The NCAA Tournament (hopefully) starts next week and we know that typically, it’s the best overall teams that win. However, we’ve seen time and time again just how far an OK team with one superstar can go. We’ve compiled a list of the five most impactful players who will be participating in March Madness, so let’s take a closer look if they can put the team on their back and get to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.
Luka Garza, Iowa
The big man for the Iowa Hawkeyes has averaged a double-double this season. Garza has single-handedly carried Iowa to a No. 5 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a similar seed (yet to be announced) for the NCAA Tournament. Without Garza, Iowa might not even be in the NCAA Tournament. Garza has been that valuable to the Hawkeyes this season. He dominates games at both ends of the floor and on the glass. Few players have a larger scope or sphere of impact on a game, and for that reason alone, he might be college basketball’s very best player this season, though the other players on this list offer genuine competition.
Myles Powell, Seton Hall
This is the most fearless late-game shotmaker in college basketball. Powell lives for the big shot in the big moment. He has been hitting clutch shots all through this regular season, and he did the same last year as well. Powell has carried Seton Hall to a share of the Big East regular season championship and a seed as high as No. 2 in the NCAA Tournament, a terrific accomplishment for the Pirates. Powell is the main engine behind a Final Four contender. Given that Seton Hall is more of a contender for the Final Four than Iowa, there is a real chance that Powell could beat out Garza for National Player of the Year honors.
Seton Hall is currently at +2500 to win the NCAA Tournament at BetOnline. We’ll see just how far he’s able to carry this team.
Obi Toppin, Dayton
The third player who could legitimately win National Player of the Year in college basketball – along with Garza of Iowa and Powell of Seton Hall – is Obi Toppin of Dayton. Dynamic, versatile, and a beast in the paint, Toppin has been the low-post player opposing teams simply have not been able to figure out. It is true that Dayton’s success almost entirely depends on Toppin being a great player, which will lead many people to think that if Toppin struggles, Dayton is in trouble. While it might be true that Dayton is in bad shape if Toppin struggles, the bigger point to make is that Toppin practically never struggles. He does what he needs to do in every game. This is why Dayton has lost only twice and is enjoying its most successful regular season in school history.
Topping is currently viewed as a top three pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Markus Howard, Marquette
The Howard candidacy won’t win National Player of the Year, but it might finish in the top five. Howard won’t win the award because Powell of Seton Hall has been a better version of Howard. Yet, Howard is also a superstar shooter and scorer. On the season, he’s scoring averaging 27.8 points per game with 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He relishes the responsibility of having to take the big shot in an important situation. He did enough to get Marquette into the NCAA Tournament, but nothing more than that.
Payton Pritchard, Oregon
This is the best player in the West. Pritchard was sensational for Oregon this year, leading the Ducks to the Pac-12 championship even though he had very little help from his teammates. Oregon struggled all season long to develop a reliable offensive presence in the paint. Pritchard had to be the guy who created offense for the Ducks, and even though defenses were geared to stop him, he still succeeded. He led a number of Oregon rallies from scoreboard deficits late in games. He hit a ton of clutch shots and played crunch-time defense against opponents’ most agile scorers. Pritchard did as much as he could for Oregon, in many ways doing for the Ducks what Luka Garza did for Iowa, just from a different position on the floor.