Who are potential Cinderella Stars at March Madness 2021?
|March Madness 2021. Photo: Denverpost|
Basketball people knew Stephen Curry before he led Davidson to the brink of the Final Four in 2008. But that’s where the future NBA MVP – and eventually Hall of Famer – was introduced to the rest of the world. country.
And that’s one of the wonderful things about the NCAA Tournament, the rest of the country meets outstanding players who have been playing at a superstar level out of the spotlight. The list of those players is long and spectacular. Take a walk down memory lane. And now, here are five players who could join that list of Famous Cinderellas in 2021.
1. Max Abmas, Oral Roberts
Let’s start with this: Abmas led all Division I scorers at 24.2 points per game. That’s a good place to start a list of players from double-digit seeds that could carry their teams to an upset victory, wouldn’t you say? Abmas, a 6-1 sophomore, had a four-game stretch in February when he scored 37.3 points per game, and he knocked down at least four 3-pointers in a game 13 times this year. He’s shooting 43.3 percent 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 NCAA Tournament at-large teams — early this season. The No. 2 seed Ohio State Buckeyes will present a significant challenge for the 15-seeded Golden Eagles, but a little Abmas magic could make that one interesting, Sportingnews noted.
2. Isaiah Miller, UNCG
I watched Miller in person a couple times during his freshman season, and it was immediately obvious this kid was special. He was the best player on the court at times, even though that was a very good UNCG team — the Spartans went 27-8, won the SoCon Tournament and pushed 4-seed Gonzaga to the brink before losing, 68-64, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament — with a lot 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-foot, but he makes his living inside the arc; he’s only made 10 3-pointers all season. He’s top 10 in three categories on the KenPom leaderboards: sixth in steal percentage, fourth in possession percentage and sixth in shot percentage. Make no mistake, as Miller goes, so goes UNCG. And he’s on a roll now, averaging 25.4 points in his past five contests.
3. Chandler Vaudrin, Winthrop
Vaudrin isn’t the same type of scorer as the others on this list, but his impact is undeniable. First, it’s a 6-7 base. Oh, and he’s left-handed. One more: he transferred to Winthrop from a Division II school, Walsh University.
Yes. He has recorded eight career triples-doubles (the most of any active DI player) and averaged 12.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game. His attendance rate of 38.5 is the ninth in the nation, and the best of any player in the NCAA Tournament, as seen on KenPom.com. There’s a reason the Eagles, who are 23-1 this year, are a hot pick in their 12v5 game with Villanova, and it starts with Vaudrin, Digismak noted.
4. Jason Preston, Ohio
It will be difficult to find a better story in the tournament. Preston didn’t play much on a very talented high school team and needed a highlights film just to get the attention of colleges. Ohio liked Preston’s talent, and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, he’s still making junior history. Preston caught the nation’s attention in November, when Ohio went to Illinois and gave the host team, and eventual No. 1 seed, all they could.
Preston was phenomenal, scoring 31 points on 13 of 23 shots, dishing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds, while committing zero turnovers in 37 minutes. A great performance in the NCAA Tournament by the 6-4 junior point guard could further boost his NBA Draft stock, which is already on the rise.
5. 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 the 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, after adding 30 in the first game and 14 in the semifinal. He’s a 6-5 point guard who loves to get in and mix in; he’s had double-digit rebounds in four straight games. And, yes, it’s maybe a long shot to think that Cleveland State could beat No. 2 seed Houston in Game 1, but in November, the Vikings played another team that finished at the 2-seeded line (Ohio State ) and only lost by six points.
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