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The 50 players you need to know to be a March Madness expert

Study up! These are 50 players you need to know for March Madness.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Admit it: you haven't watched much college basketball yet this season. Maybe you saw some Buddy Hield highlights on SportsCenter or tried to catch of glimpse of Ben Simmons before realizing watching LSU basketball is no way for a person to spend his or her free time. It's OK. We get it, and we're here to help you.

Below are the 50 players you need to know in this year's tournament. Some are top NBA prospects you'll be hearing about for the next decade, others are the type of small-school gunners that make college basketball such a delight.

50. F Chris Boucher, Oregon

The Oregon big man is one of the most unique players in the country. He might have the best backstory, too.

Boucher spent his childhood dealing with poverty and crime in Quebec, relegating basketball to a hobby. He didn't start playing the game seriously until he was 19 years old when a local prep school finally gave him the chance for some stability. From there, he blossomed into one of the best JUCO players in the country and eventually landed with Oregon.

At 6'10 and maybe 190 pounds, Boucher's frame immediately catches your eye. His skills will, too: he's fourth in the country in block rate, and he's knocked down 36 percent of his three-pointers. When he gets hot -- like he did in a 26-point, 10-rebound, seven-block effort against Arizona State -- he can look like one of the most unguardable players in this year's field.

49. F Stefan Jankovic, Hawaii

The Rainbow Warriors are a trendy pick to pull a first-round upset in part because of the Big West Player of the Year, a 6'11 big man with range that extends beyond the three-point line. Cal better not take Hawaii lightly.

48. Scoochie Smith, Dayton



47. C Josh Scott, Colorado

Scott is at the center of everything for the Buffaloes as one of the best post scorers in this year's field. Try to cover him one-on-one and he's getting buckets. Send a double-team at him and he's kicking out to a plethora of shooters on the perimeter. It's a good formula.

46. G Troy Caupain, Cincinnati

You may remember Caupain from his heroics last year, when his buzzer-beating layup helped lift the Bearcats past Purdue in the round of 64. He's only gotten better this season, leading Cincinnati in scoring (13.2) and assists (4.8). After playing 56 minutes in Cincy's heartbreaking, four-overtime loss in the AAC Tournament, the man deserves another March moment.

45. G Gabe York, Arizona

Arizona is used to thriving with one-and-done lottery picks, but this year's team is more reliant on veterans like York. The senior is a deadly three-point shooter, knocking down 42.5 percent of his 6.8 attempts from beyond the arc per game. The man has range:

If sixth-seeded Arizona goes on a run, it's because York catches fire.

44. Melvin Johnson, VCU

Shaka Smart's recruiting is still paying off for VCU. Johnson is one of the best volume three-point shooters in the field, hitting 39 percent of nearly eight attempts per game this year.

43. G Marcus Johnson Jr., Arkansas-Little Rock

After sweeping the Sun Belt regular season and tournament titles, Little Rock isn't just happy to be here. They want a win against No. 4 Purdue and its Goliaths inside. Their best chance is to get hot from deep, and their best shooter is Johnson, a 5'11 junior guard who knocked down 71 threes this season at a 46.1 percent clip this season.

42. G Jeremy Senglin, Weber State

Another great shooter who hit 44.2 percent of the 7.1 threes he attempted per game. Xavier might want to cover him.

41. PG Marcus Paige, North Carolina

It feels like North Carolina has spent the entire season waiting on their senior point guard. Waiting for him to come back from a broken hand at the beginning of the season, waiting on him recapture the star status he flashed as a sophomore.

To this point, Paige has been good but not great. Things can change fast in March, and UNC will need them to if they're going to win the national title.

40. PF Robert Carter, Maryland

It seems like everyone else in Maryland's starting lineup gets more attention, but Carter might be the Terps' best two-way player. A long 6'9 big man, Carter can score with his back to the basket, hit a face-up jump shot and protect the rim.

39. PG Michael Gbinije, Syracuse

At 6'7, the 23-year-old Gbinije is one of the biggest point guards in the country. He's one of the best, too. The one-time Duke transfer put up 17.8 points and 4.4 assists this season, on 41 percent three-point shooting.

