Everyone knows that names are made in March, last year being Jarrett Culver and Ja Morant. This year four players look to be the next Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, or Gordon Hayward to carry a lesser program to success in March Madness.
#13 Seton Hall (+1200): The Seton Hall Pirates sit atop the Big East conference with a 20-7 overall record and a 12-3 record in-conference. This team is carried by guard Myles Powell. His senior leadership is felt on and off the court as he commands the Pirates as the floor general. Outside of his leadership qualities, his 21.3 points per game also are a huge help for Seton Hall who were a preseason favorite to make some noise this season. Powell seems to fit the mold of the typical senior smaller point guard who scores in bunches and carries his team deep into March. Myles’ three-point shot hasn’t been hitting recently, and his attempts have gone increased, something he will need to fix going into the homestretch of this season. Powell and the Pirates have some very impressive wins and quality losses that will boost their resume come Selection Sunday. With wins against #7 Maryland, at #5 Butler, at #10 Villanova, #21 Butler, and losses against #3 MSU and #11 Oregon, and the potential for wins at Marquette, vs #12 Villanova, and at #10 Creighton, the Pirates could find themselves as high as a three seed in March Madness.
#16 Penn State (+4000): The Nittany Lions came crashing back to earth after back-to-back losses to unranked Indiana and Illinois. Before that game, Penn State was being carried up the rankings by senior forward Lamar Stevens. Stevens’ 18 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists, paired with an efficient 44.8% field goal percentage had Penn State shockingly atop the Big Ten standings. Penn State is currently a #4 seed in Joe Lunardi’s most recent projections, due to their 20-7 record and 10-6 Big Ten conference record. The six conference losses don’t look great, but anyone who follows the Big Ten knows that every single game is a battle no matter if you are playing at Michigan State or at home to Northwestern. While Lamar’s points and rebounds are actually worse than last season, all the key stats are up, steals, blocks, assists, shooting percentages, and turnovers are down. All of those stat changes signal that he’s on a more complete team this season so Penn State could match their football success with some on the hardwood.
Marquette (+6000): The Golden Eagles avoided total meltdown this season when senior guard Markus Howard elected to stay for his senior year. One of the most prolific scorers in the college game, Howard is averaging 27.1 points a game this year.
There’s not much else to the scouting report other than “Stop Markus” as if you can take him out of the game, you will win. Howard’s 5’ 11” frame makes him a liability on defense and in games like against Villanova, he was exposed on the defensive end and it led to him fouling out, giving the win to the Wildcats. The recent poor form of Marquette (17-9, 7-7 in-conference) could spell trouble for the rest of the field as absolutely no one will want to face Marquette if they fall to a #9 or #10 seed, if that happens, they will be a sexy upset pick in all bracket challenges. The Golden Eagles will look to make a deeper run than last year’s disappointing season as Howard and Marquette were upset by Ja Morant and Murray State in the first round of March Madness.
#18 Iowa (+5000): Iowa is another Big Ten team led by junior center, Luka Garza. Garza, who should win the Player of the Year Award in my opinion, is boasting a monster 23.7 points and 9.6 rebounds a game stat line. Garza reminds me of Ethan Happ, my mortal enemy and Wisconsin big man, as he completely dominates games and his team’s game plan. He might have a career at the next level as he can shoot the three ball at an impressive 38%, something many centers cannot do. Getting to the free throw line is another skill of Luka’s as he averages 6.4 attempts a game, making 4.1 of those. For the Hawkeyes themselves, they also have a 10-6 record in the Big Ten, and an overall record of 19-8. Their two non-conference losses were to DePaul and San Diego State. Those losses have stayed the same in their resume as DePaul looked to be red hot and flamed out, while at the time the Aztecs of SDSU were thought of as a fluke team but they obviously are not anymore. Currently a #6 seed in projections, look for the Hawkeyes to get hot and maybe even win the Big Ten tournament.