NEW ROTOWORLD BETA SITE

Raphielle Johnson

Draft Preview

print article archives RSS

NCAA Midwest: Top Players

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


The Midwest region has some powerhouse programs at the top, with Kansas being the one seed and fellow perennial powers Duke and Michigan State holding the two and three seeds, respectively. Even teams further down the seed line don’t lack for talent, with players such as Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado and Oklahoma’s Trae Young in the region as well.

Here are the links to the other regions: East | South | West

Here are breakdowns on some of the top players in the region, going in order by their team’s seed.

Editor's Note: Want the biggest edge in your NCAA pool this year? TeamRankings.com offers the most sophisticated bracket picks and analysis tools. Get the best bracket for your pool.

Devonte’ Graham, Senior, Kansas, G - In a season that saw Trae Young lead the nation in both scoring and assists, it was Graham who took home Big 12 Player of the Year honors. The preseason questions of how the Jayhawks would account for the loss of Frank Mason III were answered emphatically by Graham, who produced with regards to both the numbers and the intangibles in leading his team to the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles. Graham’s averaging 17.3 points, 7.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, and while his overall field goal percentage (40.3) is a bit low the senior is shooting 41.2 percent from three. Graham’s a more than capable playmaker who can put his teammates in spots where they’re at their best, and he isn’t afraid of the moment when Kansas needs a big bucket either. Graham wasn’t particularly effective with regards to jump shots inside of the arc (35.9 percent per hoop-math.com), and he made just over 42 percent of his shots at the rim. Listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, Graham may be a tad bit smaller than that but one’s toughness and intangibles cannot be measured in a traditional fashion. Graham’s bout talented and tough enough to lead Kansas deep into the tournament.

Udoka Azubuike, Sophomore, Kansas, C - Azubuike’s the question mark for the Jayhawks entering the tournament, as he missed the Big 12 tournament with a Grade 1 MCL sprain. Whether or not the 7-foot sophomore will be available for their first round matchup against Penn remains to be seen, but it’s certain that Kansas is going to need Azubuike if they’re to go on a run. On a team that did not have another true option in the post, Azubuike is averaging 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Weighing 280 pounds, Azubuike has a powerful build and is extremely tough to stop when he gets the basketball with both feet in the paint. In ball screen situations he’s been productive as the roll man, and he’s shown some ability to step out into the mid-range area and hit shots. The key for Azubuike in the NCAA’s, even with the emergence of Silvio de Sousa during the Big 12 tournament, will be to avoid early foul trouble. While he’s fouled out of just one game this season, there have been times when two quick fouls have led to Bill Self placing the sophomore on the bench.

Grayson Allen, Senior, Duke, G - Allen’s been a lightning rod for much of his collegiate career, with the undeniable talent at times being undermined by bad decisions. For much of this season that hasn’t been a problem, with the senior guard showing signs of being the veteran leader this team laden with underclassmen needs. Allen’s averaging 15.7 points and 4.5 assists per game, shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 37.7 percent from three-point range. While the percentages aren’t great, they do represent an improvement on a tumultuous junior season in which Allen shot just 39.5 percent from the field. Allen’s ability as a secondary playmaker to supplement freshman point guard Trevon Duval is where he has value for the Blue Devils as they look to make a deep run. If Allen can raise his shooting some while also continuing to help as a facilitator, that would be a big help to Mike Krzyzewski’s team.

Marvin Bagley III, Freshman, Duke, F - The 6-foot-10 freshman is on the short list of possible choices when it comes to the top overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, provided he make the decision to leave school once the season ends. Bagley’s skill set and athleticism make him an extremely difficult assignment for opposing players to deal with. The left-handed forward can shoot at all three levels, as he’s making 60.5 percent of his field goals and 37.7 percent of his three-pointers. And at 11.5 rebounds per game Bagley can attack the glass on both ends as well, with his second jump being both quicker and more explosive than a majority of the players he goes up against. Defensively there’s still some work to be done, but what’s helped him (and Duke as a whole) was the team’s commitment to playing zone. Over the last month or so the Blue Devils have been one of the best defensive teams in the country from an efficiency standpoint, and in regards to Bagley specifically he has the wingspan needed to cause trouble in Duke’s 2-3 zone. For most players who miss time due to injury, as Bagley did in February, it takes some time to shake off the rust. There were no such issues for Bagley, and he has the ability to turn this tournament into his own personal playground.

Wendell Carter Jr., Freshman, Duke, F - Like Bagley, Carter Jr. will have a decision to make at season’s end. The 6-foot-10, 259-pound freshman out of Atlanta is a powerful player, but it isn’t all about brute strength for Carter offensively. Carter runs the floor well and generally does a good job of getting into position early, setting up in spots where the defender will either commit the foul, give up the basket or both. Carter’s shooting 56.4 percent from the field, with a lot of that coming via his work around the basket. While Carter can step away from the basket, the shooting from 15 feet and out really isn’t a strong suit for him. That being said, with the presence of Bagley and Duke’s perimeter options the Blue Devils really don’t need Carter to be that kind of player. Carter rebounds and blocks shots at a solid clip, and he’s athletic enough to pursue the ball when it’s outside of his immediate area. As would be the case for Bagley, a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan State’s front court would reveal even more regarding Carter, as the Spartans have the depth and talent inside to match Duke’s interior options.

