Stepping up in class
The Kansas City Star
The regular season is over and so are the conference tournaments. Now its time for these players to find another gear as the level of postseason intensity goes up another level in the NCAA Tournament. The first might seem like an obvious choice, so we included another, because March is when unlikely heroes are born.
Phil Pressey, 5-10 guard
• Regular-season averages: 10 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 6.3 apg
• Big 12 tournament averages: 14 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 8 apg
• What he brings: It is not a coincidence that Missouri looked nearly invincible during the Big 12 tournament when Pressey was at his best. The sophomore point guard from Dallas had 24 assists and only four turnovers in three games while serving as the conductor of Missouris efficient offense. He makes shots, distributes the ball and disrupts the opponents primary ballhandler.
Steve Moore, 6-9 forward
• Regular-season averages: 3.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 16.1 mpg
• Big 12 tournament averages: 2.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 17.3 mpg
• What he brings: The 6-foot-9 senior from Truman High School puts up modest numbers, but dont be fooled. Moore will be one of this teams most important pieces. Thanks to his big body (267 pounds) and scrappy play, he serves as valuable insurance if senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe the Tigers only other true post player doesnt have any juice on a certain night.
Thomas Robinson, 6-10 forward
• Regular-season averages: 17.9 ppg, 11.8 rpb, 53.1 FG pct.
• Big 12 tournament averages: 17.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 52 FG pct.
• What he brings: Even when he has off games, such as the Big 12 tournament semifinal loss to Baylor, Robinson produces. He had 15 points and nine rebounds against the Bears. But another off-game could spell doom for the Jayhawks, who need their All-America talent to be at his best in what likely will be his final college games.
Elijah Johnson, 6-4, guard
• Regular-season averages: 9.6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 32.2 three-point pct.
• Big 12 tournament averages: 20.5 ppg, 3.0 apg, 46.1 three-point pct.
• What he brings: KU has sought a reliable third scorer throughout the season behind Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Johnson appears to have embraced the role with 26 points against Texas A&M and 15 more against Baylor. His shot selection became bolder against the Bears, and so did his errant shots. But when Johnson gets a free look, he typically buries the three.
Jamar Samuels, 6-7 forward
• Regular-season averages: 10.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 21 blocks
• Big 12 tournament stats: 29 minutes, 10 points, zero rebounds
• What he brings: The senior has played well at various times throughout his four years with K-State, but rarely in March. He was quiet during the Wildcats run to the Elite Eight two years ago and didnt contribute much during last years NCAA Tournament, either. Failing to grab a rebound during a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals didnt buck that trend. He will need to deliver on the big stage this time for K-State to advance.
Jeremy Jones, 6-2 guard
• Regular-season stats: 19 games played, nine of 24 three-point shooting
• Big 12 tournament stats: 4 minutes, made only three-pointer attempted
• What he brings: The junior-college transfer has been slowed because of injuries this season, but his shooting can be an asset. If the Wildcats need three-pointers against a zone defense, or a boost of offense, K-State coach Frank Martin may call on Jones.