By Jon Rothstein
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CHANE BEHANAN, LOUISVILLE
Built like a blacksmith, Behanan is a key member of the Cardinals’ front court. The 6-6, 250 pound power forward had struggled throughout the month of March, but the broad shouldered sophomore proved his worth in Louisville’s win over Duke. In 25 minutes against the Blue Devils, Behanan scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds, giving the Cardinals a bruising presence in the paint. Gorgui Dieng may be the focal point of Louisville’s baseline, but Behanan is a space eater. The sophomore would be a star in any other program, but at Louisville, he’s just a piece to the puzzle.
FRED VAN VLEET, WICHITA STATE
He’s not a freshman anymore. Van Vleet has played some his best basketball in the NCAA Tournament, and scored in double figures in two of the past three games. The 5-11 floor general was a Top-100 recruit coming out of high school, and has given Wichita State a second capable ball handler next to Malcolm Armstead. Look for Gregg Marshall to regularly use that duo together on Saturday in hopes of breaking Louisville’s tenacious full-court pressure.
BAYE KEITA, SYRACUSE
It’s not shots blocked, it’s shots altered. Keita is still incredibly limited offensively, but his presence in the middle of Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone has been enormous in the NCAA Tournament. The 6-10 big man forces opponents into low percentage shots each time they touch the ball in middle of the paint, and single handedly changes the complexion of the Orange defense. The native of Senegal has blocked seven shots in four NCAA Tournament games.
SPIKE ALBRECHT, MICHIGAN
How can a player that’s only scored 13 points in the last three games be so important? It’s real simple. Albrecht’s presence takes immense pressure off Trey Burke and allows the Wolverines’ star to play off the ball and attack more offensively. The freshman floor general is also a capable decision maker and a “ball mover” on offense. Michigan’s vast array of weapons is at their best when they’re getting high percentage looks, and Albrecht is a big part of that. This is an underrated piece for the Wolverines.
Who would you pick to be on this list? Sound off in the comments…