The first few rounds of March Madness are officially in the books. After a year’s hiatus, college basketball’s biggest tournament is in full swing as teams across the country compete for a championship. Within the first few rounds, there have been a variety of major upsets, back and forth games, and standout players. Above all, there were five players who shined in the first weekend of March Madness.
Jason Preston (Ohio, G)
Stats (Round of 64-Round of 32): 7.5 points, 11 rebounds, 7.5 assists
From Detroit Piston’s blogger to a March Madness phenomenon, Jason Preston stole the show in his round of 64 matchup against the Virginia Cavaliers. Preston lead his team to a win over the defending champs and finished just 2 assists shorts of a triple-double.
Jason Preston has drawn similarities in his game to a player like LaMelo Ball due to his ability to make difficult passes look effortless, and, having the talent to let his team’s offense run through him. He has a knack for grabbing rebounds and does whatever it takes in order to get his team the victory. As a result, the Ohio Bobcats walked away with the upset win over Virginia.
A year ago, Jason Preston posted on his LinkedIn account “I am looking to continue to stay with the sport of basketball and look into…becoming a future scout,” he wrote. He added: “Do not hesitate to connect with me, as I would love to grow with you!”
Now, just a year later, he has led his team to one of the biggest upsets in this year’s tournament.
Buddy Boeheim (Syracuse, G)
Stats (Round of 64-Round of 32): 27.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 56.5% 3-point field goal percentage
Syracuse has orchestrated back-to-back upsets on their way to the Sweet Sixteen by defeating 6 seeded San Diego State in the Round of 64 and 3 seeded West Virginia in the following round. Both of these upsets were lead primarily by the knockdown sharpshooter, Buddy Boeheim.
Buddy is the son of Syracuse’s legendary head coach Jim Boeheim and, has helped take his dad to the 20th Sweet Sixteen of his coaching career. In the first two games that Buddy has played so far in March Madness, he has looked unguardable from anywhere on the court, shooting an astonishing 13 for 23 from 3 point range.
The 11 seeded Syracuse Orange are tearing up brackets so far in the tournament. However, with the help of Buddy Boeheim, this could just be the beginning of their impressive tournament run.
Cameron Krutwig (Loyola Chicago, C)
Stats (Round of 64-Round of 32): 14.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.5 steals
Cameron Krutwig was a crucial part of Loyola Chicago’s Cinderella run to the Final Four back in 2018. After defeating the lone 1 seed to go down in the Round of 32 on Sunday, he looks to lead the Ramblers on yet another deep run in the tournament.
Krutwig may not have the most attractive playstyle to viewers, however, he is one of the most efficient players in all of college basketball. He’s a tremendous leader and bullies the ball into the paint to provide his team with easy baskets. Loyola Chicago defeating Illinois has been one of the biggest upsets of the tournament so far, and, Krutwig was the leader in orchestrating it.
Whether or not Loyola Chicago can make another Final Four run remains to be seen. But, Cameron Krutwig is an essential part of making that happen.
Max Abmas (Oral Roberts, G)
Stats (Round of 64-Round of 32): 27.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Max Abmas lead the nation in scoring this season. Now, he finds himself making history as Oral Roberts becomes just the second-ever 15 seed to ever make the Sweet Sixteen. Oral Roberts was the highest-seeded team to pull off an upset in the Round of 64, and none of it would be possible without the offensive talents of Max Abmas.
The 6′ 1″, 165-pound point guard has cemented himself in March Madness history. His ability to shoot the ball from anywhere makes him the biggest threat on the court to opposing defenses. If Abmas can keep up with this shooting momentum, it’s going to be a tough out for any team in the tournament.
The Golden Eagles have caught the attention of everyone in the basketball world. But, this could potentially just be the beginning of their spectacular Cinderella run.
Drew Timme (Gonzaga, C)
Stats (Round of 64-Round of 32): 20 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1 block
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are loaded with big names and loads of future NBA talent. However, Drew Timme may just be the most important player for the Zags if they hope to win a national championship.
Timme is coming off of a career-high in scoring in his Round of 32 matchup against Oklahoma. He finished the game with 30 points and was the primary scorer throughout the entirety of the game. Whenever Gonzaga found themselves struggling on offense, Timme was there to carry his team to a victory.
Gonzaga has a variety of future NBA players scattered across their roster, and, are the favorites to win a championship this season. If they are going to finish their season with a perfect record, Drew Timme will be an important player in accomplishing just that.