38. F Roosevelt Jones, Butler

The Butler senior is one of those dudes who has had an old man game from the moment he picked up the ball. Don't take that as a pejorative. He does everything for the Bulldogs.

37. G Bryn Forbes, Michigan State

Denzel Valentine gets all of the attention for Michigan State, but it helps that he's so often kicking out to one of the best shooters in the country. Forbes knocked down 48.4 percent of his threes this year, and even hit 11 in one game against Rutgers. He's got Draymond Green's attention, and he should have yours, too.

36. PG Monte Morris, Iowa State

Morris is the ideal of the pure point guard archetype your dad loves. He's known for his record-setting assist-to-turnover ratio, but he's also picked up his scoring this year for the Cyclones. If Iowa State doesn't want to get knocked out early again, Morris needs to take control.

35. G Marvelle Harris, Fresno State

The 6'4 senior guard is one of the best pure scorers in the field. Utah can't be sleeping well right now.

34. PG Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

Jackson is just 6'1, but he has no problem playing above the rim. Notre Dame needs the possible lottery pick to rediscover his three-point stroke if its No. 10 offense is going to carry them to the second weekend.

33. G Daniel Hamilton, UConn

Few players in college basketball can stuff a stat sheet like the Huskies' sophomore wing, who averaged 12.4 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game this season.

32. F Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

With Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker out of the way, Nigel Hayes finally has the spotlight he's always deserved. He's used it to literally drop the mic on Ohio Statecall out the NCAA's hypocrisy and lead a Badgers team that is peaking at the right time.

31. G A.J. English, Iona

Iona rules. They play fast, are led by an outspoken coach and have a great senior star in English, who averaged 22 points per game this year. Iowa State is already having nightmares about him.

30. F Ben Bentil, Providence

Arguably the most improved player in the country, Bentil has given Kris Dunn the star sidekick he desperately needed. The 6'9 power forward can score with his back to the basket or with a face-up jumper. Providence needs him to go off get past USC. If it happens, Bentil will have a marquee matchup against Brice Johnson and North Carolina.

29. SG Jamal Murray, Kentucky

Arrows out!

The Canadian freshman has been on a tear lately, blossoming into a devastating shooter running off screens for the Wildcats. His 110 three-pointers ranks No. 4 in the country. There's at least a 50 percent chance Drake writes a song about him over the next month.

28. PG Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa

A brief list of reasons why Wes Washpun rules:

1. He has a sweet hightop fade.

2. He's the rare MVC guard who can play above the rim.

3. He has a penchant for clutch shots, like this buzzer-beater that put Northern Iowa in the tournament:

27. PF Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa

Uthoff, a one-time Wisconsin transfer, was very seriously putting his name in the conversation for National Player of the Year before Iowa's late-season collapse. Here's the list of players who have averaged at least 18 points and 2.5 blocks per game with 60 or more three-pointers:


Iowa might be collapsing with a 1-5 finish down the stretch, but it's not Uthoff's fault.

26. SG Sheldon McClellan, Miami

It's a little surprising Miami feels totally unheralded heading into March, considering:

1) The Hurricanes have been hovering around the top 10 most of the season

2) We're talking about THE U here.

In a way, that makes senior wing Sheldon McClellan the perfect representation of Miami basketball this season. Few people would recognize him as one of the top players in college basketball, but he really is. Shoot, score, defend: he just does everything pretty well.

More importantly: If Jim Larranaga isn't making his team watch Ed Reed's 2001 halftime speech against Florida State 50 times this month, he's making a major mistake:

25. F Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

If you're going to be a major college basketball star whose last name is pronounced 'blew-it', you better be really good. The Xavier sophomore wing is. Bluiett leads the Musketeers in scoring and has blossomed into a 40 percent three-point shooter this year (up from 32 percent last year).

