Every year, one of my favorite reasons to watch the NCAA Tournament is to see Cinderellas not only make it to the ball, but to dance for a couple songs. This year, there are 12 guys that have a chance to do just that and bust your bracket. If you don’t already know about ’em, you will after the first two days of the tourney…
Kevin Tiggs, Courtney Pigram & Mike Smith, East Tennessee State
While everyone thinks that East Tennessee State is going to lose miserably to Pittsburgh, there are three guys that I know think differently. Averaging 21.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game, senior forward Kevin Tiggs from Flint, Michigan is going to be a problem. Partner him with senior PG Courtney Pigram (17.6 points, 4.2 assists and 3.4 boards) and junior SG Mike Smith (15.5 points, 7.7 board and 2.1 assists), and the Buccaneers have at least a shot at the impossible.
Ben Woodside & Brett Winkelman, North Dakota State
You may have seen 5-foot-11 Ben Woodside earlier this season on SportsCenter when the fifth-year senior dropped 60 points in a neutral-court, triple-OT loss to tourney-bound Stephen F. Austin. Averaging 22.8 points, 6.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 43% from beyond the arc, Woodside can wreak havoc against Kansas’ backcourt in the first round and give the Bison a chance at the upset. At the same time, Woodside’s teammate Brett Winkelman is equally as dangerous. Also a fifth-year senior, Winkelman averaged 18.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, and at 6-foot-6 is even harder to pin down.
Stephen McDowell & Nicchaeus Doaks, Chattanooga
With a tough first round draw of Connecticut, Stephen McDowell isn’t worried. He gets up for the big games. Earlier this year at Davidson, McDowell dropped 31 points on Stephen Curry when the Wildcats were ranked No. 22 in the country. While Kemba Walker‘s defense is a little better than Curry’s, expect a big outing from the 5-foot-11 senior guard. The other senior looking to make a name for himself is Nicchaeus Doaks. With 10 double-doubles on the year, and averages of 13.9 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, Doaks will be an interesting matchup for the UConn bigs.
Gary Wilkinson, Utah State
At 26-years-old, Gary Wilkinson has only played a few years of organized ball. But don’t let that fool you. Averaging 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, Wilkinson has already guided the Aggies to 30 wins this season, and a legitimate chance to upset Marquette in the first round.
D.J. Rivera, Binghamton
As a fan of the Vermont Catamounts, I unfortunately had to hear the name D.J. Rivera all season as he tore through the America East. After averaging under five points per game a year ago, Rivera exploded on the scene averaging 20.0 points and 6.5 rebounds this season. In a first round matchup against Duke, look for Rivera to give the Blue Devils all they can handle.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
The great thing for Kenneth Faried is that of everyone on this list, he has the best shot at winning a game in this year’s tournament. Matched up with Alabama State in Tuesday’s play-in game, Faried will put on a show. Averaging 13.9 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, along with almost two blocks and two steals, at 6-foot-8 and only a sophomore, watch out.
Brandon Brooks, Alabama State
A lot of great point guards come out of Dallas, and Brandon Brooks is one of them. Averaging 13.8 points, 6.8 assists and 4.1 boards per game, Brooks fills up the stat sheet and is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the court. Much like Faried, Brooks is looking to add NCAA Tournament victory to his resume this year.
Cedric Jackson, Cleveland State
Remember this guy? Well, I’m sure Syracuse does. Cedric Jackson just simply gets it done. Averaging 10.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 3.0 steals per game, Jackson is a threat on both ends of the floor. While many people think Wake Forest can make some noise in the tournament this year, they’re going to have to get through Jackson and the Vikings first.
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