Seniors set for pivotal roles
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s Joel Berry II — last year’s Final Four most outstanding player for the reigning national champions — is one of several seniors set to play pivotal roles for some of the NCAA Tournament favorites.
There are veterans in pivotal roles sprinkled amid all the one-and-done talent that grabs the headlines.
Here’s a look at some of those seniors on high-seeded teams:
GRAYSON ALLEN, DUKE
Look, the 6-foot-5 guard is college basketball’s closest thing to a villain with multiple incidents of tripping opponents — along with a hipcheck against rival North Carolina in last weekend’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament to earn a flagrant foul.
Yet he’s also a proven scorer capable of delivering game-changing moments.
He is second on the team in scoring (15.7 points) while shooting nearly 38 percent from behind the arc. He had a career-best 37 points with seven 3-pointers in a November win against Michigan State. And he’s proven he can come up big in March before as a freshman during Duke’s 2015 title run.
TREVON BLUIETT, XAVIER
The 6-6 guard guided Xavier to its first No. 1 seed atop the West Region .
Bluiett averaged a team-best 19.5 points while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the foul line. He helped the Musketeers win the Big East regular-season race and they enter the tournament aiming to top last year’s surprise run to the Elite Eight.
JEVON CARTER, WEST VIRGINIA
The Cousy Award finalist to be honored as the nation’s top point guard does it all for the Mountaineers, the No. 5 seed in the East .
The two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year finished fourth in the league in scoring (17.0), third in assists (6.6) and tops in steals (2.9). He averaged 17.3 points and 8.0 assists in three Big 12 Tournament games and led West Virginia to its third straight berth in the title game.
GARY CLARK, CINCINNATI
The 6-8 forward works both ends of the court for the American Athletic Conference champion Bearcats, the No. 2 seed in the South Region .
He averages a team-best 13 points and 8.5 rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 43 percent from 3-point range. That was enough to earn plenty of hardware from the AAC as its overall player of the year and its defensive player of the year while also claiming its sportsmanship award.
Like Berry and Carter, Graham is a Cousy finalist for the Jayhawks, the Midwest’s top seed.
The Big 12 player of the year has Kansas on a roll by winning eight of nine to sweep the Big 12 regular-season and tournament titles. He averaged 17.3 points for the season, including averages of 14.3 points and 10 assists in the league tournament.
And he has a little incentive: The Raleigh, North Carolina, native will face his hometown team this weekend if Kansas and North Carolina State win their openers.
Here’s a throwback to the days when traditional big men worked exclusively in the paint.
The 7-foot-2, 290-pound Haas is the No. 2 scorer (14.9 points) and rebounder (5.6) for the Boilermakers, the No. 2 seed in the East Region. He also shoots 62 percent from the field and 76 percent from the foul line.
Purdue has a wealth of shooters and ranks second nationally in 3-point percentage (.420), so it’s up to Haas to provide the reliable interior production.