Basketball players knew Stephen Curry before he took Davidson to the edge of the Final Four in 2008. But that’s where the future NBA MVP – and possibly the Hall of Famer – was introduced to the rest. from the country.
And that’s one of the things that’s so great about the NCAA tournament, the rest of the country meets the amazing players who have played at a superstar level outside of the limelight. The list of these players is long and spectacular. Stroll the way of memory.
And now, here are five players who could join this list of famous Cinderella in 2021.
Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
Let’s start with this: Abmas led all Division I scorers with 24.2 points per game. It’s a good place to start a roster of players from double-digit seeds that could lead their teams to a thwarted victory, right? Abmas, a 6-1 sophomore, had a four-game streak in February when he scored 37.3 points per game, and he’s knocked down at least four 3-pointers in one game 13 times this year. It shoots 43.3% beyond the arc. And he’s not intimidated by “bigger” competition; Abmas scored 33 against Oklahoma State, 28 against Wichita State and 20 against Oklahoma – three big teams in the NCAA tournament – at the start of the season. No.2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes will present a tall order for the 15-seeded Golden Eagles, but a little Abmas magic could make it interesting.
Isaiah Miller, UNCG
I watched Miller in person a few times during his first season, and it was immediately obvious that this kid was special. He was the best player on the pitch at times, even though they were a very good UNCG team – the Spartans went 27-8, won the SoCon tournament and pushed Gonzaga to the brink before losing, 68-64, in the first round of the NCAA tournament – with lots of juniors and seniors filling key roles. This year, his senior season, Miller is averaging 19.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.6 steals per game. He’s only 6 feet tall, but he earns his living inside the arch; he’s only made 10 3 points all season. He is in the top 10 in three categories in the KenPom rankings: sixth for stealing percentage, fourth for possession percentage and sixth for shooting percentage. Make no mistake about it, as Miller says, the same goes for UNCG. And he’s on a roll now, averaging 25.4 points in his last five games.
Chandler Vaudrin, Winthrop
Vaudrin isn’t the same type of goalscorer as the others on this list, but his impact is undeniable. First thing, he’s a 6-7 leader. Oh, and he’s left-handed. One more: he transferred to Winthrop from a Division II school, Walsh University. Yeah. He’s recorded eight career triple-doubles (most of all active DI players) and averaged 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. His 38.5 assist rate is the ninth in the country – and the best of any NCAA tournament player – as seen on KenPom.com. There’s a reason the Eagles – who are 23-1 this year – are a fashionable choice in their 12v5 game with Villanova, and it starts with Vaudrin.
Jason Preston, Ohio
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better story in the tournament. Preston didn’t play much on a very talented high school team and needed a highlight strip just to get all the college’s attention. Ohio loved Preston’s talent, and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, he’s still making history as a junior. Preston grabbed the nation’s attention in November, when Ohio visited Illinois and gave the host team – and possibly the No.1 seed – all they could. manage. Preston was phenomenal, scoring 31 points on 13 of 23 shots, distributing eight assists and racking up six rebounds, while not initiating a turnaround in 37 minutes. A great NCAA tournament performance from the 6-4 junior point guard could further bolster his already rising NBA draft stock.
Torrey Patton, State of Cleveland
Look, this wouldn’t be the first time a Cleveland State team has sent shockwaves through the NCAA tournament. In 1986, the 14-seeded Vikings beat Indiana in the first round and then Saint Joseph in the second round to reach Sweet 16. Patton is the kind of player who could lead Cleveland State to another miracle. He scored 23 points in the Horizon League championship, having collected 30 points in the opener and 14 in the semi-finals. He’s a 6-5 guard who loves to come in and mix things up; he’s grabbed double-digit rebounds in four straight games. And, yes, it might be a long time to think that Cleveland State could overthrow the No.2 seed Houston in the opener, but in November the Vikings played another team that ended up on the line of the 2 seeds (Ohio State) and only lost by six points.