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25 college basketball players who will define Championship Week, ranked

These are the college basketball players you need to know as Championship Week grabs the spotlight.

NCAA Basketball: Vermont at St. John’s Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

For complete coverage of Championship Week from Mike Rutherford, follow this StoryStream.

25. Lamine Diane (Cal State Northridge/Big West)

After being ruled academically ineligible to compete during the first semester of the 2019-20 season, Diane has been back to putting up his ridiculous stat lines over the last two months. As a freshman last season, the native of Senegal was the only player in the country to average above 24 points (24.8), 10 rebounds (11.2) and two blocks (2.2) per game. Diane is averaging more points (25.5 ppg) this season, has upped his steal (1.8 spg) and assist (2.9 apg) averages, and is only slightly behind last year’s pace when it comes to rebounds (10.1 rpg) and blocked shots (1.8 bpg). His Matadors squad currently sits in a three-way tie for second place in the Big West standings.

24. Jibri Blount (North Carolina Central/MEAC)

Blount does a little bit of everything for North Carolina Central, which is currently tied for first in the MEAC standings and looking to claim the league’s auto-bid to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season. If that happens, it’s almost a certainty that Blount will have had a significant amount to do with it. The 6’7 junior is averaging 19.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

23. Sayeed Pridgett (Montana/Big Sky)

Pridgett has quietly been having one of the best seasons of any non-power conference player in America. The 6’5 senior from Oakland leads Montana in scoring (19.3 ppg), rebounding (7.2 rpg), assists (3.8 apg), and steals (1.6 spg). With two games to play in the regular season, Pridgett and the Grizzlies currently sit tied atop the Big Sky standings with Eastern Washington at 14-4.

22. Isaiah Blackmon (Saint Francis Pa./Northeast)

A year ago, Saint Francis’ Keith Braxton took home Northeast Conference Player of the Year honors. Twelve months later, that same honor seems destined to go to Braxton’s teammate, Isaiah Blackmon. The 6’1 guard has been a revelation for the Red Flash in his senior season, and will enter the NEC tournament averaging career-bests in points (19.2 ppg), rebounds (5.4 rpg), assists (1.6 apg), and free-throw percentage (83.3 percent).

21. Paul Atkinson (Yale/Ivy League)

Yale has been the best team in the Ivy League so far this season thanks in no small part to Atkinson’s 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The play of the 6’10 junior will make the Bulldogs a trendy NCAA tournament upset pick ... if they can get there. In order to make that happen they will likely have to knock off their biggest threat, Harvard, on the Crimson’s home floor.

20 Tevin Brown (Murray State/Ohio Valley)

Ja Morant’s right hand man a year ago, Brown has stepped into the Racers’ starring role as a sophomore. One of the best two-way players in America at any level, Brown is a lockdown defender who shoots 41.5 percent from three and leads the Racers in scoring at 17.7 points per game.

19. Jalen Pickett (Siena/Metro Atlantic Athletic)

A year ago, Pickett set Siena freshmen records for both scoring (521) and steals (66), while also achieving the fourth-highest single-season assist total overall (221) in school history. He’s been even better as a sophomore, and has the Saints alone atop the MAAC standings heading into the final week of the regular season.

18. Jordan Ford (Saint Mary’s/West Coast)

It’s a only a mild overstatement to say that as Jordan Ford goes, so goes Saint Mary’s. Heading into his final collegiate postseason, the lightning quick guard is averaging 21.2 points per game and shooting 48.9 percent from the field despite almost never leaving the floor for the Gaels. He’s been on the court for an average of 37.7 minutes per game this season, the ninth-highest rate in the country.

17. Osasumwen Osaghae (Florida International/Conference USA)

One of the most improved players in the country, Osaghae averages 12.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. The senior forward makes his biggest impact on the defensive end where he leads the nation in blocks by averaging just a hair under 4.0 swats per game. No one else in Division-I averages better than 3.5. Osaghae and the Panthers are currently tied for fourth in the C-USA standings with two regular season games still to play.

16. Caleb Homesley (Liberty/Atlantic Sun)

The likely A-Sun Player of the Year, Homesley has saved the best basketball of his college career for the end. The 6’6 senior guard averaged 22.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the field and 46.5 percent from three over the final seven games of the regular season.

15. Trevelin Queen (New Mexico State/WAC)

Queen was the Aggies’ leading scorer before having to miss five games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Jan. 22 to fix a lateral meniscus tear. Though the initial prognosis was that Queen would be out 4-6 weeks, he returned to the court just 22 days after the surgery. The super athletic senior has looked more like his old self in recent games. If he can get back to near 100 percent, NMSU could once again be a dangerous first round opponent for some top five seed.

14. Jordan Lyons (Furman/Southern)

The winningest player in the history of the program, Lyons will also leave Furman as the school’s all-time leader in three-pointers made, and in the top 15 on the career scoring list. The only major thing Lyons has failed to do in his college career — which has included Furman being ranked for the first time in 107-year history of the program — is take the Paladins to the NCAA tournament. Lyons and company will be the 2 seed in the SoCon tournament. If they win it, Furman will make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980.

