Before Stephen Curry was winning NBA titles and generally changing the face of pro basketball as we know it, he was the darling of the Big Dance.
In 2008, Curry led tiny Davidson to upset victories over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before narrowly falling to eventual national champion, Kansas. As much as the team that wins it all is remembered forever, there are certain players who leave a lasting impact on the NCAA tournament each year. Here are the candidates most likely to make multiple appearances in the 2016 edition of “One Shining Moment:”
Hield is most likely going to walk away with the National Player of the Year award and he’s already shown the ability to create magic in March. In the Big 12 tournament last week, Hield hit a halfcourt miracle that looked as though it lifted Oklahoma past West Virginia. Hield was just a fraction of a second late with his shot, but the image has been planted – Hield is capable of doing legit damage in this tournament. The Sooners’ 2-guard pumped in 46 points in a game against Kansas earlier this season.
The smooth senior guard is averaging 19.4 points per game for Michigan State, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. Despite the Spartans’ powerhouse program history, Valentine’s story falls in the Cinderella category. He was not highly recruited out of high school and is a Lansing, Michigan product. In 2000, home-state hero Mateen Cleaves led the Spartans to a National title. Can Valentine bring the title home to Lansing for the first time in 16 years?
Unlike the NBA, you can still win a title without having one of the top two or three players in the sport. Josh Hart (15.5), Kris Jenkins (13.3) and Ryan Arciadacono (11.9) all average double-figures in points for the Wildcats. If the dream All-Philly matchup of ’Nova vs. Temple goes down in Round 2, watch for Hart to avenge his performance against the Owls from the last time out. Hart had a season-low four points against Temple in February.
It’d be easy to see an “I hate Grayson Allen” documentary popping up in 20 years or so as the Duke star has taken the Christian Laettner/JJ Redick/Jon Scheyer torch as the most hated player in America. Allen is a serial tripper (read: he’s blatantly tripped two opponents during games this season) and if you play for Duke that constitutes you as an instant heel. The dirty (emphasis on dirty) little secret here is that Allen can play as he saw his scoring average jump 17.2 points this season to 21.6 per game.
Dunn is getting NBA lottery buzz as he’s the best play-maker in this tournament. He reads the floor like no other and if the old March Madness cliché of “it’s a guard’s tournament” is true, then look for Dunn to lead the ninth-seeded Friars past USC in the first round and maybe – just maybe – past No. 1 seed North Carolina this weekend.