For the third consecutive year, the state of Illinois will not be represented by any teams during March Madness. Men's college basketball has been on a drought getting teams into the field of 64 the past few years, but there are still plenty of high school players from Illinois making up NCAA tournament rosters.
The 2016 NCAA tournament features 51 players who spent time playing high school basketball in Illinois and players from the Land of Lincoln are still finding plenty of success in the tournament. Since Florida won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007, seven of the last eight NCAA champions have featured a key player on the roster from the Chicagoland area. Only UConn in 2011 was without an area player, but local stars such as Sherron Collins (Kansas, Crane), Bobby Frasor (North Carolina, Brother Rice), Jon Scheyer (Duke, Glenbrook North), Anthony Davis (Kentucky, Perspectives/MSA), Wayne Blackshear (Louisville/Morgan Park), Ryan Boatright (UConn/East Aurora) and Jahlil Okafor (Duke/Whitney Young) have won titles over the past few years.
Here's a look at the 51 Illinois prep players appearing on NCAA tournament rosters and how they fared this season. For more CSN coverage of the 2016 NCAA tournament, be sure to check out Chris Boden's "Sad State" series on SportsNet Central this week. The four-part series began airing on Sunday night and runs through Wednesday night on the 10:30 p.m. edition of SportsNet Central.
KEY PLAYERS ON KEY TEAMS
- Jalen Brunson, Villanova (Stevenson) — The former Illinois Mr. Basketball is a key piece for Villanova as a freshman, averaging 9.9 points, 2.6 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game.
- Jevon Carter, West Virginia (Proviso East) — The sophomore guard led No. 3 seed West Virginia in minutes as Carter averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.
- James Farr, Xavier (Evanston) — One of the Big East's premier big men, the senior averaged 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Musketeers.
- Ethan Happ, Wisconsin (Rockridge) — The Big Ten's freshman of the year, the forward put up 12.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game while shooting 52 percent from the field.
- Roosevelt Jones, Butler (O'Fallon) — A senior veteran, Jones put up 14 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while making All-Big East second team honors.
- Abdel Nader, Iowa State (Niles North) — The senior averaged 13.1 points, 5.1 rebounds per game for the Cyclones while being one of the team's main perimeter threats.
- Tyler Ulis, Kentucky (Marian Catholic) — The SEC Player of the Year as a sophomore, Ulis averaged 17.2 points, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. Ulis will likely leave early for the 2016 NBA Draft and is getting buzz as a late first-round pick.
- Fred VanVleet, Wichita State (Rockford Auburn) — A two-time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, the senior averaged 12 points, 5.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game for the Shockers.
ROLE PLAYERS FROM BIG PROGRAMS
- Larry Austin, Xavier (Springfield Lanphier) — The sophomore guard was Xavier's backup point guard this season, averaging 1.9 points and 1.2 assists per game.
- Max Bielfeldt, Indiana (Peoria Notre Dame) — The Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year, the Michigan transfer big man has been huge for Indiana. Bielfeldt averaged 8.0 points, 4.5 rebounds per game as a senior.
- Myles Carter, Seton Hall (St. Rita) — As a freshman, the big man appeared in nine games and played in 32 total minutes.
- Kyle Davis, Dayton (Morgan Park) — The junior guard played a key role for Dayton this season, averaging 7.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
- Alvin Ellis, Michigan State (De La Salle) — During his junior season, Ellis came off the bench to average 2.7 points and 1.5 rebounds per game.
- Johnny Hill, Purdue (Glenbard East) — Transferred in to become one of the key guards for Purdue. The senior averaged 5.1 points, 2.7 rebounds per game.
- Charles Matthews, Kentucky (St. Rita) — The freshman played in every game for Kentucky this season, getting 10 minutes a game off the bench while averaging 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.
- Sean O'Mara, Xavier (Benet) — A reserve big man, O'Mara came off the bench to average 3.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game.
- Kendall Pollard, Dayton (Simeon) — The former Simeon product had a solid junior season, averaging 10.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.
- Gavin Schilling, Michigan State (De La Salle) — After dealing with injury the early part of the season, the junior big man averaged 3.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
- Kendall Stephens, Purdue (St. Charles East) — The junior hasn't seen consistent minutes since taking a leave from the team in January. Averaged 6.1 points, 1.3 rebounds per game for the season.
- Jamari Traylor, Kansas (Julian) — In his senior season, Traylor came off the bench for Kansas to average 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in a little under 14 minutes per game.
- Joe Toye, Vanderbilt (Whitney Young) — The freshman has played in 29 games this season and averaged 3.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in limited minutes.
- Christian Williams, Iowa (St. Teresa) — During his freshman year, Williams appeared in 17 games and averaged 5.3 minutes per game.