13. Grant Riller (Charleston/Colonial Athletic Association)

There’s a reason why Riller has started to pop up as a late first round pick on a number of recent NBA mock drafts. He’s got tremendous handles, a reliable outside shot, and (currently) 2,448 career points, the second most in Charleston history and the third most in Colonial Athletic Association history. Riller will look to add to that total at the CAA tournament, where his Cougars will be the No. 4 seed.

12. Carlik Jones (Radford/Big South)

The Big South’s Player of the Year, Jones has scored 20 or more points 16 times this season. Despite only being a junior, Jones ranks eighth on Radford’s all-time scoring list with 1,498 career points. He and the Highlanders will be the No. 1 seed at the Big South tournament.

11. Terry Taylor (Austin Peay/Ohio Valley)

One of the most electric players at the mid/low major level of Division-I, Taylor leads Austin Peay in scoring (21.4 ppg), rebounding (10.8 rpg), steals (1.3 spg), and blocks (1.4 bpg). The likely OVC Player of the Year, Taylor has 16 double-doubles so far in his junior season, a feat he accomplished in seven of Austin Peay’s final eight regular season games. Taylor and the Governors will be a dangerous 3 seed in the OVC tournament.

10. AJ Green (Northern Iowa/Missouri Valley)

A year after being the Missouri Valley’s top scoring freshman, Green has emerged as the best player on the league’s best team. The 6’4 sophomore from Cedar Falls is averaging 19.7 points per game and shooting 91.7 percent from the free-throw line, the fourth-best mark in the country. Regardless of how UNI performs at Arch Madness, it’s a safe bet that the basketball world will see Green do his thing in the Big Dance.

9. Jermaine Marrow (Hampton/Big South)

The nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 24.3 points per game, Marrow makes Hampton a real threat as the 5 seed in the Big South tournament. The Pirates won one game in the Big South tournament last season, their first in the conference after making the jump over from the MEAC. With Marrow, who became the school’s all-time leading scorer last month, graduating after this year’s run, the pressure is on to do even more.

8. Justin Turner (Bowling Green/Mid-American)

Currently averaging 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, Turner is the primary reason Bowling Green is in prime position to make it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1968. The Falcons have been a force in the MAC with Turner at full-strength, but were remarkably average in December when the 6’4 junior was sidelined with a hamstring injury he suffered during the team’s overtime upset of Cincinnati.

7. Jhivvan Jackson (UTSA/Conference USA)

UTSA’s season hasn’t gone as well as Roadrunner fans were hoping it would four months ago, but that isn’t the fault of Jackson. The nation’s second-leading scorer is averaging 27.3 points per game and has scored 20 or more points in every game but three this season. Even though they’re currently below .500 with a 7-9 league mark, Jackson should make UTSA a live longshot at next week’s C-USA tournament.

6. Yoeli Childs (BYU/West Coast)

Suspended for the first nine games of this season because he filed his NBA Draft eligibility paperwork in the wrong order (swear to God that’s a real story, look it up), Childs has been an absolute monster for the Cougars since returning. BYU is riding a nine-game winning streak that includes a double-digit victory over Gonzaga, and Childs is the biggest reason why. The senior forward heads into the postseason averaging 22.2 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

5. Nathan Knight (William & Mary/Colonial Athletic Association)

The Tribe’s leader in both scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.5 rpg), Knight is about to wrap up arguably the best career in the history of William & Mary basketball. What makes the season even more special is that he could have easily transferred to a high major program for his final college season, especially after head coach Tony Shaver was given a surprising axe last spring. Instead, Knight stuck around to make sure the Dane Fischer era got off to the best start possible. The only thing left for him to accomplish now is taking the Tribe to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the 83-year history of the program.

4. Loudon Love (Wright State/Horizon League)

The play of Love is the biggest reason Wright State heads into the postseason with a 25-6 overall record and won the conference’s regular season title by a full two games over Northern Kentucky. The 6’9 Love was named Horizon League Player of the Year after averaging 16.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

3. Sa’eed Nelson (American/Patriot League)

American’s all-time leading scorer, Nelson is the only active Division-1 player with 2,000 career points, 500 assists, 500 rebounds and 250 steals. Earlier this week he became the third American player to be named Patriot League Player of the Year, joining Patrick Docter (2002) and Derrick Mercer (2009). Nelson’s Eagles will be the No. 2 seed in the Patriot League tournament.

2. Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga/West Coast)

One of the least-heralded Gonzaga stars in recent years, Petrusev’s meteoric rise in his sophomore season is the main reason the Zags are right back in the mix as a top tier national title contender. The 6’11 native of Serbia enters the postseason averaging 17.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

1. Anthony Lamb (Vermont/America East)

His numbers are down a bit from last season, but Lamb still seems like a virtual lock to win his second straight America East Player of the Year award. Lamb now also has the opportunity to become just the second player in the history of the America East to be named the Most Valuable Player of the league’s tournament three times. The only time in his college career that Lamb didn’t earn the honor was two years ago when the Catamounts were upset in the championship game by UMBC.

Absolutely nothing noteworthy happened after that.