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Best Of The NCAA Tournament's Second Weekend

by Photo of Ankit Ahuja

Some impressive play by these men helped get their teams to the Final Four (or almost there).

Best Of The NCAA Tournament's Second Weekend

If you weren’t watching basketball this past weekend, you better have a good excuse. It was a weekend filled with drama and excitement. Sixteen teams were whittled down to just four. After the dust settled, Kentucky, Duke, Wisconsin and Michigan State were left standing. It took incredible performances from several players to advance this far, especially when the opposition featured some great individual and team efforts. 

Here are the 12 performances that stood out to us from a fantastic four days of college hoops.

First Team

Sam Dekker - Wisconsin Badgers

Sam Dekker, who many think has better NBA potential than his teammate Frank Kaminsky, showed why last weekend. He was 5-5 from three point range in the second half of the Elite Eight matchup, including the dagger three at the end that put Arizona away. With a 23/10 showing against UNC in the Sweet Sixteen and his 27-point outburst against the Wildcats, Dekker brought his best basketball of the season at just the right time. The two-headed monster of Dekker and Kaminsky needs to show up on Saturday against undefeated Kentucky.

Frank Kaminsky - Wisconsin Badgers

Kaminsky showed off his consistency in his last two games. Against the Tar Heels, Kaminsky put up a solid 19 points and eight rebounds. Against Arizona in the Elite Eight, he played extremely well from inside and out, scoring 29 points on 9-20 shooting. He is such a threat from everywhere on the court, it's nearly impossible to stop. Wisconsin needs Kaminsky to have another huge game if it wants to stop a historic Kentucky team.

Karl-Anthony Towns - Kentucky Wildcats

Towns showed why he is a lock to be a top 3 pick in this years NBA Draft. He finished with a career high 25 points on 10-13 shooting in the thrilling win over Notre Dame that kept Kentucky's perfect season alive. He was catching the people deep in the post, and it was just hook shot after hook shot to rack up the points. On top of that, Notre Dame decided to not bring the double team, and Towns continued to go to work. He came through with his best game of the year after having arguably his worst against West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen. I can’t wait till Saturday when Towns will be facing off against Frank Kaminsky.

Justice Winslow - Duke Blue Devils

When you think of Duke, Jahlil Okafor’s name pops up a lot. The freshman that we will be talking about all week is Justice Winslow. He was outstanding against Utah (21 points, 10 rebounds) and followed that up with a gutsy performance against Gonzaga. His stat line was okay (16 points on 4-12 shooting), but everything else he did was fantastic. Every loose ball, every defensive play, Justice Winslow was there. He is clearly an NBA ready defender, and he showed it by willing Duke to the Final Four.

Travis Trice - Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State's point guard has been the driving force behind the team's unexpected run to the Final Four. His 24 points lifted Michigan State in the Sweet Sixteen versus Oklahoma, and his 17/5/5 line helped carry the Spartans past the Cardinals in overtime. For the tournament, the senior is averaging just under 20 points and just under four assists a game. Without Trice, Michigan state likely isn't out of the first weekend, let alone the second.

Sixth Man: Wayne Blackshear - Louisville Cardinals

Louisville didn’t have a great game offensively, but the bright spot was Wayne Blackshear. He was the center piece of their offense. Whether it was mid-range pull ups or layups, Blackshear remained aggressive. He attacked the rim a lot, and ended up going 12-12 from the free throw line. Blackshear’s effort wasn’t enough to get the victory, but Louisville almost topped the King of March, Tom Izzo.

Second Team

Willie Cauley-Stein - Kentucky Wildcats

If you look at his box score, nothing is going to jump out. But Cauley-Stein's defense at the end of the Notre Dame game on Irish guard Jerian Grant was absolutely textbook. There's no reason a 7-footer should be able to keep up with one of the most athletic guards in the country, but that's Willie Cauley-Stein. He's one of the only big men that can really guard Frank Kaminsky inside and on the perimeter, and that matchup is the one I'm most excited to see on Saturday.

T.J. McConnell - Arizona Wildcats

Arizona's senior guard left if all out there, but once again the Wildcats couldn't advance to the Final Four. It was the second straight year that Wisconsin topped Arizona in the Elite Eight. There wasn't much more McConnell could have done. He scored 17 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists in the Sweet Sixteen win over Xavier, and then put up 14 points, five assists and two steals against Wisconsin.

Tyus Jones, Duke Blue Devils

The Duke freshman came up huge for the Blue Devils, putting up 15 points in each of Duke's games last weekend. Jones and Quinn Cook's ability to create off the dribble gave Gonzaga's guard tandem of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. fits in the Elite Eight, and the pair also played suffocating defense on the perimeter against the Bulldogs.

Zach Auguste - Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Auguste and the rest of the Irish were facing literal giants against Kentucky, but that didn't stop the junior from having the game of his life. Auguste led Notre Dame with 20 points and nine rebounds, somehow finding a way to score inside against Kentucky's vaunted interior defense. Combined with Pat Connaughton's yeoman work, Notre Dame almost pulled off one of the great tournament upsets in recent years.

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State's key players have all been playing well, and Valentine made his presence felt last weekend. He averaged 16.5 points, seven rebounds and three assists in both of Michigan State's wins last weekend, and his activity all over the court helps spark the Spartans' defensive effort and ability to get out and run on the break. Though he may be trigger happy at times, he's playing with a ton of confidence.

Sixth Man: Branden Dawson, Michigan State Spartans

For a seven seed to make the Final Four, you need a lot of players playing well. Branden Dawson kept up his solid play from the first weekend for the Spartans. While he didn't score as much (just 7.5 points a game), he did work down low for Michigan State. Dawson pulled down 11 rebounds in both of Michigan State's wins, and against Louisville he also registered four blocks.

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