As you all are filling out your brackets, you’re searching for possible upsets. Well, put down your pens and read about the following mid-major stars who could send shockwaves through the field of 68:
Scott Machado (Iona): Now that Iona is in the field, the field has to worry about Iona. The Gaels have star power with Machado, Michael Glover and Lamont “Momo” Jones. Machado is one of the best point guards in America, as he’s leading the nation with 9.9 apg. And he’s the key to Iona’s top-ranked scoring offense (83.3 ppg). The Gaels open up the tournament with a matchup against BYU in Dayton. Machado will be the best player on the floor.
Will Cherry (Montana): He’s scored 20 or more in 10 games this season. He’s a versatile scorer (16.0 ppg) and he’s also a stubborn defender (2.6 spg, sixth in the nation). He’s the explosive, under-the-radar star that could break a multitude of brackets. Wisconsin is a strong defensive team, but Cherry could give the Badgers a lot of problems on both ends of the court.
Doug McDermott (Creighton): He’s a finalist for the Wooden Award. A true star. Yes, everyone knows what McDermott is capable of. But he will shift to another gear in the Big Dance. Proof? He’s averaged 25.3 points in his team’s last six games. I think the 8-seed is low for the Bluejays. But the Midwest region presents an opportunity for McDermott to meet former high school teammate Harrison Barnes in a third-round matchup against North Carolina. McDermott could be the star of that game.
Joe Ragland (Wichita State): The Shockers open up the tournament with a tough matchup against VCU. But with Ragland, a senior guard averaging 13.4 ppg, they can get through the first weekend. Ragland had 30 points during a BracketBusters matchup against Davidson. Most casual fans have never heard of the senior from West Springfield, Mass. Well, give it a few days, especially if the Shockers end up in the Sweet 16.
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State): I saw the Minnesota native in high school. Even as a prep, he had the same offensive savvy that’s translated to the collegiate level. The Jackrabbits star is averaging 21.3 ppg, ninth in the nation. He’s the reason some Baylor fans are worried about their team’s matchup against South Dakota State in the second round. He’s scored 30 or more in six games.
Casper Ware (Long Beach State): The 49ers won’t be complete without Larry Anderson (knee injury). But even if the defensive standout can’t go against New Mexico, Long Beach State will still be dangerous. Ware (17.4 ppg) is a 5-foot-10 assassin. He scored 33 points in the 49ers’ Big West tournament title game victory over UC-Santa Barbara. Not impressed? He scored 29 against North Carolina, 26 against San Diego State and 16 against Kansas. Don’t let the mid-major tag fool you. Ware has high-major game.
D.J. Cooper (Ohio): The junior guard is averaging 14.6 ppg for the Bobcats. He’s a threat, however, for a multitude of reasons. He’s an efficient distributor (5.7 apg). He’s a game-changing defender (2.4 spg). And he’s experienced. Two years ago, the Bobcats played in the NCAA tournament. Cooper was only a freshman then, but those early experiences helped him and the other youngsters on that team prepare for tough matchups away from home. I don’t think the Bobcats will beat the Wolverines. But John Beilein won’t take them or Cooper lightly in their second-round matchup.
Kerron Johnson (Belmont): One of the catalysts for a Belmont team that averages 81.5 ppg, Johnson could help the Bruins send Georgetown home early. In the Bruins’ first two games of the year -- road losses to Memphis and Duke -- Johnson recorded 28 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and five steals combined. If he can keep his turnovers down (2.4), he might lead Belmont to an upset against the Hoyas.
Ray McCallum Jr. (Detroit): It has taken McCallum (15.6 ppg) two seasons to really showcase his potential. But he dominated the Horizon League tournament and looked like the coveted prospect who had a multitude of high major offers before he decided to play for his father at Detroit. Great players show up in March, and McCallum has really taken his game to the next level in recent weeks during his team’s five-game winning streak.
Wendell McKines (New Mexico State): He’s an interesting guy (just check his Twitter feed). But he’s also an underrated athlete. McKines (18.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg) scored 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in his team’s 82-57 victory over Louisiana Tech in the WAC title game. With McKines leading the way, the Aggies have won nine out of their last 10 games.