Here are five players to watch Thursday in NCAA tournament games at HP Pavilion:
– ANTHONY BENNETT, UNLV: Projected as an NBA draft lottery pick, the 6-8, 240-pound freshman forward averages 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds, including a 25-point, 13-rebound performance in the Runnin’ Rebels’ 76-75 win at Cal on Dec. 9. He was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year and earned a spot on the five-man all-league team after posting 13 games of 20 points or more.
– MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, Syracuse: A 6-6 sophomore point guard, Williams was third in the NCAA averaging 7.7 assists per game. Voted the Big East Conference’s most improved player and a second-team all-conference selection, Williams also averaged 12.0 points and 4.8 rebounds. He had 27 double-figure scoring games and 11 outings with double-digit assists, including 16 in one game.
– ALLEN CRABBE, Cal: A 6-6 junior guard, Crabbe was Player of the Year in the Pac-12 after averaging a league-best 18.7 points to go with 6.0 rebounds per game. Crabbe had 15 games of at least 20 points, including a signature 31-point effort in Cal’s win at Arizona, in which he made 12 of 15 shots.
– KAREEM JAMAR, Montana: The Grizzles’ 6-2 junior wing was the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year and a two-time conference tournament MVP. He had 39 points in two games for Montana last weekend in the Big Sky tourney and has averaged 18.7 points the past seven games. For the year, he contributes 14.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
– MARCUS SMART, Oklahoma State: One of the nation’s most difficult matchups, Smart is a 6-4, 225-pound freshman bull of a point guard who earned Big 12 Conference Player of the Year honors. NBAdraft.net projects him as the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft. Smart is a stat sheet filler, averaging 15.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.9 steals. He had 10 20-point games and 12 games with at least four steals.