Best Players To Watch Out For At March Madness
It’s finally March Madness time and, like you, here at Bodog, we’ve got basketball on the brain. The First Four matches are scheduled for March 15-16 before we really get down for business on March 17-18 for the First Round. The madness will continue through to early April with the National Championship game taking place on Monday, April 4 at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The NCCA Tournament is about much more than simply getting our fill of great basketball entertainment; it’s a singularly rare opportunity to see the future stars of the NBA in action as they battle it out in one of the most high-pressure competitions in the sport. In the coming years, some of them will become a future Michael Jordan, Le Bron James, or Shaquille O’Neal… and you’ll have seen them as up-and-comers.
Over the next few weeks, these March Madness players will attempt to raise their profiles as all-star material, so you’d do worse than to watch them closely.
Chet Holmgren – Center, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Chet Holmgren didn’t enjoy the greatest of starts to his college career, despite being one of the most promising talents of the 2021 intake. He’s turned it around 180 degrees, though, to now be widely considered to be the #1 prospect for this year’s NBA Draft.
At 7ft, Holmgren is a giant among giants, and he’s unsurprisingly used his height to his advantage as a centre. This season, he’s averaged 14.2 points per game, a stat that is perhaps unjustly dragged down by his shaky start to the year, and not so representative of his promise. Towering over his opponents, Holmgren has also managed an average of 9.6 rebounds per game (277 in total), which is one of the best records in the league.
Despite being tall, Holmgren is lean. This doesn’t impede him as a tour de force on the court, though a little more mass would make him an even more formidable opponent. That said, what he lacks in weight, he more than makes up for in energy and drive, which he’s shown an endless supply of throughout this season.
Given that Holmgren is likely to declare for the NBA Draft in the coming weeks, 2022 will be Holmgren’s first and only March Madness. He’ll be hoping to go out with a bang by winning the tournament with Gonzaga.
Jaden Ivey – Guard, Purdue Boilermakers
The Purdue Boilermakers aren’t one of the favourites for this year’s March Madness, but victory is certainly not impossible, in part owning to the efforts of Jaden Ivey, a guard with an average of 17.3 points per game; a big step up on the 11.1 he managed last season.
In fact, Ivey has improved in just about every area in his second year of college-level basketball. He brings an impressive mix of power, speed, and explosiveness that make him difficult to stop on the court, at least when he’s bang on form. Despite struggling with a touch of inconsistency of late, Ivey has been winning the battle to get it under control, so it needn’t be too much of a concern for his March Madness prospects.
Like Holmgren, Ivey is expected to declare for the 2022 NBA Draft at his currently ranked #4 standing, so this may be his last chance to go for glory with the Boilermakers.
Johnny Davis – Guard, Wisconsin Badgers
Another guard to look out for is Johnny Davis. He’s picked up 19.7 points per game this season, an impressive accomplishment that reflects his ever-refining talents. What was most impressive, in the early January game against Purdue, was the 37 points that Davis netted, beside his 14 rebounds, accounting for 50% of the Badgers’ total haul.
Few pundits paid much attention to Davis as a freshman, and after averaging just 7 points in his first season, that’s unsurprising. But this season, something fundamental in Davis has changed, and he has matured into one of the NCAA’s most promising players. He’s a great all-rounder with strengths at either end of the court, which is why he’s carried his team for much of this year.
The Wisconsin Badgers aren’t looking to be likely contenders for this year’s tournament, but as one of the best players in March Madness 2022, Davis is reason enough to have eyes on their games.
Davis is another player expected to enter the NBA Draft this year and is considered widely to be a top-10 prospect.
Paolo Banchero – Forward, Duke Blue Devils
Paolo Banchero can almost never put a foot wrong. Through much of his college career, this impressive player has shown himself capable of being incredibly versatile and comfortable with one-on-one play, performing picks and rolls, and just about anything else he can do standing on two feet.
Banchero is both tall, at 6’ 10’’, and large, weighing 250 lbs, physical attributes that he has used to his advantage since starting his college career this season. In his freshman year, he managed an average of 17 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Banchero hasn’t had to build up to this level either, having burst out of the blocks on fire and only fanning those flames ever since. In his debut game for the Duke Blue Devils he scored 22 points, which earned him the ACC Freshman of the Week honour. Just weeks later, in a basket-tastic 107-81 victory over the Citadel Bulldogs, Banchero raised that achievement to a giddy 28 points and eight rebounds.
It’s these sorts of performances that have earned Banchero the ACC Rookie of the Year award and made him one of the key March Madness players to look out for in 2022.
Keep in mind that this jaunt is likely to be his one and only showing in the NCAA Tournament as he eyes off the NBA Draft in the spring. Banchero is currently ranked as the third-best prospect for the drafts, undoubtedly considered an asset for any team that snaps him up.
Thanks to these and other outstanding players, this year’s NCAA tournament is shaping up to be one of the best we’ve seen for several years. These powerhouses could make all the difference for their teams, so don’t underestimate their star-player impact on the court when you place your March Madness bets.
Image Credit: Steve Cheng, Bruin Report Online, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0