NCAA Tournament: C.J. McCollum and Nate Wolters Headline The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching In The South

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum could exploit a shoddy Duke defense in the first found.


SG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

2011- 2012 Stats: 21.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.1 spg

McCollum put up one hell of a stat line this season, and he’ll be out to prove it was more than just a product of playing in the weak Patriot League. Duke has had trouble on defense all season, so McCollum may be able to go wild in Greensboro. Can anyone on Duke stay in front of quick-footed McCollum? The junior guard put up 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the strong defense of Michigan State earlier this season (the Mountain Hawks lost by nine in a competitive game in East Lansing).

Besides his great scoring ability (21.9 ppg, sixth in the nation), McCollum has a solid assist-to-turnover ratio and is an impressive rebounder for his size. His assist rate (25.3) is twice as high as his turnover rate (12.2), and the 6’3″ guard has grabbed 17.7 percent of the available boards on defense. McCollum also draws a lot of fouls (6.3 per 40 minutes; 224 FT attempts) and converts once at the line (.821 FT%). The Ohio native has caught the eyes of NBA scouts. DraftExpress currently ranks McCollum as the 34th best junior prospect, and projects him to be a late second round pick in 2013.

F Wendell McKines, New Mexico State

2011-2012 Stats: 18.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.6 apg

McKines, an explosive 6’6″ power forward, is one of the best rebounders (and dunkers) in the country. The senior has grabbed 11.5 percent of available boards on offense and 24.4 percent on defense (36th in the nation). McKines, New Mexico State’s leading scorer and rebounder, has posted 14 doubles-doubles this season. He’s fresh off a dominating 27 point, 14 rebound performance against Lousiana Tech in the WAC title game.

The Aggies, the No. 4 offensive rebounding team in the nation, will take on Indiana in the round of 64. The Hooiser rank just 117th in defensive rebounding, so watch for McKines and the Aggies to cash in on some second opportunities.

PG Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

2011-2012 Stats: 21.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.0 apg

Wolters is a stat-stuffer, he leads the Jackrabbits in points, rebounds and assists. The do-it-all point guard owns an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio—his assist rate (37.6) is more than three times his turnover rate (11.0). Wolters has had success against high-majors this year, he put up 34 points, seven assists and five rebounds when the Jackrabbits beat Pac-12 champ Washington in December (Highlights here). Like McCollum, Wolters is garnering attention from NBA scouts. DraftExpress ranks the 6’4″ point guard 29th among juniors, and projects him as a late second round pick in 2013.

Hat-tip to CBSSports’ Matt Norlander for turning me on to Wolters a couple months ago. #NatersGonnaNate.

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