Star turn: Running down who’s hot, who’s not and who’s on the spot among the NCAA’s final 16

By John Marshall, AP
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The NCAA’s new stars, old stars and fading stars

By now, a nation full of college basketball fans knows all about Northern Iowa’s Ali Farokhmanesh.

The son of an Iranian Olympic volleyball player hit two icy 3-pointers to shoot the Panthers into the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 for the first time at the expense of UNLV and Kansas.

The next Stephen Curry? He could be if Northern Iowa gets past Michigan State.

Halfway through this March of madness, Farokhmanesh has distinguished himself as one of the attention-grabbers of this year’s NCAA tournament.

What about the rest of the field?

Well, there are plenty of other story lines: players making names for themselves and their teams, stars living up to their billing on the marquee, others who have wilted under the spotlight.

Here’s a look at who’s hot, who’s not and who has put themselves on the spot in each region:


Rising Star: Shelvin Mack, Butler, So., 6-3, 215 — Teammate Gordon Hayward gets more attention, but Butler’s reserved shooter — no tattoos, no trash talking — matched a career-high with 25 points and had seven 3-pointers against UTEP. He may need to do it again against No. 1 seed Syracuse.

Not as advertised: Jamar Samuels, Kansas State, So., 6-7, 215 — K-State’s super sub has been superbly average so far. Capable of scoring in bunches — tied his career high of 21 in the first half against Oklahoma State late in the season — Samuels has three points on 1-of-9 shooting in two NCAA games.

Up to the hype: Jacob Pullen, Kansas State, Jr., 6-0, 200 — The scruffy-necked shooter has made NCAA opponents “Fear the Beard” so far. Known for his near-halfcourt range, Pullen has displayed the depths of his overall game by scoring 34 points and playing inside BYU’s Jimmer Fredette’s jersey in what might be the best performance of the tournament.


Rising Star: Ali Farokhmanesh, Northern Iowa, Sr., 6-0, 190 — Big-shot Ali has carried the Panthers into the round of 16 for the first time ever. He knocked off UNLV in the first round with a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left, then toppled Kansas with an are-you-kidding-me dagger early in the shot clock with his team leading by one with about 40 second to play. Oh, and he iced that game with two late free throws, too.

Not as advertised: Evan Turner, Ohio State, Jr., 6-7, 210 — Hard to pick on a guy who had 24 points and came an assist and a rebound away from a triple-double his last game, but Turner has been inconsistent. He had just nine points on 2-of-13 shooting in the first round against UC Santa Barbara, then had nine turnovers to nearly pull an unwelcome quadruple-double against Georgia Tech.

Up to the hype: Wayne Chism, Tennessee, Sr., 6-9, 246 — Consistency has been big fella’s biggest contribution so far in the tournament, as it was during the regular season. He’s averaged an unexciting 10.0 points in two NCAA tournament games, but has drawn double teams in the middle while crashing the boards and anchoring the Vols’ stingy defense.


Rising Star: Omar Samhan, St. Mary’s, Sr., 6-11, 265 — The once-pudgy teen has become a force for the Gaels in their first run to the regional semifinals in more than 50 years. The affable big guy has attracted attention in the paint to free up St. Mary’s gunners while still averaging 30.5 points and shooting 75 percent.

Not as advertised: Jon Scheyer, Duke, Sr., 6-5, 190 — The Blue Devils’ best shooter has misfired in the NCAA tournament. He opened the tournament with a ho-hum 13-point game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and followed with a 1-for-11 performance against Cal. Duke can’t have another sub-par shooting game from him, especially with Purdue up next.

Up to the hype: LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor, Jr., 6-4, 205 — The king of the stepback 3 has shot the Bears into the regional semifinals for the first time in their history. Dunn has averaged 19.5 points while filling up the rest of the stat sheet.


Rising Star: Ryan Wittman, Cornell, Sr., 6-7, 215 — The son of former NBAer Randy Wittman has a lightning-quick shot release. Give him half an inch, it’s going up and usually in. Wittman has seven 3-pointers in two NCAA tournament games, helping the Big Red become the first Ivy League team since 1979 to reach the round of 16.

Not as advertised: Patrick Patterson, Kentucky, Jr., 6-9, 235 — Get to this point in the season and criticizing sounds like nitpicking, but the Wildcats could use a little more consistency from their elder statesman. Patterson was solid against Wake Forest, but had just four points in the opener against East Tennessee State.

Up to the hype: John Wall, Kentucky, Fr., 6-4, 195 — The athletic freshman has led the top-seeded Wildcats to a pair of easy wins, including a double-double in the opening round against East Tennessee State. So what if he turns it over a little too much? This guy’s fun to watch.

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