After the Super Bowl ends, the month of February becomes relatively dull in the world of sports. Don’t get me wrong, you still have some big college basketball games, NBA games, and some hockey games throughout the month that you’ll tune into, but nothing with enough magnitude to get you to stay in on a Saturday night and watch. The month of March on the other hand, well that’s a whole other story, my friends.
For all of you non-sports fans out there (which I don’t know why you’d be reading this piece if you didn’t like sports), March is the best month of the year for sports because of one reason and one reason only: March Madness. The NCAA Tournament provides us with the absolute best weekend of the year, which is the first and second rounds of the tournament, that first Thursday-Sunday. Men call off work to watch hours upon hours of college basketball with their friends while they drink enough beer to fill a pool and eat their body weight in chicken wings and pizza. Those are usually the best games with upsets on upsets, brackets getting busted, and what seems like a buzzer beater every other game.
This year, college basketball has been absolutely terrific. The Top 10 changes every week with teams getting upset, and really no team has been able to hold on to the top ranking for a long period of time. To me, the unpredictability of this season just means this March is going to be as good as it’s ever been, and I can’t wait for it. My guess as to who’s going to be cutting down the nets at the end of the tournament is as good as yours. What I do know though is that there are players who can change a game for their team in March, specifically players at the guard position. I’m aware that we won’t know who makes the tournament for a few more weeks, but I decided to rank the top five guards heading into March. By that, I mean I decided to rank the guards who I expect will be playing in the tournament this year.
5. Joel Berry II – North Carolina, Junior
Born: Orlando, Florida
Weight: 195 lbs
For the first two seasons at UNC, Berry did not receive the type of recognition that he deserved, mostly because he had three-year starter Marcus Paige playing ahead of him. This year has been different for Berry, as he’s been the leading ball handler for the Tar Heels, leading the team in assists (4.0 APG) and second in scoring (14.9 PPG). He’s small in size, but the kid is supremely tough and can play with any point guard in the country. He’s the engine that makes this team go, and for UNC to make a deep run in March, they’re going to need Berry to continue to play as well as he has this season.
2017 Stats: 14.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.0 APG
4. Melo Trimble – Maryland, Junior
Born: Upper Marlboro, Maryland
Weight: 185 lbs
Going into last year, Maryland was a preseason favorite to make it to the Final Four and possibly even win a national championship, but unfortunately, they did not do as well in the regular season as many experts predicted and ultimately fell short of their goal by losing to Kansas in the Sweet 16. This year, the Terps are not getting as much love as they did last season, but the one thing that remains constant is their point guard, junior Melo Trimble. Trimble has been a three-year starter for the Terps and has average double-digit scoring in each of this three seasons. He also reminds me a lot of another Maryland guard, Juan Dixon, the one responsible for leading Maryland to their only national title. That’s not to say that I think the Terps will win it all this year, but much like Dixon, Trimble is the guy that makes the big play when the team needs one, and if he gets hot in March like Dixon did back in 2002, all bets are off.
2017 Stats: 16.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 3.5 APG
3. Malik Monk – Kentucky, Freshman
Born: Bentonville, Arkansas
Weight: 201 lbs
Of the five players that I ranked, Monk is one of the two best NBA prospects on the list. As a freshman, which can be said about any Kentucky player really, Monk has been the leading scorer for the Wildcats all season and even scored 47 points against the #7 North Carolina Tar Heels. While it’s extremely difficult for a freshman to lead his team to a championship in the NCAA Tournament, let alone a team that is full of freshman, Monk is the type of player that can lead his team on a deep tournament run if he continues to shoot the lights out of the ball. He’s played big in some of Kentucky’s biggest games this season but has also come up small at times too. March is where players can be remembered forever, so we’ll just have to wait and see if the moment is too big for him or not.
2017 Stats: 21.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.3 APG
2. Lonzo Ball – UCLA, Freshman
Born: Anaheim, California
Weight: 190 lbs
Much like Monk, Lonzo Ball is the other player on this list who is the most NBA-ready. Also similar to Monk, Ball is a freshman on this list, so you have to have concerns when going into March. Having said that, I think Ball is the real deal and is going to absolutely ball (pun intended) in the tournament. Having huge size for a point guard (6’6″), Ball can basically do it all for the Bruins. He’s third on the team in scoring (15.1 PPG), third in rebounds (5.8 RPG), and first in assists (7.8 APG). He’s also extremely efficient, shooting 54% from the floor and 43% from three-point range. And if that isn’t enough for you, he also averages 1.9 steals a game. UCLA hasn’t made the Final Four since 2008, but I think Ball is good enough to get them all the way there this year. Nothing seems to phase him, and I can’t imagine the pressure of the tournament being any different for him. Enjoy it now UCLA fans, because he’ll be playing at the next level after this year.
2017 Stats: 15.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 7.8 APG
1. Frank Mason III – Kansas, Senior
Born: Petersburg, Virginia
Weight: 190 lbs
Over the past ten or so years let’s say, college basketball has always been about the “One and Done” freshmen, and quite frankly I don’t blame them one bit. Play a year of college basketball, get your draft stock up, go to the NBA, and get your money. For the most part, a lot of those freshmen played very well in their one year at school, but couldn’t really lead their team to a championship, except for the 2012 Kentucky team. That’s because to win in March you need veteran players to be leaders of the team, while also coming up big in clutch situations, which is exactly what Frank Mason III does for Kansas. The Jayhawks’ leading scorer (20.4 PPG) and assist man (5.1 APG) is about to head to his final NCAA Tournament, and is looking to leave school with a bang. While Kansas has a talented freshman in Josh Jackson, who will probably get a shot at the NBA before Mason does, Mason is the guy that the Jayhawks turn to whenever they need a big bucket to go down for them. He’s the emotional leader of their team and the one who will be the reason they quite possibly could be cutting down the nets at the end of the season. I absolutely love Frank Mason III and hope he ends his college career on top.
2017 Stats: 20.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 5.1 APG