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Second Round Impact Players


Mike Miller

Some teams won their second round game because of a team effort, but others won because of individual performances. In the NCAA tournament a team will do whatever it takes to win, even if that mean’s riding on the coattails of just one player. Ask Norfolk State and Lehigh if they would swap their upset victories for a more balanced team effort. You probably know what the answer is going to be.

The following is a list of the guys who carried their teams to victory in the Second Round and are capable of doing it again:

Jason Clark, Georgetown:
Clark was to Georgetown what Jenkins was to Vanderbilt. He’s the team’s most veteran player and along with having a smooth touch, he’s capable of mixing it up with the big guys.
If he doesn’t show up: Hollis Thompson
The lanky forward had an off-game against Belmont, but he’s an athletic forward who can heat up in a hurry and shot 7-for-9 against NC-State last season when the two teams met in the finals of the Charleston Classic.

Tu Holloway, Xavier:
He’s a big-game player. Regardless of what happened in the regular season, Holloway is going to bring it when it matters most. He took over the latter stages of Xavier’s 67-63 victory over Notre Dame, and if he has to do it again in the third round, he will.
If he doesn’t show up: Dez Wells
He may only be a freshman, but he has athleticism for days. He also doesn’t play like a freshman. He has confidence and swagger.

John Jenkins, Vanderbilt:
The Commodores finally got a tournament opening win, and it was due in large part to John Jenkins hot shooting against Harvard in the second round. Jenkins has one of the smoothest strokes in the country and can hit a shot from anywhere. Facing a suffocating Wisconsin defense, Jenkins will have to make accurate and well-timed shots. Which he’s more than capable of doing.
If he doesn’t show up: Jeffery Taylor
Taylor can do just about everything. He’s a great shooter and an incredible athlete. If Vandy needs a big shot, he’ll take it. If they need a big rebound, he’ll go grab it.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh:
This kid is an impact player every time he steps on the floor. He scored 30 points along with six assists and six rebounds. This was the sixth time this season he has scored at least 30 points and the 22nd time he scored 20 or more points. Lehigh’s tournament future rests squarely on his shoulders, and he’s more than capable of delivering.
If he doesn’t show up: Gabe Knutson
The junior forward was 5-for-5 from the field and hit several key free throws down the stretch. With everybody keying in on C.J. McCollum, Knutson can be the guy to pick up the slack offensively.

Rodney McGruder, Kansas State:
The DC-native logged his third 30-point performance of the season as the wildcats defeated Southern Mississippi in the 8/9 game. If there is one player on K-State’s roster that has the ability to keep the team in any game they play, it’s McGruder. If the Wildcats can get Jordan Henriquez to him assert himself down low early on, it allow McGruder to get more open looks from the outside, which tends to be a weakness of Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
If he doesn’t show up: Jordan Henriquez
Syracuse struggles on the defensive glass, and K-State excels on the offensive glass. That sets up nicely for Henriquez to have another big game.

Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State:
The Spartan’s historic victory over Missouri was led by the center’s dominant performance, as he logged 24 points and 16 rebounds. He had more rebounds than the top three Missouri players combined. Luckily for Norfolk State they play another small team in the third round. Florida will throw Alex Young at Kyle O’Quinn, but if he can put on a similar performance, the Spartans have a very good chance at pulling another monumental upset.
If he doesn’t show up: Pendarvis Williams
Williams was 4-for-4 from behind the arc against Missouri and is the team’s best outside shooter. If they are going to keep up with the Gators’ streaky shooters, he is going to have to be on-target.

Troy Machir is the managing editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @TroyMachir.