Conference tournaments have officially started, and soon good players on good teams will become a mainstay on social media and a hero, or villain, depending on how they help or ruin brackets.
Steve Kerr, who will be calling the games for TBS, picks five players who could be the star of the tournament.
T.J. McConnell missed Arizona's run to the Sweet 16 last season while sitting out after transfering to the Wildcats from Duquesne. This year, he will play a big part if the Wildcats are to get back there -- or further. As Arizona's starting point guard, his 5.5 assists per game ranks third in the Pac-12, and he is also third in the conference with 1.92 steals per game. If there's one player who can get Arizona off and running, Kerr says it is McConnell.
Kerr's take: "McConnell is the engine for Arizona. There are guys who are more high profile than him, but he’s the one who makes them go."
Wichita State survived the regular season without a loss, and enters the Missouri Valey Conference tournament as the clear favorite. But the Shockers have left a lot of people wondering just how good they are. One thing that is known is just how good Cleanthony Early is. He finished the season with a 15.8 points per game average and he scored 24 against Louisville in the Final Four last year. Another run will show America how good Early and the Shockers are, Kerr says.
Kerr's take: "People will see how important he is to their team. There’s a lot of talk about Wichita State but doubt whether they deserve a No. 1 seed. People do realize how good they are and Early is their leading scorer."
In Michigan's six tournament games last season, guard Nik Stauskas averaged a little less than nine points per game as the Wolverines made the national championship game. But with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. both in the NBA, and forward Mitch McGary out with a back injury, Stauskas has been thrust into a featured role. He has responded by with a team-high 17.1 points per game average this season. He has also proved he can thrive on a national stage -- scoring 22 points in the Elite Eight against Florida last season.
Kerr's take: "Staukas is the best shooter I’ve seen in the country. He can make plays, as well. He was more of a role player last year but this year he will emerge."
Trying to pick the Badgers' best player is like trying to handicap the Big Ten's title race -- it's not easy. But Sam Dekker currently leads the team in scoring (13.4 per game) as a starting forward. He teams up with Frank Kaminsky to give Bo Ryan's team an intimidating front line, but it's Dekker's talent that has Kerr predicting big things from him -- and the Badgers -- come tournament time.
Kerr's take: "Dekker is really gifted. Wisconsin has always had good team with decent talent. Dekker is the most gifted player to play at Wisconsin in a long time."
When Michigan State is playing up to its full potential, guard Gary Harris is usually leading the charge. Though he was one of the many Spartans to miss some games this season (three in late November and early December), Harris has put up big numbers against some of the Spartans' biggest opponents. In two games against rival Michigan this season, he averaged 24 points and scored 20 as Michigan State took down then-No. 1 Kentucky in November. But it's more than Harris' scoring that Kerr thinks will make him a star in March.
Kerr's take: "Harris symbolizes what Michigan State is all about. He's tough, he defends. Michigan State always makes a run in the tournament and he'll be in the forefront."