Friday, March 8, 2013

Conference Calling: Players to Watch for Championship Week (Part II)

Tuesday, we hit up the first batch of conference championships to point out some players who would make an impact. Some are still alive, some have already been sent home. (Looking at you, Alex Francis, although major props to first-year Mt. St. Mary's head coach Jamion Christian. Dude's done some good and fast work.)

Today, 10 more events, and then we hit up the rest tomorrow.

Read on after the jump.

Sun Belt: F Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette
--Dude's a freshman, but he's already one of the SBC's top five players. Averaged 19-13 against MTSU, and let's face it, this tournament is MTSU's world until proven otherwise. Long and Elfrid Payton may be the Belt's best inside-outside duo, with apologies to Marcos Knight and Shawn Jones.

America East: F Clancy Rugg, Vermont
--The Catamounts' leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, despite being only a part-time starter. Rugg will singlehandedly put opponents in foul trouble if given enough touches. His 80.8 FTR is top-10 in America, and he gets 36.3% of his points from the line, 11th nationally. If his raw FT% was better than 71.6, he'd be a 15-PPG man.

Colonial: G Sherrod Wright, George Mason
--To win this thing and get back to the dance, Mason will certainly have to go through Northeastern and most likely Delaware, winners of 10 of its last 12. Wright has been solid against NU (31 points on 44% shooting in two meetings) but has struggled against Delaware (32 on 30%). Wright will need to up his game, but if he does, GMU's always dangerous.

Summit: G Duke Mondy, Oakland
--All the press is about Bob Cousy Award finalist Nate Wolters, but bear in mind (Heh, bear? Grizzly? Anybody?) that Mondy brought serious noise against Wolters when Oakland beat South Dakota State last month. Mondy dropped 26 with six rebounds, six dimes and four steals. He put up 14 against Pitt, 16 versus Valpo and produced six steals against Michigan State. If Mondy goes off, Oakland's got plenty of firepower to win.

MEAC: F Stanton Kidd, North Carolina Central
--Norfolk State swept the league and has the tournament in its city. However, thanks to the size and scheduling quirks of the MEAC, second-place NC Central never got a shot at the Spartans. Kidd made his debut with 22 and 9 against Wichita State, and he later hung 19 and 8 on Marquette. The league's No. 3 scorer and top true shooter, Kidd may put up similar figures against the MEAC's top eFG defense in conference play.

Rare shot of backup PG outside his natural bench habitat.
MAC: G Carmelo Betancourt, Akron
--Wait, who? Betancourt (pictured right) averaged 1.8 points and 1.4 assists in only 9.4 MPG as a freshman, but he's your new starting point guard at Akron. Alex Abreu's suspension for weed trafficking thrusts Betancourt into the spotlight, and even if he can steer the Zips to the final, Ohio's D.J. Cooper may be licking his chops ready to carve the rookie up.

Big East: G Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
--The Irish have a balanced two-point guard attack led by Grant and Eric Atkins, but Grant, best known for dropping 12 points in 44 seconds to cause the first of five overtimes against Louisville, has asserted himself the last two games. He dropped 21 on both Marquette and St. John's, but ND was unable to defeat the Golden Eagles. If Grant's shot is falling, the Irish can take the whole event. If not, they could drop game one.

SWAC: G Malcolm Miller, Southern
--The APR has obliterated the SWAC. Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff's ineligibility leaves Southern University as the only winning team standing. Miller is one of the nation's top 20 true shooters at 65.5 percent, and if the Jaguars don't win this thing, it'll be because he went colder than Nancy Grace's heart.

WAC: F Chris Udofia, Denver
--Udofia was in the running for Sun Belt Player of the Year last season and should be in a similar position in the WAC this year. He carded a double-double against Cal in November and has dropped at least 10 points and five dimes in each of his last five games. The Pioneers lost their only meeting with league favorite Louisiana Tech, and improvement will start with Udofia.

Big 12: F Romero Osby, Oklahoma
--Osby is top-10 in the league in scoring, rebounding, blocks, FG% and FT%. He averaged 16 and 8 in his meetings with Kansas and Oklahoma State, both series ending in splits and making the Sooners the only team to beat both the Pokes and Jayhawks this season. OU has won four of its last five, and Osby's scored 23.4 PPG in that span on 63.8% shooting.

Check back tomorrow afternoon for the final batch.

1 comment:

  1. These great players are really doing their job and accelerate their talent and athleticism in every game they play. I will remember this list.

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