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NCAA Tournament: Isaiah Canaan and Casper Ware Headline The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching in the West

Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan has already led the Racers to a 30-win season.

WEST

F Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn

2011-2011 Stats: 17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, .427 3-pt%

The high-flying (evidence here) Boyd has been able to put up some big numbers in the Blackbirds’ up-tempo offense—LIU Brooklyn is No. 2 in the nation in adjusted tempo. But Boyd’s numbers are not just the byproduct of playing in a run-in-gun offense, he’s had a highly efficient season. The native Texan has a solid offensive rating of 116.3 and ranks in the top 100 nationally in both effective field goal percentage (58.5) and true shooting percentage (62.4). Boyd hasn’t shot below 50 percent from the field since he went 3-for-8 against Central Connecticut State on Feb. 4.

Boyd is also a pretty good three point shooter for his size and position. He’s shot 42.7 percent from behind the arc this year, but he’s shooting 64.7 percent (11 for 17) from three over his last seven games.

The explosive 6’7″ forward is an excellent rebounder. He has the 23rd best defensive rebounding percentage in the nation, grabbing 25.6 percent of available boards on defense. He also has a solid offensive rebounding percentage of 10.9. Boyd notched a 20-20 game last month, registering 21 points and 20 rebounds against Farleigh Dickinson on Feb. 23.

F De’Mon Brooks, Davidson

2011-2012 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 spg

He’s no Stephen Curry, but Brooks is pretty damn good. Davidson’s leading scorer and rebounder, Brooks is highly involved in the Wildcats offense. When he’s on the floor, the sophomore forward uses 30.9 percent of his team’s possessions (26th highest in the nation) and takes 34.5 percent of their shots (14th highest in the nation). The Wildcats are smart to run their offense through Brooks as he’s an efficient player. He owns a solid offensive rating (115.6), effective field goal percentage (56.6) and turnover rate (13.6).

Brooks attacks the glass on offense and defense. He collected 12 percent of the available boards on offense, and 19.1 percent on defense. Considering how many shots he takes, Brooks’ offensive rebounding percentage is impressive.

PG Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

2011-2012 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg

Canaan is the best player on 30-win Murray State, and quite simply, he’s been one of the best players in the nation this season. He leads the Racers in points and assists. Canaan is a deadly shooter—he ranks 37th in the country in effective field goal percentage (61.2) and 14th in true shooting percentage (66.1). He’s taken more three-pointers than twos this season, and he’s connected on a sizzling 47.3 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s made five or more three pointers in a game eight times this season. Canaan is also an 84 percent shooter from the free throw line, and he gets there often, drawing 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes.

PF Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State

2011-2012 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg

O’Quinn might be the best player in college basketball that even die-hard fans have never heard of.  The 6’10” senior led the MEAC in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. He ranks in the top 100 nationally in effective field goal percentage (59.0), true shooting percentage (62.4), defensive rebounding percentage (25.7), block percentage (8.9) and free throw rate (64.0). Evidence of his shot blocking expertise can be seen here.

O’Quinn will go up against Mizzou’s Ricardo Ratliffe, the national leader in field goal percentage, in the first round. The Tigers play a small lineup, so O’Quinn should pose some match-up problems.

PG Casper Ware, Long Beach State

2011-2012 Stats: 17.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.3 apg

Ware, a 5’11” point guard, is one the most exciting players in the country. He put up 33 points as the 49ers knocked off UC-Santa Barbara in the Big West tournament title game. Ware registered 25 points or more in six games this year.

Ware cut down on turnovers this season, posting the lowest turnover rate (16.1) of his college career. For the first time at Long Beach, Ware took more three-pointers (255) than twos (197) this year. He shot a respectable 36 percent from beyond the arc.  And while the senior is a big time scorer, Ware put up a solid of assist rate of 20.4.

Ware and the 49ers are battled tested, they faced eight NCAA tournament teams in non-conference. Six were on the road, and two were at neutral sites—Long Beach went 1-7, defeating only Xavier in Hawaii.

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