One weekend, four historic programs. Saturday, Louisville will battle Kentucky, and Ohio State will clash with Kansas for the opportunity to play in the National Championship game. These games contain numerous McDonald’s All-Americans, but there are five players who stand above the others.
1. Thomas Robinson- In my opinion Robinson deserves to be the National Player of the Year. Kansas lost both Morris twins and had two of their top recruits ruled ineligible, yet Robinson along with a masterful coaching job by Bill Self, lead the Jayhawks to their 8th straight Big 12 Championship and another Final Four appearance. Robinson is one of the most explosive players you will find at the college level and grabs rebounds at ridiculous rate. While our next player had an incredible season as well, Thomas Robinson has defined what it means to be a most valuable player.
2. Anthony Davis- Anthony Davis has had one of the best freshman seasons of all time. He is developing as an offensive player, but he is already an elite defender, a skill that will easily transfer over to the NBA. Averaging over 4 blocks a game, he impacts every possession due to his incredible length. His ability to run the floor complements the fast pace that his Kentucky team likes to use. Davis will likely be favored to win the National Player of the Year, but he is surrounded by a lot more talent than Robinson. That is no knock on Davis, as he leads the team that is currently favored to win it all.
3. Jared Sullinger- When Jared Sullinger announced his return to Ohio State last year, he stated his desire to win a National Championship. Well, now all that stands between him and that goal, are the 2 most important games in his entire life. While his stats did not improve much from his freshman year he remained one of the most effective post presences in college basketball. He did not lose any of the polish on his low post game, while also developing a respectable 3-point shot. The key for Sully is staying out of foul trouble; Ohio State is not the deepest team and despite the big performance of Amir Williams against Syracuse, Jared will need to be on the court for the Buckeyes to win the Championship.
4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- Here we have one of the hardest working players in the NCAA. He is not the best shooter, or most polished offensive player, but he makes up for it by playing and working harder than his opponents. Using his long arms and explosive leaping ability, Kidd-Gilchrist is able to disrupt a team’s rhythm or make a play when the Kentucky offense becomes stagnant. Coming from New Jersey powerhouse St. Patrick’s High School, Kidd-Gilchrist knows what its like to play in big games. I expect him to make a big impact in every game he plays in, whether it shows up in the box score or not.
5. Deshaun Thomas- There are a lot of players that could be considered for this last spot, but Thomas has stepped his game up big in the NCAA tournament and is arguably the most dangerous offensive player still playing. He’s averaging 22 points a game this tournament and has been a perfect complement to Jared Sullinger. Although he can be lackadaisical on defense, he has the size and ability to make plays. He can take the ball to the hole, but his biggest strength is his quick trigger; His shot gets out of his hand extremely quickly. If Ohio State wins the National Championship Deshaun Thomas will likely be the key.
Honorable Mentions: Gorgui Deng, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, Tyshawn Taylor