Busting Brackets

2024 NCAA Tournament: Ranking the Top 20 players from the East Region

Nov 15, 2022; Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) and guard
Nov 15, 2022; Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Connecticut Huskies center Donovan Clingan (32) and guard / David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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20. Coleman Hawkins (Illinois)

A prolific part of success for the Fighting Illini, Hawkins arrived at Illinois back in 2020 and has been part of the backbone of their rise in recent seasons in the Big Ten. He was largely a bench piece as an underclassman but has developed into a significant contributor for the Illini, helping them to a Big Ten Tournament title this season.

Hawkins averaged 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in his senior season while shooting a career-best 37% from outside the arc. He doesn’t have the flashiest stats but he does a bit of everything for an Illinois squad that plays large stretches without a true center. He’s not the type of player to drop 30 points in a game (though he did do that to Iowa a few weeks ago), but he’s a major cog in the Fighting Illini machine, and a big reason his team secured a 3-seed.

19. Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State)

A talented guard from the state of Kansas, Mayo has developed into a major weapon in his career at South Dakota State. After showing promise as a freshman, he’s really burst onto the scene for the Jackrabbits in recent years, taking up a lot of slack after other major players have left the program. If you want the reason why South Dakota State won the Summit League then look no further than Mayo.

The Summit League Player of the Year this season as a junior, Mayo averages 18.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He’s the Summit League’s best sharpshooter, leading the conference at 38% from outside the arc. Mayo has had a plethora of great scoring outputs and is the type of player who can inspire a major upset with an excellent performance. He’s been better than 50% from 3-point range since the calendar turned to March and is a power conference type player in a mid-major league.