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10 Small School Players to Know for March Madness

10 Small School Players to Know for March Madness
Mike Noblin
Written by Mike Noblin
March 6, 2023

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Ahhhh, Yes! It's finally March! This is one of the best times of the year to be a hardcore hoops fan! While lots of people are focusing on who should be the No. 1 seeds, we all know that Cinderella stories are what March is all about.

Popular players at the big-name schools get lots of hype, but don't sleep on these 10 superstars from small schools. They're ready to cause Madness this March!

1. Mitchell Saxen (St. Mary's)

Okay, so Saint Mary's may not exactly be a Cinderella story. Joe Lunardi currently has the Gaels as a No. 5 seed in his latest bracket. That being said, Saxen is one heck of a center and someone you should keep an eye on this month.

At 6-10 and 242 pounds, Saxen has the size to dominate down low on the block. He's averaging 11.8 points and 8 rebounds per game. This kid is only a junior and should only get better as he matures and fills out his frame.

2. Max Abmas (Oral Roberts)

You're probably already familiar with Mr. Abmas. He led Oral Roberts to a historic March Madness run that got them all the way to the Sweet 16 back in 2021. Abmas is back for his senior season, and ORU is poised to make another deep run in the Big Dance.

The 6-foot, 174-pounder may be slight in stature but ranks 7th in the country in points per game (22.0). He's also averaging 4.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. We think Oral Roberts shouldn't have any trouble capturing the Summit League Championship in the next few days.

3. Nelly Junior Joseph (Iona)

Here's a kid that could surprise a lot of folks this month! Joseph is a 6-9 240-pound forward that's very skilled both as a scorer and rebounder. He doesn't get much national hype since he plays for Iona.

The Gaels are having a heck of a season (currently 24-7) and should be able to get an automatic qualifier bid into the Big Dance coming out of the MAAC. Joseph is averaging 15.4 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. He'll make Iona a tough out come tournament time.

4. Tucker Richardson (Colgate)

It seems like Richardson has been at Colgate since the Obama administration! He's been a starter for 5 straight years and is averaging career-highs in points and assists this season. He recently went for a double-double against Army in the Patriot League Tournament with 11 points and 12 assists.

Richardson isn't flashy, but he does a lot of things well. He's the engine that makes the Raiders go. If Richardson plays like he's capable, Colgate could be a Sweet 16 team in a few weeks.

5. Chris Youngblood (Kennesaw State)

Kennesaw State just punched their ticket to the Big Dance by beating Liberty by a point in the ASUN Championship Game. Youngblood scored 16 points and grabbed 5 rebounds to push them over the top and into the NCAA Tournament.

Youngblood is a 6-4 218-pound junior from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He rebounds very well for a guard (4.8 per game) and averages 14.7 points per game. Youngblood can also knock down three-pointers if left open.

6. Jalen Slawson (Furman)

Slawon is a treat to watch, and he's a big reason why Furman just beat Western Carolina in overtime to reach the SoCon Finals. The 6-7 senior is averaging career-highs in points per game (15.6) and 3-point field goal percentage (38.5).

Furman has a tough matchup in the Finals against Chattanooga, but they're still favored to win that game and advance to the NCAA Tournament. If they do that, Slawson will be a player to watch this month.

7. Drew Pember (UNC-Asheville)

Not many people have heard of Drew Pember, or of UNC-Asheville for that matter. However, Pember is a brilliant post player who ranks 14th in the nation in scoring (21.2). He led UNCA to a 27-7 record this season and a Big South title.

Pember was a beast during the Bulldogs' conference title run. The 6-10 senior scored 29 points against Campbell in the championship game, and he'll be a tough matchup for any team in the country to defend.

8. Aaron Estrada (Howard)

The Pride are 24-8 this season, and Estrada is the main reason for that. The 6-3 senior is averaging 20.4 points per game (22nd), and every team in the CAA has a tough time guarding him.

Hofstra just destroyed William & Mary by 48 points, and they're heavily favored over UNC-Wilmington on Monday night. We're expecting Hofstra to take home the CAA title, which could earn them a No. 12 or 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

9. Le'Tre Darthard (Utah Valley)

Folks got a glimpse of how good Darthard is last Friday. The 6-4 junior dropped 26 points in a 113-69 route over Stephen F. Austin. The Denton, Texas, native is averaging 14.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game this season.

Darthard is a key piece of the Utah Valley machine. We're expecting the Wolverines to be a dangerous team coming out of the WAC. Keep an eye out for both Darthard and this team when filling out your brackets.

10. Dawson Baker (UC-Irvine)

We're hoping UC-Irvine can make the Big Dance, just so folks can get to see Baker on a big stage. He's averaging 15.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game and can really shoot the rock if he gets into a rhythm.

Irvine gets a bye into the quarterfinals in the Big West tournament. Lunardi has them getting an auto-qualifier into the NCAA Tournament and currently lists them as a No. 14 seed. Baker has the skills to do some serious damage against the big boys.

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21+ to wager. Please Gamble Responsibly. Call 1-800-NEXT-STEP (AZ), 1-800-522-4700 (KS, NV), 1-800-BETS-OFF (IA), 1-800-270-7117 for confidential help (MI). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. Call 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369) (NY) Call 1-800-327-5050 (MA).

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