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Save the best for last: 5 players rolling entering the tournament

Mar 13, 2012, 10:45 AM EDT

Big East Basketball Tournament - Cincinnati v Syracuse Getty Images

It happens every year. One player steps up his game and carries his team to a huge upset or a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Here are five guys to keep an eye one. Five who are playing the best hoops of their lives.

Ray McCallum – Detroit: McCallum, a sophomore, has been lighting up the Horizon all year. He led the team in scoring and finished 2nd in the conference. In the conference opener he had a pedestrian 10 points on 2-7 shooting. And then he got hot. In the next three games Detroit knocked off Youngstown State, the #2 seed (Cleveland State) and the #1 seed (Valparaiso) to clinch an automatic bid. In those 3 games the 6’2 McCallum made 78% of his 2s and 18-20 FTs.  He averaged 23 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5 assists.

Opening round opponent: Kansas (2)

Mike Scott – Virginia: Mike Scott was able to terrorize ACC opponents this season since he got hurt last year and qualified for a medical redshirt. He was 1st Team All Conference, but turned it up a notch when Virginia needed a win to secure a bye in the conference Tourney. In the past three games he’s averaged a ridiculous 28.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Opening round opponent: Florida (7)

Dion Waiters – Syracuse: The 2nd sophomore on this list, Waiters nearly doubled his scoring output this year, going from 6.6 as a freshman to 12.6 as a soph. But in the final regular season game and the two Big East Tourney games, he went to the next level. Waiters made 55% of his 2s and 63% of his 3s on his way to 19.7 points a game.

Opening round opponent: UNC-Asheville (16)

Andrew Nicholson – St Bonaventure: The A-10 champs finished 3rd in the regular season, and won the A-10 Tourney without having to face the #1 or #2 seed. But the way Nicholson was playing it probably wouldn’t have mattered. After the Bonnies loss to Temple on February 15th dropped them to 6-5 in the conference, Nicholson took over.  In the following 8 games he averaged 26 points and 10.6 rebounds.

Opening round opponent: Florida State (3)

Michael Snaer – Florida State: The Seminoles have been in the ACC for 20 seasons, and they just locked up their first ever conference championship. And to accomplish that they had to go through Miami, Duke and North Carolina. How’d they do it? Michael Snaer. Starting with the regular season finale which clinched the 3-seed, Snaer averaged 19.3 points and couldn’t miss when he set up for a 3. He made 14-19 (74%) in those games.

Opening round opponent: St Bonaventure (14)

Michael Rogner is the founding editor of Run the Floor, and you can find him on Twitter: @RunTheFloor