Column: Players to watch in March

Oklahoma's Buddy Hield dribbles the ball past Texas Tech's Zach Smith during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 in Lubbock, Texas. (AP Photo/Brad Tollefson)

Well, it is officially March, the time of year when college basketball heroes are made and legacies are cemented. Many players have introduced themselves to the world with epic moments during the NCAA Tournament. We have seen unforgettable moments from Stephen Curry all the way down to R.J. Hunter.

With this year’s tournament looking as wide open as ever, I am going to predict some players that I think will shine on college basketball’s brightest stage.

1. Buddy Hield (Guard, Oklahoma) – By now if you follow college basketball you have of course heard of Hield. The senior is averaging 25.3 points per game and is deadly from three-point range (47 percent). Now, opponents have known all season about Hield; however, few teams have found ways to slow him down.

In March, having a great guard that you can rely on is invaluable. There is nobody I would trust more with the basketball in their hand when in need of a play. However, the only issue with Oklahoma is that Hield is not always the primary ball handler down the stretch.

Oklahoma needs to cut out the middle man, point guard Isaiah Cousins, when the game is on the line and watch how far Hield can take them.

2. Marcus Paige (Guard, North Carolina) – I will start by saying this has been a down year for Paige, as his scoring and assist numbers have dropped across the board. However, this is the most talented team that Paige has played on in his four years at North Carolina.

Paige has the qualities of a great March basketball player. He is clutch, smart with the basketball, and he is unafraid of the big moment. When Paige addressed the crowd on Senior Night, he told the North Carolina faithful that they are not done. If you watch the video, you can tell that he really meant that statement, kind of like when Kevin Ollie told UConn fans the same thing in 2014 during their Senior Day.

Do not be surprised if you see Paige do his best Shabazz Napier impression as he looks to lead the Tar Heals to a National Championship.

3. Kay Felder (Guard, Oakland) – Despite being ranked fourth in the NCAA in scoring (24.4 points per game), Felder has gone under the radar this seasons. Felder plays his basketball in the Horizon Conference so it is natural that the average fan does not see many of his games.

Felder has been sensational this season and I am a true believer that he is ready for prime time after his performance against Michigan State in December. At the time, Michigan State was the No. 1 ranked team in the country and Felder was unafraid. He dropped 37 points in 43 minutes of what turned out to be a 99-93 overtime loss.

At just 5-foot-9 inches tall, Felder may be undersized but his game is no joke. Felder is more than just a scorer, he is averaging 9.4 assists per game, an NCAA best. If Oakland is able to get in the tournament, they will likely have to win their conference tournament, expect Felder to be able to do some damage.

4. Jakob Poeltl (Forward, Utah) – This list would be incomplete if we did not recognize a big man that is capable of throwing a team on his back in March. Poeltl is a legit seven-footer that is an offensive force.

Poeltl is averaging 17.6 points per game and nine rebounds for a Utah team that is surging at the right time after winning six straight games. Poeltl’s one weakness from making him a post-season nightmare is his free-throw percentage. He is shooting 68 percent from the line, which is solid for a big man, but a true postseason assassin needs to be able to hit clutch free throws. 


Spencer Mayfield is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women's basketball. He can be reached via email at spencer.mayfield@uconn.edu.