- Nick Zeisloft, Indiana (Lyons) — After transferring from Illinois State, Zeisloft has been a key reserve for the Hoosiers the last two seasons. Put up 6.8 points, 1.7 rebounds per game as a senior.
SMALL-SCHOOL PLAYERS TO WATCH
- Quinton Chievous, Hampton (Notre Dame) — The redshirt senior forward was one of the MEAC's best players this season, averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds per game on 57 percent shooting.
- Willie Conner, Buffalo (Crane) — A junior guard, Conner averaged 12.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game this season for the Bulls.
- Sam Downey, Yale (Lake Forest) — A key reserve for Yale, Downey averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game for the Bulldogs.
- Kalin Fisher, Hampton (Proviso East) — As a freshman, the guard came off the bench for Hampton to averaged 3.7 points per game.
- Aldonis Foote, Middle Tennessee (Peoria Central) — After spending time in junior college, the junior forward averaged 2.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game as a reserve.
- Brian Greene Jr., Florida Gulf Coast (Thornton) — The reserve guard fell out of the rotation and only appeared in 16 games this season, averaging 1.2 points per game.
- Marius Hill, Arkansas-Little Rock (Homewood-Flossmoor) — During his junior season, the forward averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest.
- Reginald Johnson Jr., Hampton (St. Joseph) — The senior guard led Hampton in scoring at 18.3 points per game while also averaging 4.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
- Tevin King, South Dakota State (Providence-St. Mel) — A reserve guard, King put up 3.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game during his freshman season.
- George Marshall, South Dakota State (Brooks) — A first-team, All-Summit League selection, the senior guard averaged 14.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
- Rayshaun McGrew, Stony Brook (Vocational) — The senior forward is a key player for the Seawolves, averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
- Khalil Small, Green Bay (Providence-St. Mel) — The sophomore guard averaged 9.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game for the Phoenix this season.
ALSO OF NOTE
- Peyton Allen, Wichita State (Chatham Glenwood) — Sitting out this season as a redshirt after transferring from Texas A&M. Will have three years left.
- Jackson Bax, Wisconsin (Lincoln-Way East) — Walk-on has appeared in two games this season.
- Brennan Besser, Duke (Latin School) — The walk-on appeared in one game this season.
- Kevin Coker, Xavier (Plainfield South) — Appeared in four games and attempted one field goal this season.
- Josh Cunningham, Dayton (Morgan Park) — Redshirted this season due to NCAA transfer restrictions after coming over from Bradley. Former Morgan Park star has three seasons of eligibility left.
- Michael Dowdy Jr., Seton Hall (U-High) — Has played in eight games and seen 13 minutes of action as a walk-on, totaling three points and four rebounds.
- Dylan Ennis, Oregon (Lake Forest Academy) — Senior guard transferred from Villanova and appeared in two games before ending his season with a foot injury. Will apply for sixth year of eligibility.
- Cole Gentry, South Dakota State, (St. Charles East) — The freshman point guard redshirted this season and will have four years of eligibility left.
- Brandon Hutton, Iowa (De La Salle) — Redshirting at Iowa as a freshman this season and will have four years of eligibility remaining.
- Kurt Karis, USC (Glenbrook North) — Walk-on guard is redshirting this season after transferring from Chicago State, due to NCAA transfer regulations.
- Robert Knar, Northern Iowa (Mundelein) — The guard has appeared in 11 games this season and played 34 total minutes, tallying 13 points and seven rebounds.
- Isaiah Moss, Iowa (Simeon) — Just like teammate Brandon Hutton, Moss is redshirting this season and will have four years left at Iowa.
- Stuart Nezlek, Iowa State (Fenwick) — Played in five games for Iowa State as walk-on, totaling two points and a rebound in eight minutes of action.
- Harrison Niego, Indiana (Lyons) — A freshman walk-on guard, Niego is starting to get more minutes for Indiana as he's appeared in 21 games and averages 5.1 minutes per game.
- Tom Planek, Providence (Fenwick) — Walk-on appeared in 12 games and played 31 total minutes, scoring six points.
- Bobby Wehrli, Dayton (Benet) — Saw action in 21 games as a walk-on this season, playing 118 minutes and contributing 20 points and 17 rebounds.
Teams with no Illinois players: Arizona, Austin Peay, Baylor, California, CSU Bakersfield, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Colorado, Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, Fresno State, Gonzaga, Hawaii, Holy Cross, Iona, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, Saint Joseph's, Southern, Stephen F. Austin, Syracuse, Temple, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UNC Asheville, UNC Wilmington, Utah, Virginia, VCU, Weber State