NCAA Tournament: 68 people who will impact the 68-team tournament

by Berry Tramel Published: March 18, 2013
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Here is a look at 68 people who will impact the 68-team NCAA Tournament:

1. Shane Larkin: High times for the Larkin family. Barry Larkin went into the Baseball Hall of Fame last July. Now his son could lead Miami U. to the Final Four. Shane Larkin, a sophomore, has ignited the Hurricanes' rise to college hoops' elite.

2. Ryan Kelly: The 6-foot-11 Duke senior missed 13 games with a foot injury but returned March 2 to score 36 points in a win over Miami. Kelly also fortifies the Blue Devil defense and makes Duke the tournament favorite.

3. Doug Gottlieb: The former Eddie Sutton point guard jumped to CBS from ESPN for this reason. To be part of the March Madness broadcasts. Gottlieb will call games the first weekend, then move to the studio for the regional round.

4. Otto Porter Jr.: The 6-foot-8 Georgetown sophomore was not a ballyhooed recruit, but Porter has turned into one of America's best players. The Big East Player of the Year has been compared to Tayshaun Prince.

5. Jim Crews: The Saint Louis U. coach played on Bobby Knight's undefeated 1976 Indiana team, then coached Evansville to four NCAAs during a 17-year run as the Purple Aces coach. He was named Saint Louis' interim coach in August, when Rick Majerus took a medical leave of absence. Majerus died in December, and now Crews has the Billikens riding high.

6. Marcus Smart: OSU's point guard is the national freshman of the year, and here's an oft-overlooked part of his game. Smart has a nose for the ball. He's third nationally in steals per game, 2.9, and Smart has a chance to overtake leader Duke Mondy of Oakland.

7. Juvonte Reddic: The most productive player of the four veterans off Virginia Commonwealth's 2011 Final Four team, Reddic is averaging 14.3 points a game. Reddic didn't start on the Final Four team; Shaka Smart has retooled the Rams into another contender.

8. Mike Bobinski: The transient nature of college basketball, with players transferring and coaches jumping jobs, extends to the administrators. Bobinski, the Xavier athletic director and chairman of the basketball selection committee, becomes AD at Georgia Tech on April 1, the week of the Final Four.

9. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: A college basketball success story, the Zags' 7-foot center was a role player for two seasons, then redshirted a year ago. Now he's a first-team all-American.

10. Rotnei Clarke: If it seems like Oklahomans have been watching Clarke play for a decade, it's because they have. The high school legend from Verdigris is about to close out a collegiate career at Butler, where in his first season since transferring from Arkansas, Clarke is averaging 16.7 points a game.

11. Jamie Dixon: The Pitt coach has overseen his share of March Madness moments. But Dixon produced his own miracle moment — a desperation, 30-foot one-handed shot at the buzzer that gave TCU a 55-54 victory over Texas in February 1986 and propelled the Frogs to the Southwest Conference title. Maybe the most famous shot in SWC history.

12. Victor Oladipo: The Indiana shooting guard is not your prototypical Hoosier — his athletic explosiveness and efficient shooting make for a unique talent befitting a first-team all-American.

13. Alec Baldwin: The actor has teamed with Charles Barkley for a series of Capital One commercials, rife with comedy. Advertising during March Madness is big business; the commercial payments surpassed $1 billion last season, and a 30-second spot during the NCAA title game goes for $1.5 million.

14. Angel Rodriguez: The point guard, a defensive pest who sets the tone for Kansas State, is following the path of another Puerto Rican Wildcat star, Denis Clemente, who also played high school basketball in Miami.

15. Buzz Williams: The Oklahoma City University graduate, considered the leading candidate for the OU job that eventually went to Lon Kruger, now is 5-for-5 with Marquette. Five years as head coach, five NCAA Tournaments, only this time, with a Big East co-championship.

16. Shabazz Muhammad: The freshman led UCLA to the Pac-12 title, and he's headed to the NBA — his coach, Ben Howland, even announced it, without checking with Muhammad. Will his head be in the tournament?

