Under-the-Radar Players in the NCAA Tournament
Via Icon Sportswire/Getty Images. Pictured: Malachi Smith
Every season one unknown player inks his name in NCAA tournament history forever by carrying a program to an unforeseen run. Last season, I highlighted Max Abmas as an under-the-radar player before he caught national attention by leading Oral Roberts past Ohio State and Florida to the Sweet Sixteen.
This article is designed to highlight some of the top talent in the NCAA tournament that will be the reason your bracket is busted. Below I dive into the best players you may not have heard of yet but may never forget after the madness.
Baylor Scheierman, South Dakota State
Baylor Scheierman is one of the more unorthodox players that you will watch during the Madness. He’s the primary ball handler despite his six-foot-six frame and rarely comes off the floor for the Jackrabbits.
The third-year sophomore is the jack-of-all trades averaging 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists per contest. Scheierman can score at all three levels by hitting 55% on 2-point field goal attempts, 48% from 3-point territory, and 81% from the charity stripe. He’s capable of going coast-to-coast on a defensive board but would rather find an open teammate with his court vision.
South Dakota State Men’s 🏀
Overall (17-4) Conference (8-0)
Baylor Scheierman (@playforhim3) leads the conference in rebounding & assists while putting up 15 PPG on 50% shooting from 3
The 6’6 PG is steadily proving himself to be one of the best players in all the land pic.twitter.com/4OLNIiN9jL
— Tanner Castora (@Tanner_Castora) January 26, 2022
Scheierman utilizes his frame well and takes advantage of small opposing guards with a sweet mid-range jumper. He will likely match up against Providence’s point guard Jared Bynum, who stands 5-foot-10.
Tevin Brown, Murray State
Tevin Brown has been shooting up NBA draft boards thanks to his long-range shooting. Brown is a six-foot-five guard who has caught fire from downtown this season and averages 17 points per game.
The senior guard has connected on the ninth-most outside shots in the country, hitting 100-of-257 attempts (39%). Brown has emerged as the Ohio Valley Conference all-time 3-point leader having made 348.
Everyone remembers the 2019 Murray State team that defeated Marquette in the first round. Tevin Brown was the leading scorer for the Racers in that game and has tournament experience. He’s going to be an essential part of Murray State’s success in potentially making a run, especially with a first-round match up against a San Francisco program that relies on backcourt scoring.
Malachi Smith, Chattanooga
Malachi Smith is a pure bucket. The sophomore guard is averaging 20 points while shooting 51% from the field, 42% from behind the arc, and 83% from the free throw line. He dominated Murray State earlier in the season by exploding for 36 points while hitting 14-of-17 from the field. The point guard also snatches seven boards while dishing out three assists per game.
Not often does a 20-point scorer defend with the intensity that Smith does. He leads the team with 54 steals and uses his wide frame to body up opposing guards.
Besides the game winner, this is the other possession from Chattanooga’s win that sticks out to me
Lockdown on-ball defense from Malachi Smith on Furman’s best scorer to end the half. Felt like momentum shifted here.
*That defense is coming from a 20 PPG scorer btw🤨 pic.twitter.com/rtB6eLLLIk
— Cody Larson (@Codylarson99) March 8, 2022
If Chattanooga is to make some noise by upsetting Illinois, it will be because Malachi Smith explodes for another monster game.
Jordan "Jelly" Walker, UAB
Houston’s head coach Kelvin Sampson said he “hasn’t seen anybody as dynamic” as UAB’s Jordan Walker. That’s an appropriate evaluation of the Blazer’s point guard who will carried the program through the Conference USA tournament.
Jordan “Jelly” Walker averages over 20 points per game with virtually unlimited range from outside. He’s connected on 41% of his 283 3-point attempts this season and thrives at getting to the charity stripe where he hits 88%. The five-foot-11 point guard is the primary ball handler that makes everyone around him better, proven through his 163 assists this season.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 11, 2022
Jordan Walker can take over a game as he showed in his two 40-point efforts against Middle Tennessee State. If the game is on the line against Houston, you can be sure that he will have the ball in his hands.