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NCAA Tourney Watch: Looking Ahead to the Top 65

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird is the Senior Soccer Editor for RotoWire, as well as a fantasy football and college basketball contributor.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

A few mid-majors have already punched their tickets and the big boys are battling out for seeding. Joe Lundardi hasn't slept in a week and likely won't get any shuteye until the brackets are revealed Sunday. With all this excitement comes blank brackets to fill out and fantasy rosters to build.

One interesting caveat of playing fantasy college basketball during March Madness is that wins matter. Usually fantasy owners would gladly take a 30-9-7 stat line in a loss instead of a 9-2-1 in a win, but now that it's lose and go home, choosing players on teams that will advance is key.

That said, here are our top 65 players heading into the NCAA Tournament. Stats certainly still matter, but we emphasize players who are expected to make deeper runs, thereby accumulating bigger numbers.

1. Anthony Davis, Forward, Kentucky

Davis is widely considered the top freshmen in the country and is arguably the nation's best player overall. While his 14.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game don't jump out at you, his 4.7 blocks per contest, tops in the country, certainly should. He has 13 double-doubles this season and 14 games with at least five blocked shots. With Kentucky expected to make a deep tournament run, Davis is a great top pick.

2. Thomas Robinson, Forward, Kansas

Robinson is Anthony Davis' top competition for National Player of the Year honors thanks to his 17.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game averages, the latter of which is good for second in the country. He has 21 double-doubles this season, 12 of which came during conference play, an impressive number considering he's had only nine games all season without one. He's been a beast all year and seems to only be getting better. And that's great news for Jayhawks Nation, which expects to see the team in New Orleans later this month.

3. Draymond Green, Forward, Michigan State

Green is one of those players who seems to be in his 10th season of college basketball, but the senior has finally broken out as one of the best players in the Big Ten. He averages 16.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game but has picked up his scoring lately, averaging 19.4 points over the last eight contests. With Tom Izzo's success in the NCAA Tournament, Green could get a few games under his belt, which is exactly what the Spartans, and fantasy owners, are hoping from him.

4. Jared Sullinger, Forward, Ohio State

Despite battling through a few injuries this season, Sullinger remains a dominant force in the post for the Buckeyes. He has been especially strong lately, averaging 18.0 points and 14.0 rebounds over the final two games of the regular season, while helping Ohio State clinch a share of the Big Ten regular season title. For a big man who does a lot of his damage near the rim, Sullinger also shoots an impressive 75 percent from the free-throw line, helping him grab a few extra points.

5. Doug McDermott, Forward, Creighton

McDermott may not be a household name yet, but he certainly has the game to become one. The sophomore forward averages 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds and had a remarkable performance on national television during the Missouri Valley Conference championship game when he scored 33 points to lead the Bluejays to the title. He had six 30-plus point games this year, as well as 10 double-doubles, and finished sixth in the nation in three-point shooting at 49.5 percent. McDermott could be a great play come tournament time if Creighton becomes this year's Cinderella story.

6. Jae Crowder, Forward, Marquette

While Darius Johnson-Odom gets a lot of the press for the Golden Eagles, it's been Crowder who has been their best player this season. With seven 20-plus-point performances in his last 10 games (with six double-doubles in that span), including a 26-point, 14-rebound effort against Georgetown in the regular season finale March 3, Crowder will be heavily relied upon if Marquette is to make a deep March run.

7. John Henson, Forward, North Carolina

The Tar Heels are stacked with talent this year, but Henson might be the most versatile stat sheet filler on the roster. Henson wasn't just the only player to average a double-double in the ACC this season (14.2 points and 10.1 rebounds), he also led the conference in blocked shots with 3.0 per game. He doesn't have the explosive scoring upside of teammates Harrison Barnes or Tyler Zeller, but Henson is a consistent threat who should be expected to play well into March.

8. Marcus Denmon, Guard, Missouri

If it weren't for Kansas' Thomas Robinson, Denmon would be the easy pick for Big 12 Player of the Year this season, as he averages 18.0 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. He is a big-time shot maker and isn't afraid to hoist one up with the game on the line, as seen during the team's epic overtime game against Kansas on Feb. 25 when Denmon scored 28 points, including six three-pointers. After leading the Tigers to an unexpected Top-10 ranking, Denmon will be the lead guard as Missouri tries to make this impressive season magical.

9. Isaiah Canaan, Guard, Murray State

Canaan is another who isn't widely known, though that could certainly change quickly once the Tournament starts. He averages 19.2 points, 3.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds for a Racers team that is ranked 11th in the nation by the Associated Press and 10th by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. Canaan has the ability to light up the scoreboard, with four 30-plus-point games this season and eight with at least five three-pointers. If Murray State is going to do some bracket damage, it will be led by Canaan.