24. C Devin Williams, West Virginia

I've watched enough Horace Grant tape in my life to know you never mess with a big, scary dude who isn't afraid to rock goggles:


Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Williams is simply unrelenting in everything he does, which makes him a nice personification of the Mountaineers. And since we're talking about West Virginia, I can't help myself:

23. SG Josh Hart, Villanova

He averaged 15.5 points, seven rebounds and two assists per game with 51 percent shooting from the floor. Villanova's draw is so favorable. If they can't make it past the first weekend this season, Kyle Lowry needs to come back to Philly and have a words with these guys.

22. SF Danuel House, Texas A&M

There's just not many college teams who have the personnel to defend a 6'7, 22-year-old senior wing like House. Here's a brief representation of his matchup against Kentucky's freshman point-guard-turned-small-forward Isaiah Briscoe in the SEC Tournament last weekend:

House had 32 in that one, and it felt like more.

21. SF Dillon Brooks - Oregon

Does anyone else think Oregon's signature hand thing makes it look exactly like they're throwing up The Roc?


This was all just an excuse for me to embed "Diamonds of Sierra Leone":

But yeah, Dillon Brooks: 16.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game. Good player.

20. SG Grayson Allen - Duke

Everyone hates Grayson Allen, which I predicted would happen when he was still in high school. Personally, I love Grayson Allen. He goes 110 mph on every play, shoots nearly 42 percent from three-point range and is liable to go coast-to-coast for a highlight dunk whenever he gets out in transition.

Also, I love this Vine more than some family members:

19. C Domantas Sabonis - Gonzaga

I'm not about to screw up my lifetime 100 percent conversion rate of embedding Margot and the Nuclear So and So's "Arvydas Sabonis" whenever I write about young Domantas:

I'm glad Gonzaga made it, because this tournament deserves Sabonis. He's an amazing player. Killer on the glass (14th in the country in defensive rebound rate), automatic inside the paint (his 65.9 true shooting percentage also ranks No. 14 in the country) and blessed with his father's weirdo passing touch. He isn't very long and doesn't have much shooting range, but it still feels like he can carve out a long NBA career for himself with everything he brings to the table.

18. C A.J. Hammons, Purdue

Purdue spent three years waiting for Hammons to grow into the player he's become as a senior. He's always had the tools to be one of the best centers in the country, and that's finally happened this season: 15 points, eights rebounds, 2.4 blocks per game on early 60 percent shooting from the field. Anyone who saw him manhandle Michigan in the Big Ten semifinal (27 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks) knows how dominant he can be.

17. PG Gary Payton II, Oregon State

Shameless plug: My feature on GPII's lifelong quest to measure up to his Hall of Fame father, and how a little tough love from The Glove eventually made all the difference.

Gary Payton II is not the same player as his dad, but he does have some advantages over his old man. Such as: dunking.

16. F DeAndre Bembry, St. Joesph's

Few players in the country are more important to their team than Bembry is to St. Joe's. Second on the team in points, rebounds and blocks, first in assists and steals per game. Plus, his hair makes him look like he's straight out of the '70s:


Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

All good things.

15. PF Ivan Rabb, Cal

The thing that makes Cal so dangerous is they basically have five different players who can take over a game. How many teams can say that? On a roster loaded with weapons, Rabb has become arguably the Bears' most consistent performer. He's hit double figures in scoring in 11 of his last 15 games.

Rabb is already penciled in as a lottery pick, but he could go top 10 with a big tournament. There's a lot of money on the line this weekend (and hopefully next) for him.

14. SF Taurean Prince, Baylor

It seems like Baylor always has an over-sized wing with NBA aspirations, and Prince is next in that line. The 6'7 senior can score in a variety of ways, and Baylor has found success using him at the four more often this season. Good thing he didn't stay on LIU-Brooklyn.

13. PG Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

March is typically dominated by senior point guards, and Ferrell might be the best senior point guard in the country. Very few people are going to have the courage to pick the Hoosiers to the Final Four, but I'm telling you: IU can do it.

