15 Stars Who Could Win NCAA Tournament 2014 Most Outstanding Player
Stars Who Could Win NCAA Tournament 2014 Most Outstanding Player
March Madness brings a level of pressure few experience, and the ones who handle it best in the Final Four walk away with the Most Outstanding Player award.
Lately the award has been given to a member of the winning team, but that wasn't always the case. Hakeem Olajuwon was the last player to win the award without winning the national championship in 1983.
Luke Hancock became the first bench player to win the award in 2013. He connected on four straight three-pointers to help the Louisville Cardinals overcome a 12-point deficit in the first half of the 2013 national championship game against the Michigan Wolverines.
There are plenty of college basketball stars who have the potential to lead their teams to a national championship this season. NBA Draft picks are valuable this year due to a deep draft class, and March Madness is the last chance many of these players will get to showcase their talent before the draft. Performing on the March Madness stage essentially guarantees a player will get a chance to play at the next level.
Since 1999, Kyler Singler and Mario Chalmers are the only winners of the award who weren't drafted in the first round. Eight different winners of the award were taken in the top 10 of the draft.
The talent is widespread in college basketball this year, and there are a number of teams that could get hot and make a title run. Here are 15 players who will have to rise to the occasion to help their teams cut down the nets in March.
15. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Gonzaga Bulldogs consistently put themselves in the March Madness conversation, and they're bound to do it again this year. Junior guard Kevin Pangos leads the team in points and minutes per game and is going to be the one running the show.
Gonzaga is a long-shot, but Pangos could help its changes. If it makes a title run he'll have a lot to do with it.
14. Doug McDermott, Creighton Bluejays
If the Creighton Bluejays are able to pull of the Cinderella story of the century, they'll do it behind senior forward Doug McDermott. The AP All-American leads the nation in scoring at 25.8 points per game and is a sure fire NBA prospect.
13. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin Badgers
Frank Kaminsky has the ability to take over a game. It's going to take a lot of pieces falling into place for the Wisconsin Badgers to make a deep run, but Kaminsky has been taking more of a leadership role as the season has progressed.
Kaminsky is more agile than your average seven-footer, and can hit deep jumpers in addition to scoring in the paint. When he's on, he's one of the toughest players to guard in college basketball this season.
12. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State Cyclones
The Iowa State Cyclones are starting to get the recognition they deserve after moving up the ranks in the Big 12. Senior forward Melvin Ejim is the leader on this team in more ways than one, and he'll have to play well in the tournament for the Cyclones to have a chance.
11. Xavier Thames, San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State is another long shot, but they have an outstanding leader in senior Xavier Thames who could hear his name mentioned multiple times when postseason awards are handed out.
Thames has led the Aztecs to the No. 6 ranking in the AP poll and first place in the Mountain West Conference.
10. Aaron Gordon, Arizona Wildcats
When the Arizona Wildcats lost Brandon Ashley to a foot injury, they needed to find a new leader. Aaron Gordon has stepped in to give the Wildcats the emotional boost they needed. They still have a solid team, and if they're going to make a run, Gordon will have to lead the way.
9. Julius Randle, Kentucky Wildcats
The Kentucky Wildcats have bounced back from a disappointing 2012-13 with a strong performance this season. Julius Randle currently leads the team in points and rebounds per game, and has been a double-double machine.
8. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State Shockers
If you have yet to watch the Wichita State Shockers play this season, you're missing out. Leading the way is 6-foot-8 senior forward Cleanthony Early. He helped get the Shockers to the Final Four last season and has become an even more well-rounded player since.
7. Jabari Parker, Duke Blue Devils
The pressure to perform was high on Chicago native Jabari Parker since he made the choice to join the Duke Blue Devils, but the freshman forward has not disappointed. He's averaging nearly 20 points per game and is a top candidate for freshman of the year.
6. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida Gators
The Florida Gators are rounding into form at just the right time, and could make a serious run at Billy Donovan's third national championship. Senior guard Scottie Wilbekin has been doing all the little things a team needs to play well. He hustles, makes good decisions with the ball and sets an example for his teammates.
5. Russ Smith, Louisville Cardinals
Russ Smith could have easily won the Most Outstanding Player in last year's Final Four, but still has another shot at winning the award this season. He leads the Louisville Cardinals in points, assists and minutes.
3. Adreian Payne, Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans had to play without Adreian Payne earlier this season, and having him out of the lineup made people realize how vital he is to their success. Payne is healthy now and should be ready for a tournament run. If he elevates his game in March, the Spartans could see a return to glory.
2. Joel Embiid, Kansas Jayhawks
When the season started, most of the talk about the Kansas Jayhawks centered around freshman Andrew Wiggins, but Joel Embiid has been the team's most valuable rookie this season. The 7-foot Cameroonian is unguardable at times and forces opponents to game-plan around him.
1. C.J. Fair, Syracuse Orange
Syracuse breathed a sigh of relief when C.J. Fair decided to return for his senior season. He fills the stats sheet every game and is a Wooden Award candidate. That coupled with Syracuse's chances of winning the national championship make him the top candidate for the 2014 Most Outstanding Player Award.