Max Abmas had a name that was hard to pronounce — ace-miss — but a game that resonated in March Madness. The nation’s leading scorer last season led Oral Roberts to a stunning Sweet 16 run last year.
March Madness is still three-plus months away but one month in, the men’s game has candidates who could shine brightly in the 2022 NCAA tournament bracket.
Here are seven candidates (stats are current through Dec. 3):
Fardaws Aimaq, Jr., Utah Valley: The 6-11 center was averaging more than 20 points a game through his first eight games, including 24 points, 22 rebounds, five steals and three blocks in a 72-65 overtime win over BYU. Utah Valley is a legit threat to win the WAC tournament under coach Mark Madsen.
Jamal Cain, Sr., Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies upset Oklahoma State in Stillwater and they won seven of their first nine games, including their first two in the Horizon League. Cain, a senior forward, is averaging 22.1 points and 11 rebounds for the Golden Grizzlies. Cain can go off, as exhibited with 31 points in the loss to Alabama. He could be a March star for Greg Kampe.
Graham Ike, So., Wyoming: The Cowboys have been sneaky good in the Mountain West, winning their first seven games, including a road win at Washington. Ike is averaging 21.1 points and 8.9 boards a game and shooting just south of 60 percent. He put 26 points on the Huskies and 35 in a win over Denver.
Gaige Prim, Sr., Missouri State: The Bears are more than capable of winning the Missouri Valley. Sure, Loyola Chicago, Southern Illinois, Drake, Bradley and Northern Iowa all have the personnel to pull off a tournament title. But if the Bears can do it, then Prim will be a tough matchup in March. He was averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Bears and he put 27 on Illinois State in an overtime loss.
Noah Freidel, So., South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits have another stat-stuffer in the mold of Mike Daum. Freidel can light up an opponent and he has done so already for the Jackrabbits with 20 points a game. He put 25 up points in a win on George Mason. The Jackrabbits will be in the mix in the Summit League.
Amadou Sow, Sr., UCSB: The Gauchos remain the favorite in the Big West. Sow is a player who averages 19 points and seven or so rebounds. He has consistently delivered for coach Joe Pasternack. Sow could be a sneaky pick to help UCSB get a win in March.
Max Abmas, Jr., Oral Roberts: Did you think we would leave him out? Abmas can be the next Abmas if ORU can get back to the NCAA tournament. He’s averaging 22 points a game and he scored 38 in a win over Tulsa. Kevin Obanor is no longer next to him to give him the inside presence he had last season. But Abmas can still dominate a game and affect the outcome.