8 NCAA tournament players to watch: A guide in which we use the word "watch" early and often

Ohio State's Evan Turner, a strong Player of the Year candidate. (Getty Images)

Fans looking to catch the most exciting performances in this year’s NCAA Tournament should be watching closely for these eight players.

Midwest Region

Evan Turner, 6-foot-7 guard/forward, Junior, Ohio State

Michigan watched in disbelief as Turner sank a 37-foot shot at the buzzer to bounce the Wolverines from the Big Ten Tournament. Turner’s wide wingspan, combined with his ball-handling ability, enables him to abuse defenses to the tune of 20.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 5.9 apg — numbers that have out the Naismith Award panel on notice.

Sherron Collins, 5-foot-11 point guard, Senior, Kansas

You won’t always see Collins fill up the box score because he only cares about one stat: wins. The senior set a Jayhawks record for victories (129 and counting), aided by his penchant for hitting clutch shots; Cornell, Baylor, and Kansas State all regret not watching him more closely late in games this season.

West Region

Wes Johnson, 6-foot-7 forward, Junior, Syracuse

Johnson won Big East Player of the Year honors for his well-rounded game (16.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.7 spg, 1.9 bpg). Often an unselfish player (2.3 apg), Johnson will have to take on an even bigger scoring and defensive role should his frontcourt teammate, Arinze Onuaku, be forced to watch from the bench with a quad injury.

Jimmer Fredette, 6-foot-2 guard, Junior, BYU

Put Fredette on the free throw line, and you’ll watch him put on a clinic. The Cougar has converted 48 of his last 50 chances from the stripe and he shot 88.1 percent on the season. Fredette has also broken the 30-point mark seven times in 2009-10, including six instances away from home.

East Region

John Wall, 6-foot-4 point guard, Freshman, Kentucky

The country’s most exciting rookie, Wall’s 17.0 ppg and 6.2 apg led the Wildcats to their first 30-win season in seven years. Defenders who don’t watch Wall’s every move often see his backside as he speeds past them to the basket. His knack for finding teammate DeMarcus Cousins has made them the highest-scoring freshman tandem in Kentucky history.

Anthony Johnson, 6-foot-3 guard, Senior, Montana

Fans watched in amazement as Johnson scored 42 points — including the Grizzlies’ final 21 — to overcome a 22-point deficit versus Weber State in the Big Sky Championship. Defending him will be a challenge for New Mexico considering Johnson’s percentages from the field (50.4), from 3-point range (46.4), and from the line (88).

South Region

Kyle Singler, 6-foot-8 forward, Junior, Duke

Though teammate Jon Scheyer garners more media attention, you’ll watch the taller and stronger Singler create matchup problems for opposing defenses. Just as teams figure out how to limit his inside game, Singler will step behind the arc and drain 3-pointers at a 39.4-percent clip.

LaceDarius Dunn, 6-foot-4 guard, Junior, Baylor

Readers of amNewYork may not have had the chance yet to watch the Big 12’s best shooter in action. Dunn led the conference in free throw percentage (86), 3-pointers made per game (3.28), and was second in scoring (19.4 ppg). He teams up with point guard Tweety Carter to form one of the nation’s best backcourts.

Tags: Evan Turner , Ohio State , Naismith Award , Sherron Collins , Kansas , Cornell , Kansas State , West Region , Wes Johnson , Big East Player of the Year , Arinze Onuaku , Jimmer Fredette , BYU , East Region , John Wall , Kentucky , DeMarcus Cousins , Anthony Johnson , Weber State , Big Sky , New Mexico , South Region , Kyle Singler , Duke , Jon Scheyer , LaceDarius Dunn , Baylor , Tweety Carter ,

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