Fresh faces of the Final Four: Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, Ron Baker
Before the NCAA Tournament started two weeks ago, Dove, which is sponsoring this post, asked us to come up with some of the fresh faces of the tournament. The idea was to point out some star players participating in the tourney for the first time. Not one of the players remains in the tournament.
Mitch McGary (pictured), F, Fr., Mich: McGary has absolutely exploded in the tournament. He had 21 and 14 against VCU and 25 and 14 in a comeback win over Kansas. The 25 and 14 marked season-high totals for the freshman. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim singled out McGary as a player who would be difficult to defend.
Nik Stauskas, G, Fr., Mich: Stauskas has been an excellent shooter all season. He shot 47.1 percent from the field during the season, including 44.9 percent on threes. He was absolutely unconscious against Florida in the Elite Eight, going 7-for-8 including 6-for-6 on threes to match his season-high with 22 points. If he remains hot, he will be crucial to busting Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
Glenn Robinson, F, Fr., Mich: The Big Dog’s son also deserves mention here. Though he was quiet against Florida, Robinson played well in his first three tourney games, including a 22-point performance against South Dakota State.
Ron Baker, G, Fr., Wichita State: Many of Wichita State’s top players were a part of last year’s tournament team. One fresh face from the Shockers to watch for is Baker. After missing all five of his shots in a win over Pitt, Baker bounced back with a huge game in the upset win over Gonzaga. He had 16 points and went 4-of-6 on threes. He made 2-of-3 threes in the win over La Salle. Some of his best games of the season have come in the tourney. He’ll need to be hot to keep up with Louisville’s powerful attack.
Ben McLemore’s Kansas team lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16 of the South Region. McLemore went 2-of-14 in his first two games of the tourney and missed all eight of his 3-point attempts. He made up for the poor performances with a strong showing against Michigan — he made four 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the loss. He told reporters after the game that he hadn’t given consideration regarding his future. Many expect him to leave for the NBA.
Shane Larkin led Miami to the Sweet 16 before the ‘Canes went cold and lost to Marquette. The sophomore point guard scored 17 points and hit some clutch shots to help Miami knock off Illinois in the round of 32. He was one of the few Hurricanes players to play well against Marquette. He averaged 13.7 points and six assists per game in the tournament while shooting 39.2 percent from the field and 86.7 percent at the line. A note he posted to his Instagram account fueled speculation that he could leave for the NBA.
Gary Harris, like Larkin and McLemore, reached the Sweet 16 before losing. After shooting well in his first two games, including a 23-point performance in a win over Memphis, Harris struggled going just 2-of-11 in a loss to Duke. Harris is considering surgery for his injured shoulder.
Marcus Smart was one of our two fresh faces whose team lost in its first game of the tournament. The No. 5 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys had a tough matchup against Oregon and lost 68-55. Smart had 14 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in the defeat. Smart was named to the AP’s All-America second team.
Anthony Bennett is the other player whose team lost in its first tourney game. UNLV fell to Cal 64-61 despite Bennett’s double-double (he had 14 points and 11 rebounds). Bennett, who just completed his freshman season, announced Monday that he is leaving for the NBA.