Watching a great college basketball season is like a cooking a great marinara sauce. A participant may begin by focusing on the main tenants: veal, beef and pork may get you started. For the NCAA, the mainstays this year are guys like Kevin Pangos, Montrezl Harrell and Jerian Grant. You know the flavor you’ll get from those players.
And then there’s a light heat that simmers. Those are your underclassmen. Sprinkle in some oregano, eight minutes here, 11 minutes there, a dash of salt and pepper.
Alas, you have a rich vat of college basketball to enjoy. Here are America’s players who are slow-cooking towards a red-hot mid-March.
1) Domnique Uhl – Iowa – Forward
Uhl played 20 minutes in a blowout loss to Wisconsin, but these are the moments a coach should get his young guys some experience. Uhl scored immediately after entering the game with a floater in the lane. He is still thyme twig skinny, but he’s growing into a roll with the Hawkeyes.
2) James Blackmon Jr. – Indiana – Guard
Blackmon Jr.’s game is so smooth, he has a Nat King Cole hair-part to match. Like a big jazz band, he can lull you to sleep but also drop a boom on you. He has great handle, can hit a jumper from anywhere, and finishes strong at the rim. His highlight dunks this season include a full facial over Montrezl Harrell (see our beef example above). Indiana has a big three of scorers. Blackmon Jr. lets the game come to him and has the luxury of doing so.
3) Kaleb Joseph – Syracuse – Guard
Joseph was recruited to back-up Tyler Ennis. Then Ennis played one of the best freshman seasons at point guard in college basketball history. Now Joseph is adjusting to life as a starting point guard. Add to the difficulty level, Syracuse has lost its Freshman superstar Chris McCullough to injury three games ago. Joseph is maturing. He logged a 10 point, 10 assist game in a loss against Villanova. He also put up 13 points 7 assists in their latest win against Virginia Tech.
4) L.J. Peak – Georgetown – Forward
Peak is listed as a center here on ESPN.com. I‘ll break the news for you: he is not a center. However, the kid’s got game. Peak scored 18 against Kansas. He joins the cast of characters on that Georgetown offense that spread you out, sneak behind your back and break you down. His high school highlights from Chicago are also impressive:
5) Chinanu Onuaku – Louisville – Center
If you know anything about Rick Pitino, it’s that he can mold raw big men into productive contributors in March. We saw this with Gorgui Dieng a few years ago. He entered the Cardinals lineup as a freakishly raw talent. Shortly after, he was hitting 15 foot jump shots to win a national championship against Michigan. Give the credit to Onuaku so far. The brother of the former Syracuse Orange big man has produced. The Duke and Kentukcy games have taught us, however, that Louisville needs more help on defense and rebounding. Watch for Onuaku’s attitude to gel nicely with Harrell’s “not in my house” mantra in March.