A.J. Graves (Butler) – Graves has proven he can play with the big boys when it matters most. In the second round of the NCAA tournament, Graves dropped 19 points in his team’s 62-59 upset of Maryland. The junior guard leads the team in scoring at 17.0 points per game and will be a crucial piece to the puzzle, should his Bulldogs have a shot at knocking off the defending champion Florida Gators. The match up between he and Corey Brewer will be one of the most exciting to watch down the stretch.


Chris Lofton (Tennessee) – No one player may be as important to his team as Lofton is to the Vols. Lofton is a natural scorer and team leader and it’s safe to say that without him, Tennessee might be watching these games rather than playing in them. I was a little surprised to see the committee give the Vols a No. 5 seed., but Lofton and Wayne Chism have proven to the nation that they belong. An interesting matchup for Lofton will be seeing how he fares against Ohio State’s young standout, Mike Conley Jr.


Derrick Byars (Vanderbilt) – Byars and his fellow Commodores have flown under the radar virutally all year. Their biggest win came at the end of the regular season when they upset Florida at home. This season Byars is averaging nearly 16 points per game and has consistently been Vandy’s go-to-guy. Against Georgetown, in the Sweet 16, Byars will most likely be matched up with the Hoyas Jeff Green, this seasons Big East Player of the Year. GU will be a tough opponent for Vandy, but with Byars on the floor, anything can happen.


Brandan Wright (North Carolina) – Who would have thought that just two years after graduating nearly it’s entire program, UNC would be back making a run at the Final Four. They have dangerous scorers in Rayshaun Terry, Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington, but the spark for this team has been the high-flying play of freshman center Brandan Wright. Wright, most likely destined for the NBA after this season, has made himself one of the premiere players in the ACC. His long wingspan helps him to elevate over players to either block shots or make them. Many think Carolina has an easy game ahead against USC, but don’t be shocked to see Tim Floyd’s Trojans come flying out of the gate.