Northwest Sports Beat

Northwest madness: 5 stud hoopsters to watch in the tournament

NW Guys to keep an eye on during the Madness

As everyone from the casual fan to the bracket diehards, who are currently figuring out their “sick day” excuses, fill out their NCAA March Madness brackets over the next two days, when the top 68 teams take to the floor next week, the Northwest will find itself strongly represented (sadly by only one team).

While some of the below individuals will see their season extend deeper into the bracket than others, these five will have a huge impact as to their team’s success.

1. Nik Cochran (Vancouver, BC)

Davidson Wildcats

There are a number of CIS schools that are probably kicking themselves for failing to keep Cochran on Canadian soil.  With little interest from Canadian Universities throughout his high school  and prep school career, Cochran has turned that snub into a solid career with the Wildcats.

Holding off the Western Carolina Catamounts in a thrilling 93-91 OT battle, the Wildcats punched an automatic ticket to the dance with the Southern Conference Championship.

As he has done all season, Cochran filled the box score with a little bit of everything with 16 points, 6 boards and 6 dimes in a game high 47 minutes.

The Wildcats return to the Madness for the first time since Stephen Curry was hoisting three balls for Davidson in 2008.

2. Peyton Siva (Seattle, Washington)

Louisville Cardinals

Nik Cochran

Cochran and the Wildcats return to the Madness for the first time since Stephen Curry.

Winners of the Big East Conference title in a grinding 50-44 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Cardinals, led by Siva, return to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the junior guard’s university career.

Named the MVP of the Big East Tournament, Siva’s tournament averages of 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists help set the table for the Cardinals return to the March classic.

Currently projected to be a mid-late second round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Siva could see his stock rise significantly with a deep run in this year’s dance and possibly test the draft waters this summer.

3. Terrence Jones (Portland, Oregon)

Kentucky Wildcats

April 30th and May 19th,  2010.  Those two days burn in the back of the heads of the Washington Huskies faithful, as the former was the day in which Jones gave an oral commitment to the Dawgs, but less than a month later, put his signature on a financial aid agreement with the Wildcats.

Imagine what successes could have been for the Huskies had Jones stayed true to his word?  Projected to be a top 10 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, Jones saw the opportunity for a NCAA title slip out of his hands last year with a one point loss to the UConn Huskies, despite his 11 points and 15 rebounds.

This year, the Wildcats roster is labelled with a championship or bust tag, and Jones will be a huge factor in making sure Kentucky is cutting down the nets in New Orleans.

4. Rob Sacre (Vancouver, BC)

Gonzaga Bulldogs

While fellow Canadian Kevin Pangos has come and taken some of the “maple leaf” shine away from Sacre, the Gonzaga Bulldogs successes will lay heavily on the broad shoulders of Big Rob Sacre.

Yes, the Bulldogs finished the season among the top 25 teams in the country, sneaking in at the 24th spot, but the Zags have not been as impressive this season as previous years.

Sacre finished his senior season averaging 11.7 points, 6.3 points and nearly 1.5 blocks per game and while Gonzaga failed to capture an automatic bid to the final 68 with a 78-74 OT loss to the Saint Mary’s Gaels in the West Coast Conference Championship, the team should find themselves somewhere in the 8-12 seeds next week.

For Sacre, as a legit seven footer with size, the chances of being selected by an NBA club during June’s draft have slowly dropped, however a strong showing during March could change the minds of a few general managers around the league.

Terrence Jones Kentucky

Jones. Imagine what successes could have been for the Huskies

5. Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, Oregon)

Kentucky Wildcats

Originally this spot was saved for a Tony Wroten/Terrence Ross combo, but they are heading up to the “Not Invited Tournament.”

The 6’9 freshman has had the opportunity to provide the Wildcats with a number of big stat games, while at the same time being able to sit back in the shadows as Jones, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague get the most of the media minutes.

Wiltjer creates a unique matchup with the opposing defense as he isn’t the typical power forward who plays in the paint, but rather one who extends out to the three point line.

There is a good chance that his fellow freshman superstar trio will not return to Kentucky next season, which will place Wiltjer in more of a prominent role in 2012-2013, but let’s not look past John Calipari’s need for his Northwest freshman to step up and knock down a big three this March.

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About Steve Lee

Steve is a 12 year writing vet, and writes for a number of sports sites, offering a unique and abstract look at the games we love. He still hopes the Grizz + Sonics return to the Northwest, and has been a Lakers fan since "Showtime".
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  • http://twitter.com/FlyingVHockey Kevin Vanstone

    Nice to see two BC boys in the big dance. Rob Sacre is a year or two older than me, and used to dominate BC High School when I was at Holy Cross. 

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