NCAA Day Four Standouts: Looking back at how they got there
Finally, the upsets rang true on Sunday as Duke and Louisville were sent packing and others such as UNC, Kentucky, Oregon and Baylor received giant scares. We look back at the road that some of Sunday's top performers traveled to get themselves in position for a Sweet 16 appearance.
1. MORITZ WAGNER, MICHIGAN
The German big man was sensational on Sunday afternoon as he abused every mismatch that he was presented. He took the smaller defender into the post and scored with great touch while also stepping out onto the perimeter and knocking down the perimeter jumpers against slower opponents. Finishing with a career-high of 26 points and making 11 of his 14 shots from the field, Wagner may have easily played his way into the first round of this year’s NBA Draft. This all may have never had the chance to occur if it wasn’t for John Beilein’s hasty recruitment of the European center as he snuck in and beat out Virginia and Auburn, the commitment coming during a trip to Ann Arbor in the spring of 2015.
2. MANU LECOMTE, BAYLOR
His final stat line was far from sparkling but what he contributed down the stretch of his team’s win on Sunday was nothing short of superb. Lecomte, a tough and quick guard from Brussels, Belgium, has had an erratic end of the season, one marred by inconsistent production and injury. It would seem that it is all behind him thanks to his impressive scoring and defense. Lecomte has had success in the past but primarily coming as a backup as he served as the second point guard behind Angel Rodriguez at Miami two years ago. Looking for a better opportunity and more playing time, he decided to transfer, sitting out last season and now thriving in Waco.
3. LONZO BALL, UCLA
The show has rolled on for Ball. A 6-foot-5 playmaker that has been labeled as the best passing point guard since Jason Kidd, Ball didn’t really see much of a college recruitment. He committed to UCLA in January of 2014 where his younger brothers, LaMalo and LiAngelo, followed suit shortly thereafter. Thankfully for Steve Alford’s early intuition, the Bruins have reaped the benefits. It occurred again on Sunday as Ball dominated with 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds.
4. KENNEDY MEEKS, UNC
North Carolina has become known for its dominating big men in recent years and this season’s group may be the best that Roy Williams has ever had. Depth is not much of an issue and on Sunday against Arkansas, it was Meeks that stepped up. The No. 57 prospect out of the 2013 class has bettered his conditioning and become more productive as his years have gone by in Chapel Hill. However, it was a battle with Georgetown for his services. Many believed that the system on the Hilltop would have been best for Meeks but denying the chance to play for the in-state blueblood was just too difficult to deny.
5. SINDARIUS THORNWELL, SOUTH CAROLINA
It is rather difficult to be named as the SEC’s player of the year and still be underrated to a certain extent. This seems to be the calling card for Thornwell wherever he has gone throughout his basketball career. It happened at Oak Hill Academy before his South Carolina days. That is no more now, thanks to his dominant 24-point performance against Duke. Thornwell has become the rock to Frank Martin’s program as he was the first top-50 recruit to ever commit to him. Choosing the Gamecocks over NC State in the fall of his senior year, Martin prioritized the in-state recruit right off the bat; on Sunday, his hard work paid off as the Gamecocks moved on to the Sweet 16.