March Madness signals a time in which we are nearing the apex of the college basketball season. Everything you thought you knew is worth second guessing.
All that matters is playing hard for 40 minutes on a 94-by-50-foot hardwood floor with one game guaranteed for 64 hopeful teams. It’s plain and simple.
In each region, there is a player that could be the driving force for ruining a lot of brackets by the end of the weekend and well into the tournament. Here is each region’s bracket-buster:
Miye Oni (East Region)
Season Stats: 17.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.9 steals
Yale heads into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016. The Bulldogs are powered by their offense as they score 80.5 points per game. They are led by the Ivy League Player of the Year in Oni who is starting to draw attention from NBA scouts.
Oni is an excellent two-way player capable of filling up the stat sheet. He is best in transition where he can attack the rim relentlessly, draw fouls, and deliver poster jams.
The rising junior will need to come up big against a punch-drunk LSU team playing without their coach. If Oni has his way against the Tigers, Yale will turn into a threat in a hurry.
Zylan Cheatham (West Region)
Season Stats: 11.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals
Cheatham is the only big on this list, but he plays with guard tendencies at times. As a big for the Arizona State Sun Devils, he can facilitate like a perimeter player. Cheatham will even track down rebounds and look to initiate the break. He plays like Jordan Bell, but with a tighter handle.
The 6’8” forward simply provides ASU with whatever they need that night. He can score 20 like he did on the road in a huge win versus Utah. He can rip down 20 boards like he did against UCLA and Arizona. Cheatham can even facilitate as he showed against Texas Southern when he messed around and got a triple double like Ice Cube.
ASU is in a favorable part of the bracket with Buffalo as their first primary focus. If they beat them, Texas Tech or Northern Kentucky awaits them and neither team is a juggernaut by any means.
It starts and ends with their swiss army knife in Cheatham.
Payton Pritchard (South Region)
Season Stats: 12.7 points, 4.5 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals
That guy at the local gym or park shooting hoops that is just fundamentally sound all the way around is Pritchard. He doesn’t have many flaws in his game and waiting for him to make a mistake is like waiting for a four-leaf clover to pop up. His assist-to-turnover ratio speaks to that as he is top 50 in the nation with a 2.4 ratio.
When Oregon’s chances of making the tourney looked slim in January, Pritchard stepped up. During the Ducks eight-game winning streak, Double P has averaged 15.7 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.7 steals, all well above his season averages. His hot stretch helped the Ducks win the Pac-12 Tournament and he earned the Most Outstanding Player award because of that.
Oregon’s balanced attack is spearheaded by their two-way guard in Pritchard. With as well as he and the Ducks are playing, they could go as far as the Elite Eight, potentially beating Wisconsin, Kansas State, and top-seeded Virginia along the way.
Matisse Thybulle (Midwest Region)
Season Stats: 9.3 points, 3.4 steals, 2.3 blocks
Thybulle has the best name on this list of guys who have great names. He is also the most high-profile player in terms of NBA Draft buzz. Thybulle is projected to go in the middle of the second round as a three-and-d player.
The Washington guard has a unique repertoire for someone that is 6’5”. He offers a sharpshooter on offense while possessing nightmarish defensive instincts. Thybulle leads the nation in steals and is 20th in blocks this season.
Washington might not follow through on beating North Carolina in the Round of 32, should they beat Utah State first. Nevertheless, if Thybulle is wreaking havoc on defense, the Huskies could flirt with ruining a bunch of brackets versus UNC.
Wrapping it Up
March Madness is where legends are born, upsets occur, and champions are made.
While the players and teams on this list may lack favorable championship odds, they are the gatekeepers to opening Pandora’s Box.
Let the madness begin.