12. C Jakob Poeltl, Utah

There has never been an NBA player from Austria, but that's going to change in June. Poeltl has risen from an unknown international recruit to (arguably) the best center in college basketball over the last two years. Just ask Cal how dominant he can be. We'd love to see Poeltl vs. Sabonis in the round of 32.

11. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, Wichita State

Forever grouped together. Forever legends:

10. C Jameel Warney, Stony Brook

Do you think Kentucky's thin, underwhelming front line immediately broke out in a cold sweat when they saw their matchup on Selection Sunday? Warney is a beast, a "Return of the Mack" loving, low-post scoring star who erupted for 43 points on 18-of-22 shooting in the Seawolves' conference title win.

Prayers up for Marcus Lee, Derek Willis, Skal Labissiere and Alex Poythress. They're gonna need them.

9. PG Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall

So often a non-traditional power will pin its hopes and dreams on a star local recruit, only to get burned when he inevitably chooses a blue blood. That didn't happen with Whitehead, the Brooklyn guard who actually picked Seton Hall and is now fully delivering on his promise.

Like the best New York-bred guards, Whitehead plays with a mean streak. He's a force going to the basket and he's developed into a deadly three-point shooter as a sophomore. Dude has range:

The Pirates are as hot as any team in the country right now, and their sophomore point guard is the biggest reason why.

8. PF Perry Ellis, Kansas

The real strength of Kansas lies in its depth, but Ellis is the closest thing in Lawrence to a star. He's led the team in scoring the last two seasons, but the Jayhawks have yet to make it past the first weekend with him as a focal point. This tournament could determine if he's a Jayhawks legend or a player whose defensive and athletic limitations ultimately held back his team.

7. PG Kris Dunn, Providence

Everyone always complains about one-and-dones, but isn't it an even bigger bummer when a star player returns to school and is so obviously 20 times more talented than the rest of his teammates? Here's hoping Dunn lands with an NBA team that has plenty of shooters and allows him to go crazy as a playmaker in a spread pick-and-roll offense.

6. SF Brandon Ingram, Duke

If there's a better Vine this year than Ingram testing his vertical jump in an empty gym to Migos' "Pipe It Up," I haven't seen it.

There is a very good chance this is the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

5. SG Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

Malcolm Brogdon can't decide if he wants to be an NBA player or solve world hunger. The man is arguably the best perimeter defender in college basketball this season, locking down everyone from Ingram to NC State star Cat Barber. He's also led Virginia in scoring the last three years and has become a knock down three-point shooter as a senior. I wouldn't bet against him.

4. PF Brice Johnson, North Carolina

The biggest key for North Carolina over the next few weeks? Remembering Brice Johnson is on the team. The Tar Heels are loaded with weapons, but they're at their best when the ball is going to Johnson down low. The senior has turned into the player North Carolina wants every recruit to be.

3. PG Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

It's amazing that a 5'9 guard can even play at Kentucky with the way John Calipari has recruited in recent years, let alone establish himself so clearly as the team's star. Everyone wanted to crown Ben Simmons SEC Player of the Year in the preseason, but Ulis stole the award from him and added conference Defensive Player of the Year honors to go with it.

Everything Kentucky does begins and ends with its sophomore point guard. Ulis is making a case that he's the best point guard Calipari has ever coached (think about that) and pretty much everyone agrees he's likely to be a first-round NBA Draft pick. It's Tyler Ulis' world right now.

2. SG Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

It's amazing to think Hield never shot better than 38 percent from three-point range before this year. It's not like he came out of nowhere -- he was Big 12 Player of the Year as a junior! -- but it's a testament to his incredible work ethic that he's improved his game so much as a senior.

He's averaged 25 points per game and 46 percent shooting from deep on 8.6 attempts per game, a true shooting percentage of 66.2. No, he's not Steph Curry, but he's the closest thing the college game has to him.

1. G/F Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

You realize no player in the history of college basketball has ever put up the numbers Valentine is posting right now, yes? His incredible stat line -- 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 7.6 assists -- doesn't even begin to capture his impact for the Spartans.

Give Tom Izzo the best player in the country and it's no wonder Michigan State is everyone's pick to win it all.