10. Kris Joseph, Forward, Syracuse

Joseph is arguably the best player on the nation's No. 2-ranked team, so why is he so low on the list? Unfortunately for Joseph's fantasy prospects, his teammates are simply too good. The Orange have 10 players on the roster who average at least 10 minutes per game, with Joseph leading the charge at 31.4, a nearly eight-minute increase over the next highest (Dion Waiters, who doesn't even start). Nevertheless, Joseph leads the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game, along with 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 steals, and will be a big factor if the Orange make the trip to New Orleans.

11. Tyler Zeller, Forward, North Carolina

Zeller finished the regular season as the fourth-highest scorer in the ACC and second-highest rebounder for a team that is expected to do big things in March. While teammate John Henson can do more on the defensive end, Zeller showed he can be a beast on the offensive side of the ball, posting a 30-point game against Maryland on Feb. 29 and then a 19-point, 10-rebound performance at Duke to win the regular season conference title. With the Tar Heels poised to make a run at the Final Four, Zeller remains a solid fantasy option.

12. Kevin Jones, Forward, West Virginia

Jones became just the second player in school history to score 1,700 points and grab 1,000 rebounds in his career, joining some guy named Jerry West. He is certainly a candidate for Big East Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring and rebounding (only the fifth player ever to do that), but the biggest negative might be the recent play of the Mountaineers. With West Virginia just 3-7 in its last 10 games heading into March, Jones really has to come up big for the Mountaineers to make a Tournament run long enough to realize his fantasy potential.

13. Rob Jones, Forward, St. Mary's

St. Mary's won the West Coast Conference regular season title and some of the credit should go to Jones, who led the conference in rebounding and was fourth in scoring during a very strong senior season. He has 19 double-doubles this year, including five in the last seven games (averaging 21.8 points and 13.4 rebounds in those five) and helped the Gaels grab an automatic bid thanks to a WCC Tournament title. Matthew Dellavedova, who was the WCC Player of the Year, is also an interesting option, but Jones is more reliable.

14. Tyshawn Taylor, Guard, Kansas

Teammate Thomas Robinson is up for national player of the year, which certainly dampens some of the praise that should be heading Taylor's way. The senior guard finished fourth in the Big 12 in scoring this season and has been excellent lately, averaging 24.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds, while shooting 62 percent from the field in the last three games.

15. Will Barton, Guard, Memphis

The Tigers have been a bit under the radar during the latter part of the season, though Barton's performances should be front and center. The sophomore guard led Memphis to the Conference USA regular season title, while averaging 18.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season. He has really stepped up lately, dropping an 18-11-4 (points-rebounds-assists) against Central Florida on Feb. 28 and then a 30-9-4 on Tulsa on March 3 to clinch the conference title. Memphis can definitely make some noise and Barton is it's loudest player.

16. Jamaal Franklin, Guard, San Diego State

Franklin led the Mountain West in scoring and finished fourth in rebounding this year, really picking it up in the second half of the season. He has posted 11 double-doubles since Dec. 30 and has been an absolute beast over the last three games, averaging 28.0 points and 13.7 rebounds, while shooting 52 percent from the field and 87 percent from the line. With the right draw in the NCAA Tournament, Franklin could very well get a few games under his belt.

17. Harrison Barnes, Forward, North Carolina

Barnes has the makeup to be a big-time scorer but he can frustrate fantasy owners sometimes when he doesn't do other things. He is in a bit of a shooting slump recently, but if he can turn it around during the ACC Tournament, he could be a dangerous player in the NCAAs.

18. Darius Johnson-Odom, Guard, Marquette

The senior guard led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 18.3 points per game, while also grabbing 3.4 rebounds and dishing out 2.8 assists. He's a bit overshadowed now by Jae Crowder's excellent play, though he's always capable of going off for a big night.

19. Drew Gordon, Forward, New Mexico

Gordon posted 15 double-doubles this season while leading the Mountain West in rebounding. He's been even better lately, averaging 16.9 points and 13.0 rebounds over the past seven games, including a 27 and 20 against 11th ranked UNLV on Feb. 18.

20. Austin Rivers, Guard, Duke

It's no secret that Rivers is a big-time player who seems to get better late in games. He's a very dangerous scorer who can explode at any moment in any game, though he's been struggling a bit with his three-point shot lately, missing 12 of his last 15 attempts from beyond the arc.

21. Jack Cooley, Forward, Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish have been a very surprising team this season, especially after losing top scorer Tim Abromaitis in November to a season-ending knee injury. Cooley stepped up in a big way, finishing fourth in the Big East in rebounding and first in field-goal percentage while leading the Irish in scoring. He has been particularly good in 2012, posting 10 double-doubles since Jan. 1, including six in the last eight games.

22. J'Covan Brown, Guard, Texas

Brown averages 20.0 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds on the season and just poured in 33 against Kansas on March 3. His biggest problem is that Texas is squarely on the bubble, which means his solid season could be over very soon.

23. Tony Wroten, Guard, Washington

Wroten, who could end up as the Pac-12's player of the year, has done a solid job across the stat sheet this season. He averages 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists for a Huskies team that could win a game or two in the Tournament.

