Mike Daum, F, South Dakota State
Nicknamed “The Dauminator,” Daum might be the field’s most intriguing player. A 6-foot-9 pick-and-pop maestro who converts 42 percent of his three-point attempts, Daum is the most efficient high-usage player in the tournament field, scoring 1.1 points per play.
Per College Basketball Reference, the most apt historical comparisons to Daum’s output this season are Doug McDermott (Creighton, 2013 and 2014) and Jimmer Fredette (BYU, 2010). Both those KenPom wonders led their respective teams to at least one NCAA tournament win, and Daum’s Larry Bird-esque jumper could similarly carry the Jackrabbits against Ohio State to the team’s first round-of-64 upset.
Kellan Grady, G, Davidson
According to people around the Atlantic 10 program, the freshman guard was expected to be a major contributor during his inaugural season, but his output so far has certainly outpaced expectations. The A-10 rookie of the year converted 51 percent of his two-point field goals — 40 percent of which were at the rim — and knocked down nearly 38 percent of his three-point attempts.
Clayton Custer, G, Loyola Chicago
Should the Ramblers achieve a first-round upset against Miami and possibly even advance to the Sweet 16, Custer’s ability to exploit defensive openings and find teammates along the perimeter will be crucial. Per Synergy Sports and Hoop-Math.com, 46 of Custer’s 90 half-court assists have resulted in a made three-point field goal (which leads the team). Those deep attempts create further havoc for opponents, causing the defense to shift to plug the gaps, which just results in more seams for Custer to navigate.
Only five teams play at a faster pace than the Thundering Herd (75 possessions per game), yet the Conference USA squad has a lower turnover percentage (17.1 percent) than all but one, Savannah State (16.7 percent), and that’s a credit to the junior guard, whose steady handles propel this high-octane offense. Elmore, who hardly ever leaves the floor — he has played in 95 percent of Marshall’s overall minutes, a rate that ranks second in Division I — is a study in changing speeds, constantly tweaking his pace and using an array of angles to offset defensive pressure. All of which enables the 6-foot-3 Elmore to both guide Dan D’Antoni’s NBA-influenced offense while also facilitating his own production — Elmore averaged 22.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game in 2018, a unmatched stat profile among all Division I players.
Jemerrio Jones, F, New Mexico State
Jones is an absolute force on the glass. The Aggies’ offensive and defensive rebounding rates both rank within the nation’s top 25 (per KenPom), and much of the credit goes to Jones, a 6-foot-5 forward whose combination of sheer force and a preternatural rebounding sense helps vacuum loose boards: The senior grabs 14.3 percent of NMSU’s misses while corralling 37.1 percent of opponents’ caroms, which ranks first in Division I.
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