17. Rachel Nichols: The exodus of ESPN's female reporters continues, with Nichols joining Turner Sports and CNN. She will work the sidelines the first weekend with the broadcast crew of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery. Talk about an all-star cast.

18. Mike Muscala: The 6-foot-11 Bucknell strong man might be the nation's most productive player — he's 27th nationally in scoring (19.0) and fourth in rebounding (11.2). He's considered an NBA prospect. Coming out of high school in Minnesota, Muscala was offered scholarships only by Bucknell, North Dakota State and South Dakota.

19. Russ Smith: The Louisville guard has stayed in Rick Pitino's doghouse through much of his three-year career, but Smith has blossomed this season. He still makes goofy plays that send Pitino into orbit, but now the great plays exceed the ridiculous plays.

20. Craig Thompson: Heady days for the Mountain West commissioner. Not only has he stabilized his league's future, football-wise, but his basketball is exquisite. Five Mountain West teams are in the field, same as last season, and the MWC is the No. 1-ranked conference in the nation by the RPI.

21. Doug McDermott: You know all about the 50-40-90 club Kevin Durant is trying to join. How about the 60-50-90 club? McDermott, a Creighton junior, is threatening. He's shooting 56.1 percent on two-point shots, 49.7 percent on 3-point shots and 86.0 percent on foul shots.

22. Aaron Craft: The Ohio State point guard has joined the Bobby Hurley Club; Craft is among the nation's most hated players by opposing fan bases. He's small, pesky, white, hard-nosed and beats you with things other than his shooting.

23. Ernie Johnson: The CBS/TNT partnership shone the spotlight on NBA experts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith a year ago, but the real prize is Johnson, the best studio host in the business.

24. Allen Crabbe: The 6-foot-6 Cal-Berkeley wing is the Pac-12 Player of the Year. Crabbe played high school at Los Angeles' Frederick K.C. Price High School, which is named after Crabbe's grandfather, the pastor of an LA megachurch.

25. Roman Banks: The Southern U. coach knows a thing or two about being an underdog. As Northwestern Louisiana's point guard in December 1988, Banks helped engineer one of the biggest upsets in college hoops history. The Demons, picked last in the Southland Conference, beat Eddie Sutton's Kentucky team 85-82 at Rupp Arena.

26. Brandon Harris: The Northwest Classen graduate went to Alva and played at Northwestern State. Then he transferred to Otero (Colo.) Junior College and now is a junior at Western Kentucky, where he's averaging 8.3 points a game.

27. Kevin Parrom: The Arizona senior is averaging 8.3 points a game after his junior season was jeopardized by a gunshot wound. In September 2011, Parrom was shot in the left hand and right knee while in New York, visiting his ill mother. A man pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted murder.

28. Romero Osby: The OU star forward went to the NCAA Tournament with Mississippi State in 2009 but didn't play. Now he's Mr. Indispensible for the Sooners.

29. Bob Thomason: The Pacific coach is retiring after 25 years on the job at his alma mater. He has the most wins in Big West Conference history, surpassing Jerry Tarkanian earlier this season.

30. Lamont Jones: The guard played 26 minutes a game two years ago for Arizona but transferred to Iona, 25 minutes from his Harlem home, for family considerations. Now a senior, he's the No. 3 scorer in the nation, 23.0 points a game.

31. Fran Dunphy: Mr. Philadelphia Basketball. Dunphy has Temple in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year. He took over for the legendary John Chaney six years ago. Dunphy, who grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from LaSalle, also spent 16 years as head coach at Penn, taking the Quakers to nine NCAAs. Dunphy has spent 31 years coaching Philly hoops, as an assistant at LaSalle and Penn, and head coach at Malverin Prep, Penn and Temple.

32. Jamaal Franklin: The San Diego State All-American is the kind of player that makes the NCAA Tournament great. Few have seen much of him. But when you do, it's wow. Franklin, a 6-foot-5 wing, leads the Aztecs in scoring (16.7), rebounding (9.5) and assists (3.2).


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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