24. Trey Burke, Guard, Michigan

Tim Hardaway Jr. has the name recognition but Burke has the stats to justify his entry on this list. He averages 14.6 points, 4.6 assist and 3.4 rebounds per game and has been even better recently, scoring 21 and 19 points in each of the last two games.

24. Jason Clark, Guard, Georgetown

Clark has a very good game and could be a big-time player if he wasn't a Hoya. Georgetown's slow tempo keeps Clark from having bigger performances, though the Hoyas are a tough team that could win a few games, extending his play.

25. Brandon Davies, Forward, BYU

Davies does a great job of filling the stat sheet, averaging 15.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game, but the Cougars aren't expected to make as much of a splash this time with their Jimmer-less squad.

Also Receiving Votes:

26. Terrence Jones, Forward, Kentucky -
Regressed from last year's stellar freshman campaign, though he still managed to put together a decent season, averaging 12.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. His biggest issue may be that he has more talented teammates who end up limiting his upside potential.

27. Matthew Dellavedova, Guard, St. Mary's -
Led the WCC in assists while also averaging 15.4 points per game.

28. Pierre Jackson, Guard, Baylor -
Averaging 13.5 points, 5.6 assists and 3.0 rebounds this season, but his inconsistency (13 games with at least 15 points, 11 with fewer than 10) holds him back.

29. John Jenkins, Guard, Vanderbilt -
Led the Commodores in scoring and hit a number of big shots this season but doesn't quite do enough in other categories to be included above.

30. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Guard, Kentucky -
Gets overshadowed by Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones, but Kidd-Gilchrist still finished with a solid line of 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists for a team expected to make a deep run.

31. Jeremy Lamb, Guard, Connecticut -
Has a very smooth game and can heat up and score big numbers but he's very inconsistent and doesn't do enough in other categories. He also plays for a team that is on the bubble and might have to win at least one game in the Big East Tournament to break into the NCAAs.

32. Kendall Marshall, Guard, North Carolina -
Second in the country with 9.6 assists per game, Marshall has been very consistent this year but gets overshadowed by his more productive teammates.

33. Mason Plumlee, Center, Duke -
He may not be as known as Austin Rivers or Seth Curry, but it was Plumlee who had nine double-doubles this season. He isn't a spectacular pick, but he could be playing for the long haul, so his cumulative totals could pay off.

34. Mike Scott, Forward, Virginia -
Finished second in the ACC in scoring and fifth in rebounding, Scott heads into the conference tournament following games of 28-10 and 35-11.

35. William Buford, Forward, Ohio State -
Isn't the most consistent player, but showed he can hit a big shot in a bit moment. Averaged 15.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists this season.

36. Herb Pope, Forward, Seton Hall -
One of only two players in the Big East to average a double-double; Pope has five in the past seven games heading into the conference tournament.

37. Garrett Stutz, Center, Wichita State -
Led the No. 16-ranked Shockers in scoring and rebounding this season, though he's really struggled lately, scoring 12 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in the last two games combined.

38. Cody Zeller, Forward, Indiana -
Led the Hoosiers in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots and will be the focal point of the offense come tournament time.

39. Darryl Bryant, Guard, West Virginia -
He isn't quite as productive as teammate Kevin Jones, but he's still able to put up some big numbers. He's very good at attacking the rim and has gotten to the line a bunch lately, going 24-of-28 in the final two regular season games.

40. Dion Waiters, Guard, Syracuse -
Comes off the bench for the Orange but he still averages the second-most minutes on the roster. He's a solid combo guard who can take over games and if the Orange make a deep run, Waiters likely will have at least one big performance.

Next 25

41. Seth Curry, Guard, Duke
42. Perry Jones, III, Forward, Baylor
43. Royce White, Forward, Iowa State
44. Robbie Hummel, Forward, Purdue
45. Doron Lamb, Guard, Kentucky
46. Scoop Jardine, Guard, Syracuse
47. Bradley Beal, Guard, Florida
48. Tim Hardaway, Jr., Guard, Michigan
49. Tu Holloway, Guard, Xavier
50. Hollis Thompson, Forward, Georgetown
51. Bradford Burgess, Guard, VCU
52. Kyle Kuric, Guard, Louisville
53. Shabazz Napier, Guard, Connecticut
54. Kevin Pangos, Guard, Gonzaga
55. Michael Snaer, Guard, Florida State
56. Jordan Theodore, Guard, Seton Hall
57. Jordan Taylor, Guard, Wisconsin
58. Mike Moser, Forward, UNLV
59. Ramone Moore, Guard, Temple
60. Dominique Morrison, Forward, Oral Roberts
61. Jeffery Taylor, Forward, Vanderbilt
62. Elias Harris, Forward, Gonzaga
63. Jamal Olaswere, Forward, LIU-Brooklyn
64. Gorgui Dieng, Center, Louisville
65. Andre Drummond, Forward, Connecticut

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