, 37.1% 3PT
“An electric goalscorer who shoots from the depths really knows how to handle basketball,” said Hyland’s Walker. “He’s a great guard and has a fantastic range. If he gets it going, he’s another guy that it takes to get upset so that we can even talk about her after the first round. I think he’s a different guy, Atlantic 10 player of the year, who can really do some fantastic things. He’s one reason I think the VCU is going to cause a stir. “
The second Hyland is the star of the VCU. He scores an average of nine points more per game than anyone else on the team and plays the most minutes per game. At 6’3 ” with his length as part of the Rams’ ‘Havoc’ defense, the opposing guards will go to the trouble of collecting nearly two steals per game this season. If he rolls from outside the arch, it can be a nightmare for the opponents. He’s had seven games that season in which he knocked down four or more threesomes. A first-round matchup with Oregon is before a possible date in the second round against Iowa.
James Bouknight, Guard, UConn
Notable Statistics: 19 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.2 SPG
“It will be an NBA draft prospectus, but I don’t think a lot of people heard of it because it was injured.”
said Walker. “UConn is 15-3 when he’s playing and 4-4 when he’s not. He makes her go. You can’t win without him. He’s on a long line of people like Jeremy Lamb, Ray Allen, and Guy Guardians who had them at UConn. James Bouknight is a great player and if they can get past Maryland I think that playing against Alabama is a very interesting prospect. “
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Bouknight is currently the ninth rated prospect on CBSSports.com’s NBA Draft Big Board. The 6’5 ″ sophomore guard increased each of its statistical categories this season, apart from a three-point shooting percentage. At the heart of the Huskies offense is that he has a lot of control over the ball. So get used to hearing his name. With the Huskies up against the Terps in the round of 16 ahead of a possible date with Alabama in the round of 16, he’s one to watch.