Colleague Mark Adams just identified six mid-major teams you need to get familiar with, if you aren’t already. In that light, here’s a quick look at five players that any NCAA tourney viewer better get acquainted with before the games begin.
Orlando Johnson, UC Santa Barbara: He is one of the best athletes you haven't heard of, but take one look at any highlight film and you'll see the run-and-jump ability and sweet-shooting stroke. Johnson was last season's Big West Player of the Year and backed it up this season as the nation's 15th-leading scorer (21.1 ppg). Florida will have a challenge in front of it trying to defend him.
Noah Dahlman, Wofford: He's a special player in that he's 6-foot-6 and doesn't dunk. His shots come off layups and putbacks, yet he still averages 20 points per game. He's sixth in the nation shooting 61.2 percent from the field. All this makes Dahlman exactly the type of guy who can do damage with a BYU frontcourt missing Brandon Davies and still struggling to find its rhythm. The Cougars' Noah Hartsock has quite a challenge ahead of him in limiting Dahlman.
Kenneth Faried, Morehead State: He leads the nation in rebounding, averaging a whopping 14.5 per game while carrying the scoring load as well, averaging 17.6 points per game. He has double-doubles in 12 of his past 13 games. This 6-foot-8 beast is exactly the kind of player that could give Louisville trouble in the first game, especially with the Cardinals losing Rakeem Buckles for the rest of the season.
Keith Benson, Oakland: He's won back-to-back Summit League Player of the Year awards for a reason. After nearly forgoing his senior year for the NBA draft, Benson is back in the NCAA tournament and looking to give Texas problems in the opening round with his 6-foot-11 presence. He averages a double-double (18 ppg, 10 rpg) and even added a 3-point shot to his game this year. Benson is a scary player for the Longhorns to face and has the ability to carry his team.
Julian Boyd, Long Island: He's one of the season’s best stories, coming back from sitting out a full season due to a heart condition and then leading his school to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 14 years. Could he now help 15-seed LIU give mighty North Carolina problems? Boyd does a little bit of everything, as the former NEC Rookie of the Year averages 12.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, shoots 52 percent from the field and provides a shot-blocking presence. While it might not be enough against the Tar Heels' front line, Boyd should give UNC a cause for concern.