NCAA Tournament: Andrew Nicholson Headlines The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching In The East

Andrew Nicholson led the Bonnies to the dance for the first time since 2000.

EAST

F Kyle Casey, Harvard

2011-2012 Stats: 11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg

The junior forward will go against one of the high-major schools he turned down in favor of the Ivy League. Just 6’7″, Casey provides a big presence for the Crimson down low on defense. Casey is a strong defensive rebounder, he grabbed 22.3 percent of the available boards on defense. He also put up a block percentage of 5.3. The native Bay Stater is also a high percentage shooter, he posted a solid 55.5 effective field goal percentage this season.

Casey and 6’8″ forward Keith Wright will face a tough challenge in Vanderbilt 7-footer Festus Ezeli. The Nigerian center is one of the best shot blockers in the country. I wouldn’t mind seeing Casey put up a dunk like this on Ezeli.

G Will Cherry, Montana

2011-2012 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg

Well, first off, Cherry apparently has some great taste in TV and music. According to his online bio, he loves Jersey Shore and Miley Cyrus. He also happens to be a pretty damn good basketball player, probably the second best in the Big Sky conference behind stud Weber State point guard Damian Lillard. The 6’1″ guard leads the Grizzlies in scoring and has posted double-digit in 19 straight games. He’ll put that streak on the line against the stingy defense of Wisconsin.

Cherry’s effective field goal percentage (52.6) jumped six percent from last season. While his two point field goal percentage dropped slightly (.518 in 10-11, .505 in 11-12), he shot much better from behind the three-point line this season. Cherry made .371 percent of his threes this season, compared to the paltry .225 percent he made as a sophomore.

G Matt Dickey, UNC Asheville

2011-2012 Stats: 16.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg

Dickey, the Big South’s player of the year, is a highly efficient guard. He posted an offensive rating of 120.5 (77th in the nation) and a true shooting percentage of 63.9 (35th in the nation). Dickey is effective in getting to the free throw line, drawing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes this season. He also happens to be one of the best free throw shooters in the country. The native Alabaman made 86.5 percent of his 208 attempts on the year.

If Dickey and the Bulldogs pull off a monumental 16-over-1 upset of Syracuse, I hope it ends on a play like this.

PF Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure

2011-2012 Stats: 18.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg

Nicholson is a high percentage scorer, strong rebounder and adept shot blocker. He led the Atlantic-10 in scoring (18.4 ppg) and ranks in the top 50 nationally in both effective field goal percentage (60.2) and true shooting percentage (64.0). Nicholson rebounds well on both sides of the court, grabbing 11 percent of available boards on offense, and 23 percent on defense. His block percentage of 7.73 was the 77th best mark in the nation.

Nicholson showed off all his skills in the A-10 tourney final, posting 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks as the Bonnies knocked off Xavier. The native Canadian’s strong performance down the stretch elevated his NBA draft prospects. DraftExpress has the 6’9″ forward ranked as the No. 6 senior, and projects him as an early second round pick in this year’s draft. The highly-skilled, and intelligent (Physics major), big man might sneak in to the late first round. Scouts will be very interested to see how Nicholson performs against Florida State’s trio of trees (6’10” Bernard James, 6’11” Xavier Gibson and 7’0″ Jon Kreft).

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