As April begins, we are coming up on the beginning of the end of March Madness, and things in the college basketball world are only going to get hotter from the friction of the tournament’s most stand-out players. As you’re hanging on the edge of your seats waiting to see how the tournament turns out, consider which of the college players you’re watching might be the next Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. Are you up to the challenge of broadcasting your predictions? Let us know in the comments section who you think is going to the NBA!
Everyone has their predictions for the winner, but in the end, the numbers don’t lie. Here’s a fact you may not know: it might sound superstitious, but historically speaking, “burger boys” tend to determine the outcome of the entire tournament. Since the McDonald’s All-American Game became a national phenomenon in 1978, only two teams have claimed a national title without having a “burger boy” on their roster.
The “burger boys” participating in this year’s Final Four include Joel Berry II (North Carolina), Theo Pinson (North Carolina), Kennedy Meeks (North Carolina), Isaiah Hicks (North Carolina), Justin Jackson (North Carolina), Marcus Paige (North Carolina), DaJuan Coleman (Syracuse), Malachi Richardson (Syracuse), and Jalen Brunson (Villanova). Oklahoma has an Oscar Robertson Player of the Year in Buddy Hield, but no “burger boys.” Will they pull an upset and be the third team burger-boy-free team to win, or are they doomed from the start?
We’ll look at some “burger boys” in the list below, but just as one player doesn’t win a title, obviously one award is not going to determine who from the Final Four is going to be the next NBA star. Let’s take a comprehensive look at each of the best players from the four teams and why they might be a great draft pick for next year’s NBA season.
Kris Jenkins, the forward for the Villanova Wildcats, is great on offense, but he’s also a real team player and doesn’t hog the court. While he started out as a defensive liability, he has drastically improved over his college career into a talented three-point shooter and the most unstoppable force on the Wildcats.
He won the Most Outstanding Player at the South Regional and scored 31 points in a win over DePaul. He was named to the All-Tournament Team when he averaged 19.7 points per game in the Big East Tournament. In the Elite Eight, he guarded Kansas forward Perry Ellis and prevented him from scoring multiple baskets, helping his team nab a place in the Final Four.
Buddy Hield, guard of the Oklahoma Sooners, made it onto the Naismith College Player of the Year pre-season watch list this year, and the rest of his senior season did not disappoint.
As a freshman, he received the Most Inspirational Award and established himself as a talented high-volume three-point shooter. Despite being a potential 2015 NBA Draft selection, he stayed in college for his senior year, receiving additional honors as Big 12 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year. If the NBA was having second thoughts about Hield, this season definitely cemented him as an NBA pick.
He’s always been talented, but this year he graduated from a gifted shooter to a well-rounded NBA pick. After Hield scored 33 point on the Bluejays, Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, according to Cliff Brunt of the Associate Press, “Last year, he was a shooter. This year he’s a basketball player. He’s going to be wearing an NBA uniform next year.”
This year, power forward Brice Johnson was unanimously chosen for the Associated Press All-America Team for 2015-2016. Coach Roy Williams’ relentless tough love has finally made a tangible difference in his college career. You can see the evidence every time he beats his own records by a landslide, as he did against Syracuse earlier this season: he went from no more than four assists per game to eight assists in a single game.
He’s also a star on the team. Brice Johnson is the first Tar Heels player in more than fifty years to score more than 39 points and achieve 23 rebounds in one game. He also set the school’s record for the most double-doubles in a season.
He might be a little over-emotional in response to the ups and downs of the game, but Brice Johnson is learning to channel it into his game instead of letting it distract him. He is truly shaping up into a star.
Joel Berry II
Despite an injury in his freshman year, point guard Joel Berry II helped the Tar Heels get to the Atlantic Coast Conference as a sophomore and came away as Most Valuable Player. The same year he became the first sophomore to win Florida Mr. Basketball.
Much of his success has come from his association with adoptive brother and fellow college basketball player Nate Britt, but in his college career, he has blossomed into an intimidating player in his own right.
Villanova’s point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was pegged as a success from his freshman year, despite being unable to play in his high school senior year of basketball because of a herniated disk in his back. He was named to the Big East Conference’s All-Rookie Team. As a junior, he was one of the winners of the conference’s Player of the Year award. This year he’s been a consistent asset to the team and is one of the primary reasons they’ve made it this far in the tournament.
Michael Gbinije, small forward for the Syracuse Orange, played for Duke for a season before he transferred to Syracuse and then sat out for a season. However, this didn’t stop him, and he’s become one of the Orange’s best players. He’s also played for his father’s home country, Nigeria, on an international level. This year, he’s the number one three-point shooter in the ACC.
Syracuse is the first ever number ten seed to make it to the Final Four, so maybe Michael Gbinije can help carry the team to an outstanding upset.
Point guard Marcus Paige of the Tar Heels has been receiving awards and honors since high school, including Iowa Mr. Basketball, McDonald’s All-American, the ACC All-Academic Team, the Freshman All-American Team, ACC Most Improved Player and ACC Pre-Season Player of the Year. He has had some slumps, sometimes because of injuries and sometimes because of the intense pressure he puts on himself to succeed, but he’s come out on top.
He was particularly unstoppable during March Madness this year, and a good part of the reason that the team made it there in the first place.
Forward Malachi Richardson of the Syracuse Orange has had an amazing freshman season, making several great plays to help his team make the Final Four. He was rated highly in the 2015 draft class at number twelve, and continues to be a great shooter with an impressive range.
Don’t forget to come back to see how well these predictions pan out. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!