March Madness 2014 Preview: From Dust We All Come, And To Star Dust Some Return (Part 3)

By: Josh Wasserman.

For our final installment of FSLR’s Player’s Guide to March Madness 2014, we will divulge a few candidates for breakout players of the tournament.

As Stephen Curry did so many years ago with Davidson, a small crop of players always emerge from the tournament buzzing with praise they had never heard before March.

Either they had come from small teams who hadn’t received any press, or they were relatively underappreciated pieces of largely hyped teams. Regardless of where they come from, their stories make us teem with excitement at their NBA prospects (everyone knows that nothing can accelerate draft stock faster than the astronomic rise of players under the magnified scrutiny and pressure of the tournament). And now we present to you our final portion of the Player’s Guide to March Madness 2014.

Lamar Patterson, G, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh has done amazingly well this year despite the toughness of their schedule, narrowly losing to Virginia in the conference semi-finals and watching a prayer of a shot from Tyler Ennis at the buzzer go in the basket to clinch a Syracuse win back in February.

This is not to detract from their solid wins against UNC, North Carolina State, and Stanford. The Panthers, who thrive off of their quick passing scheme, have much of their success to owe to senior point guard Lamar Patterson. Patterson has scored double digit points in every game since February 8 and has played the distributor role admirably as he is leading the team with over four assists per game.

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Though he takes a lot of shots as a point guard, his conversion rate is incredible, scoring at a 45% clip from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Patterson’s multidimensionality could be the key to Pittsburgh’s success, especially with a winnable first round game on the horizon against a Spencer Dinwiddie-less Colorado.

Jacob Parker, F, Stephen F. Austin

Picked by many to be a possible Cinderella this tournament (as Editor-in-Chief Dylan Elder has in his earlier article), Stephen F. Austin carries one of the best records in the country heading into tournament play. They average 76.5 points a game (good for 45th in the country), tally 16.6 assists per game (8th in the NCAA), and shoot 46.4% from the field (67th nationwide).

Much of the production in the first and last categories comes from junior forward Jacob Parker. Averaging 14.2 points a game, Parker torches opponents from anywhere on the floor. He rains from three-point land at a 46.7% mark and converts field goals at a 54.3% rate, meaning he makes every other shot he takes!

Furthermore, though only 6’6”, his tenacity on the boards is evidenced by his 7.1 rebounds per game. Critics doubt whether the Lumberjacks can handle a real opponent (a similar gripe has been made all year about #1 seed Wichita State). However, if Stephen F. Austin is legitimate, you can bet Parker’s play will be leading the way.

Bryce Cotton, G, Providence

A week after losing to Creighton in conference play and a month after a devastating loss to Villanova in double overtime, the Friars went on a tear to claim the Big East title, with the final win coming against Creighton at Madison Square Garden.

Many may not have heard of him, but the clutch figure at the core of Providence’s upset win was senior guard Bryce Cotton. His 23 points that night were merely a shade over his season average, and his 1 assist was far below his average mark of 6. On only ten occasions has Cotton failed to put up 20 points, the entire year!

Undoubtedly the center of the team, Cotton has never cowered from the pressure of the game, always rising above and willing his team to victory. His play extends beyond his scoring ability as well: he totals about 6 assists and 4 rebounds a game in conjunction with his 21.4 PPG. Coming off a scorching run through the Big East tournament, I predict Providence to shock UNC and march into the second round, with Bryce Cotton calmly carrying the team the whole way.

Terran Petteway, G/F, Nebraska

It’s hard to make a name for yourself among a crowded division of perennial powerhouses including title favorites Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. However, Nebraska has managed to make some noise after topping Indiana twice, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin just two weeks ago.

Terran Petteway, the hybrid guard/forward, has a lot to do with Nebraska’s surprising potency. Petteway posted a double-double in the win against Wisconsin with 26 points and 10 rebounds, even though he’s been averaging 18 and 5 on the season.

His recent success isn’t surprising as he has scored 10+ points in every game but two this year. But if he’s playing above his average under extreme pressure (he scored 20 points against Ohio State in a loss the next round of the Big 10 tournament), that can only bode well for the Cornhuskers, who will count on Petteway to help them through their tough first round matchup against Baylor.

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Cady Lalanne, F/C, UMass

UMass are one of those scrutinized high seeds. One that was placed as the favorite, but is made out to be the underdog. That being said, to blindly write off the Minutemen would be a mistake, as further research would find that they rank in the top 40 in the NCAA in rebounds and assists per game, while also averaging 76.1 points a game on top of that.

They’ve taken down University of New Mexico, BYU, VCU, George Washington, and St. Joe’s, all tournament teams. And a pillar (physically and metaphorically) of their success has been 6’10” forward Cady Lalanne. He dominates the boards, grabbing 8 a game while putting up more than 11 points as well.

On the defensive side, he swats away northwards of two shots a game, within the top 50 in the country. His defensive and offensive energy make him an invaluable piece of the UMass squad looking to turn some heads.

Feel free to agree or disagree with the selections in the comments below!

All stats courtesy of espn.com

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