March Madness is the name given to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament that we love to watch at this time of year.
You can read more here about this tournament and understand how it works. With 68 teams taking part, there is a great chance for many players to shine, but which of them should you be looking out for?
The following are a few of the college basketball stars we think will play a big part in the games.
1. Hunter Sallis – The Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is favorite to win the tournament right now, having lost out in the championship game last year. They have an extremely strong team lined up to play, with five-star recruit Hunter Sallis one of the players we expect to make a big impression on fans.
Originally from Omaha, Sallis went to Millard North High School, and helped them to achieve their first Class A state title last year. His career points total is the third-highest in the history of Class A, at 1,819. Sallis became the very first five-star recruit in the history of basketball in Nebraska and has gone from strength to strength there.
He eventually joined Gonzaga despite offers from several other college programs across the country, showing how highly-rated he is. At 6 foot 5, this point guard could be vital in the outcome of the tournament. Fellow freshmen Nolan Hickman and Chet Holmgren are also settling in nicely.
2. Trevion Williams – The Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers are also classed as being among the favorites to win the championship this year. They have never won an NCAA Championship until now, but they’ve reached the Final Four twice and have seen over 30 of their players join the NBA in the past, including a couple of top picks.
Trevion Williams is expected to be one of the next big players to come out of the program. At 6 foot 10, Williams is a giant center who learned the game by playing pick-up basketball with his father in the parks of Chicago. He then played for Mount Carmel High School in his native state, with a 26-0 record during his time there showing how good he was at that age.
After a move to Detroit, he posted stellar numbers for the Henry Ford Academy and was in the running for the Mr Basketball of Michigan title. Since joining Purdue, he has become the first player for them in over five decades to post 35 points or more and 20 rebounds in a game. Williams also represented the US in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup.
3. Jaden Shackleford – The Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama has some great players this season, but are at surprisingly long odds to win the tournament. Their strongest area is at guard, where Jaden Shackleford has been shining alongside Keon Ellis and Jahvon Quinerly.
They are the top scorers for the Crimson Tide and right now it’s difficult to say which of them is going to have the best pro career. In the case of Shackleford, he started his basketball education at Oak Hill High School before moving to Hesperia High School.
The move from California to Alabama came after he received various offers from colleges around the US. An average of 15 points as a freshman saw him named in the SEC All-Freshman team. In 2023, he made a Sweet Sixteen appearance and then joined the NBA draft, However, he then decided to go back to college, with two years of eligibility still available.
4. Peyton Watson – The UCLA Bruins
The Bruins are high on the list of favorites to claim the NCAA championship this year. Among a talented group of players, five-star recruit Peyton Watson stands out. The small forward started playing at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, making the breakthrough in his junior season with an average of over 23 points and eight rebounds.
The 2023 recruiting figures had him as a consensus five-star and the highest-ranked player from California. He could have chosen any one of several colleges, but opted to go to UCLA. He is far from the only big name to look out for in this team, though.
Myles Johnson joined the Bruins from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, while Johnny Juzang is the leading scorer and is already being spoken about as a future NBA lottery pick. Juzang helped the Bruins to reach the Final Four in 2023 and was named in the All-Tournament team, so he’ll be hoping to go one better this time around.
5. Jabari Smith – The Auburn Tigers
The Auburn Tigers placed a self-imposed ban on themselves last season, meaning that they missed out on March Madness. However, the current odds suggest that they are among the favorites to win the championship game this year. Auburn is one of the college basketball teams going into this month with some great performances. This is partly due to excellent recruitment in 2023, as they made five roster additions to freshen up the team.
Who will be the biggest success for the Tigers? There’s a good chance it’s Jabari Smith, the freshman from Georgia who could become top pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Sandy Creek High School was his starting point, with an average of 24.5 points and 10.8 rebounds as a junior.
Smith was named Mr Georgia Basketball and ranked as a five-star recruit and one of the top players of his recruiting class, becoming the highest-ranked recruit to join Auburn in modern times. If his name already seems familiar, it might be because his father of the same name was an NBA pro who also played overseas during a long career.
More March Madness Details
The NCAA tournament begins with Selection Sunday on March 13. The games then come along thick and fast until the NCAA Championship game wraps up the event on April 4. As one of the top sporting events in the calendar, it’s a great opportunity for fans to look for the future stars of the NBA while supporting their favorite team.