The first week of March Madness is behind us and the Sweet 16 is set. It was an emotional week of bracket busters, buzzer-beaters and breakout performances. Let’s highlight some of the premier players that have their teams in position to compete for a spot in the Elite 8.
Justise Winslow, Fr., Duke – All eyes are on Duke’s freshman phenom and NCAA Player of the Year candidate Jahlil Okafor this March. Okafor has performed admirably, but Winslow, a 6-foot-6 freshman forward for the Blue Devils, might be their best player through the first two games. Winslow started the tournament with six points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in only 24 minutes against Robert Morris. He followed that up by stuffing the stat sheet with 13 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and four steals against San Diego State on Sunday. He is Duke’s most versatile asset and has not been lost in Okafor’s giant shadow.
Kyle Wiltjer, Jr., Gonzaga – The 6-foot-10 transfer from Kentucky might eventually get the chance to play his old team in an NCAA championship if he continues to lead Gonzaga. Wiltjer dropped 23 points and eight rebounds against North Dakota State and dominated Iowa with 24 points and 7 rebounds on 83 percent shooting. He has shown the ability to lead one of the nation’s elite offenses on the big stage.
Bryce Alford, So., UCLA– Ron and R.J. Hunter stole the show as the feel-good father-son duo for Georgia State, but it is Bryce Alford, under his father Steve Alford, that is leading the lowest seed with a spot in the Sweet 16. Alford drilled nine 3-pointers against a tough SMU defense and followed it up with 22 points to knock out an overachieving UAB team. Alford has shown an ability to react to defenses and score in different ways, as evidenced by his eight free throw attempts against UAB.
Frank Kaminsky, Sr., Wisconsin – Frank the Tank is the most skilled 7-footer in college hoops and he hasn’t disappointed thus far. Kaminsky annihilated Coastal Carolina with 27 points, 12 rebounds and four assists to kick off the Badger’s tournament run. Oregon was able to limit him to 16 points and seven rebounds, but Kaminsky’s ability to score inside and out opens up opportunities for his talented teammates to score. He is a matchup nightmare and will be a tough cover for any defense moving forward.
Fred VanVleet, Jr., Wichita State – The Shockers asserted themselves as the best team in Kansas with a win over the Jayhawks on Sunday. They could not have done it without VanVleet. The junior point guard recorded 17 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals and a block in 37 minutes. He also put up a career-high 27 points against Indiana two days prior. If Wichita State is going to make it past Notre Dame, VanVleet will need to lead them there.