March Madness Breakout Players | NCAA Tournament Players to Watch 2022
As exciting as the upsets are, the players are what makes March Madness so special. Whether it’s a freshman experiencing The Big Dance for the first time or a fifth-year senior leaving it all on the floor, there’s never a shortage of talent and emotion on display
The NCAA Tournament also helps shine a light on some lesser-known players from often-unheralded conferences. The stage has turned unrecognized talents into household names, and it’s these performances that can vault players to star status.
This year’s group is no different, and to help clue you in on who to keep an eye on, Jordan Schultz has named six players who could become breakout stars in this year’s edition of March Madness.
Please note that all college basketball odds and lines are current as of Wednesday, March 16 at 4 p.m. ET.
March Madness Breakout Players 2022
1. Ron Harper Jr., G/F, Rutgers
Rutgers may have barely snuck into the dance, but don’t blame do-it-all forward Ron Harper Jr.
A supremely gifted offensive player with range out to the perimeter, Harper Jr. — who checks in 245 pounds — calmly blends superior footwork and strength to give defenses fits.
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There’s a deliberate nature to Jr.’s game: He takes what the defense gives him and handles his business like a seasoned vet. Watch how he reads his man — and the help defender — in ball screens and always seems to find a vacant spot on the floor. It’s magical.
A true inside-outside threat, he’s an intriguing NBA prospect and New Jersey’s state college’s best shot at its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1979.
2. Blake Wesley, G, Notre Dame
I have Blake Wesley, just a freshman, as a legitimate NBA lottery pick. At 6-feet-5-inches and 185 pounds, he’s a physical, lightning-fast wing capable of shutting down a team’s top scorer while also getting you buckets on the other end.
- Read Jordan Schultz’s early 2022 NBA Lottery Mock Draft.
Wesley might just be the most talented guard Mike Brey’s ever had, which includes a long list of good players like Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson, Chris Thomas and Jerian Grant.
One NBA GM I spoke with had this to say of Wesley: “He plays very hard, and very fast. But he’s not in a hurry.”
3. Jacob Gilyard, PG, Richmond
Size is irrelevant for the 5-foot-9-inch Spiders’ jitterbug. Jacob Gilyard is the epitome of an undersized A-10 guard who just keeps coming all night. His supreme quickness and super strong hands bother opposing ball handlers, hence why he leads the nation with over three steals per game.
Chris Mooney is a very good coach who last guided Richmond to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2011. This team takes on its coach’s DNA, and nobody is a better example of that than Gilyard.
4. Bryson Williams, F, Texas Tech
A unanimous First-Team All-Big 12 pick, Bryson Williams is a pure scorer who gets it done at all three levels, including the three-point line. There, he connects on a robust 40.5% his attempts.
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The former UTEP standout has made quite the impression during his lone season in Lubbock, becoming the preferred option late in the shot clock for the Red Raiders, thanks in large part to his versatile offensive arsenal.
Texas Tech has a chance to make its second Final Four in four years, and Williams is the key reason why.
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5. Hunter Dickinson, C, Michigan
Hunter Dickinson, a 7-foot-1-inch lefty, enables Juwan Howard to invert the floor because he can handle it and pass it like a guard. Just last season, Dickinson — from famed DeMatha Catholic in Maryland — was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Dickinson, who averages 18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game, also patrols the paint as a high-level weak-side shot-blocker. You’ll fall in love with his swagger and old school game after five minutes.
6. Armando Bacot, C, North Carolina
Another big man worth the price of admission, “Mando” — who hails from IMG Academy — explored the NBA Draft, only to return for his sophomore campaign in Chapel Hill.
A ferocious rebounder and efficient scorer in the paint, Armando Bacot earned First-Team All-ACC honors by tallying an impressive 16.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game, to go along with nearly 2 blocks. NBA scouts I’ve spoken with believe it’s this production that will lead to a very long, very successful pro career.
UNC relies heavily on Bacot to establish position in the low block, where he commands double teams and is a willing passer. He also provides an endless supply of second-chance opportunities for Hubert Davis’ club, which will come in handy in the NCAA Tournament.