Miles Bridges, Sophomore, Michigan State, F - Bridges began the season as the overwhelming favorite for national player of the year honors, and while things haven’t worked out that way he’s put forth a solid sophomore season. Averaging 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, Bridges is shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from three. Getting better with regards to perimeter shooting will likely be a focus for Bridges regardless of where he plays his basketball next season, the NBA or at Michigan State. A high-level athlete that measures in at 6-foot-7, 20 pounds, Bridges has the build to play through contact and finish around the basket. It also helps that he’s an excellent foul shooter, as he’s making 88.3 percent of his attempts on the season. There have been times within games in which Bridges hasn’t been as assertive as he can be offensively, which is something neither he nor the Spartans can afford to see happen if they’re to challenge for a national title.

Jaren Jackson Jr., Freshman, Michigan State, F - There were high hopes for Jackson when he arrived on campus, and it’s safe to say that thus far he’s lived up to the hype. Not only was Jackson named the Big Ten’s best freshman, but it was also named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. The slender 6-foot-11 forward has the length needed to block or change shots both within and outside of his area, and he enters the tournament averaging 3.2 blocked shots per game. Offensively Jackson has been a supplementary piece for the Spartans but he’s been efficient with his opportunities, averaging 11.3 points per game while shooting 52.0 percent from the field while also shooting 39.6 percent from three. Jackson doesn’t attempt many shots in the mid-range game, which is fine since more than 60 percent of his shots have been taken around the basket according to hoop-math. The activity and ability to run the floor tends to put Jackson in advantageous spots on the floor, and that can open things up for his teammates as well.

Mustapha Heron, Auburn, G - The 6-foot-5 sophomore currently leads the Tigers in scoring with an average of 16.6 points per game while also grabbing 5.5 rebounds per contest. Not a great shooter from the perimeter, as he’s making just 34.1 percent of his three-pointers, Heron’s at his best when attacking opposing defenses off the bounce and looking to make play at and around the basket. Heron’s making more than 69 percent of his shots around the basket on the season, which is an impressive figure for a player of his height. Heron makes good use of his powerful build, getting to the foul line at a good rate and converting once there as well (80.7 percent FT shooter). Heron’s presence on the wing can open up shot opportunities for the likes of Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, two players whose field goal attempts from three more often than from inside of the arc.

Angel Delgado, Senior, Seton Hall, F/C - The Big East’s all-time leading rebounder, Delgado has continued to improve throughout his career. This season has seen the 6-foot-9 senior has made strides when it comes to turnovers and dealing with double teams, as he’s averaging more assists (2.7) than turnovers (2.5) per game for the first time in his career. While the scoring (13.3 ppg) and rebounding (11.6 rpg) averages have dropped some from last year’s numbers (15.2, 13.1), it should be noted that Delgado’s playing with a point guard in Khadeen Carrington who’s balancing distributing with scoring on his own as opposed to Madison Jones, who last year was almost exclusively a distributor. Delgado’s still shooting 50 percent from the field, and even though the free throw percentage (60.0) needs some work it is the best of his Seton Hall career. A tough, physical presence who competes every possession, the first round matchup with NC State should be a good litmus test for Delgado given the fact that the Wolfpack can call upon multiple options in the post.

Trae Young, Freshman, Oklahoma, G - Young may still managed to take home some national player of the year awards, as one would expect of a player who leads the nation in scoring and assists. That being said, as teams became more familiar not only with Young but his teammates the efficiency dropped off. Averaging 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game, Young’s shooting 42.1 percent from the field overall and 36.2 percent from three. Lon Kruger’s give Young full reign of the Oklahoma offense and with good reason: the other players in the rotation have been inconsistent, struggling at times in Big 12 play after performing quite well against non-conference competition. That’s put Young in positions where he almost has to force things, be it a shot from a distance farther away from the basket than even he would prefer or by attempting to complete a pass that should not be thrown. Defensively he isn’t much of a factor, but Young isn’t the only Sooner who’s had trouble on that end of the floor. Maybe facing opponents who aren’t as familiar with him will help Young in the tournament. That being said he’s got a tough first round matchup, as Rhode Island has multiple guards who are both talented and physical enough to make things difficult on the freshman phenom.

Others to watch: Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas; Malik Newman, Kansas; Trevon Duval, Duke; Gary Trent Jr., Duke; Nick Ward, Michigan State; Cassius Winston, Michigan State; Bryce Brown, Auburn; Marcquise Reed, Clemson; Elijah Thomas, Clemson; Kenrich Williams, TCU; Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU; E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island; Jared Terrell, Rhode Island; Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall; Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall; Omer Yurtseven, NC State; Trae Holder, Arizona State; Shannon Evans II, Arizona State; Tyus Battle, Syracuse; Oshae Brissett, Syracuse; Zach Lofton, New Mexico State; Jemerrio Jones, New Mexico State; Grant Riller, College of Charleston; Nana Foulland, Bucknell; Zach Thomas, Bucknell; Rickey McGill, Iona; Ryan Betley, Penn. 



Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.
Email :Raphielle Johnson



Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days



Video Center

  •  
    NBA Waivers: Melton, Burks

    NBA Waivers: Melton, Burks
  •  
    Dose: Kittle explodes vs. DEN

    Dose: Kittle explodes vs. DEN
  •  
    Player News: Week 14

    Player News: Week 14
  •  
    Week 14 Starts: Baker Mayfield

    Week 14 Starts: Baker Mayfield
  •  
    Week 14 Sits: Mack, Peterson

    Week 14 Sits: Mack, Peterson
  •  
    Dose: Oh, Henry!

    Dose: Oh, Henry!
  •  
    DFS Analysis: Samuels, Allen

    DFS Analysis: Samuels, Allen
  •  
    Dose: Sanders Placed on IR

    Dose: Sanders Placed on IR