March 19 | Unsung coaches to watch
Every NCAA Tournament produces new stars. Some players receive plenty of ink -- guys like T.J. Ford of Texas, Nick Collison of Kansas, David West of Xavier, Dwyane Wade of Marquette, Hollis Price of Oklahoma and on and on.
But some players who are not household names still had sensational seasons, and they could shine like stars in the March Madness universe. Here are some unsung guys to keep an eye on (listed in alphabetical order, together with their school's first-round matchups, with seeds in parentheses):
Brett Blizzard | senior guard | South: UNC-Wilmington (11) vs. Maryland (6)
Defending national champion Maryland will try to prepare its defense to stop the outside shooting of UNC-Wilmington's Brett Blizzard. Remember, last year the multitalented 6-4 senior played well in a first-round upset over USC.
Blizzard averages 21.3 points per game and is a clutch free-throw shooter. An all-around player, he also averages 4.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Jermaine Boyette | senior guard | Midwest: Weber State (12) vs. Wisconsin (5)
Weber State has won 17 games in a row -- not quite as good as Kentucky's 23 straight -- and the leader of these Wildcats is 6-2 guard Jermaine Boyette. The Big Sky's player of the year, Boyette averaged 20.3 points per game. He can score big-time. And remember, Weber State pulled off a shocker in 1999 when North Carolina was the first-round opponent. Wisconsin and coach Bo Ryan's boys will have to be ready to face Boyette.
Luis Flores | junior guard | East: Manhattan (14) vs. Syracuse (3)
Coach Bobby Gonzalez of Manhattan is a rising star in the coaching world, and one of the keys to his success has been Rutgers transfer Luis Flores. His slashing ability and scoring prowess (24.8 ppg) will make him a threat against Syracuse's 2-3 zone. Flores also shoots 90 percent from the free-throw line. The Jaspers have already beaten a pair of Big East opponents, Seton Hall and St. John's.
Chris Kaman | junior center | West: Central Michigan (11) vs. Creighton (6)
The MAC has produced many shocks over the years. This year, Central Michigan center Chris Kaman can be an impact player. The 7-footer can score and rebound, and Creighton has to be concerned about facing him. Go ask Ball State about this talented performer -- he had 43 points and 12 rebounds in one outing, and then 39 points and 22 boards in another. Against Kent State in the MAC title game, Kaman was impressive with 25 points and 13 rebounds.
Ugonna Onyekwe | senior forward | East: Penn (11) vs. Oklahoma St. (6)
Penn has the premier player from the Ivy League in 6-8 forward Ugonna Onyekwe, who shot 50 percent from the field this season, averaging 16.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He could give Eddie Sutton and team some trouble in the opener.
Clay Tucker | senior forward | West: Wisconsin-Milwaukee (12) vs. Notre Dame (5)
Wisconsin-Milwaukee is making some noise, and Clay Tucker is the band leader. A brilliant scorer (18.3 ppg), Tucker can put points on the board quickly for coach Bruce Pearl's gang. Notre Dame and coach Mike Brey will need to keep an eye on him. The Horizon League is one of the most underrated conferences in America.
These are some new kids on the block in terms of the national scene. They're known on their campuses and in their conferences across America. Now they hope to gain more of the spotlight in leading their teams to Upset City at the Big Dance.