Busting Brackets

2024 NCAA Tournament: Ranking the top 20 players from the Midwest Region

Purdue Boilermakers guard Braden Smith (3) high-fives Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15)
Purdue Boilermakers guard Braden Smith (3) high-fives Purdue Boilermakers center Zach Edey (15) / Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA
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8. Ryan Kalkbrenner (Creighton)

Few teams can boast a 7’0 center with the kind of impact that Kalkbrenner makes on both sides of the court. He’s been a commanding presence for Creighton since arriving on campus four seasons ago and has really put in the work in recent years. Kalkbrenner played a major role as the Bluejays marched to the Elite Eight last season and has put up even better numbers in year four of his career.

Kalkbrenner’s senior season has seen him average 17.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks while making 72% of his 2-point field goal attempts. This was his third consecutive season not just winning Big East Defensive Player of the Year but also leading the league in field goal percentage. Kalkbrenner is a monster around the rim and is shooting over 70% from the field since the calendar hit February with multiple 20-point outpourings. He’s a unique weapon that any team would cherish but that gives Creighton a significant edge.

7. Isaiah Stevens (Colorado State)

An All-MWC recipient for five consecutive seasons, it’s hard to find someone who’s had this kind of impact in the history of Colorado State’s basketball program. Stevens is a talented point guard from Texas who has been a catalyst in the Rams’ rise in recent seasons, getting that program back to the Big Dance again this season, the second trip of his career.

Stevens averaged 16.5 points and 7.0 assists per game this season, putting up impressive point guard numbers for a fifth straight season, while shooting 45% from long range. Not only was he one of the MWC’s top scorers and all-around players, but Stevens sits 4th in the nation in assists. Various 20-point efforts helped lead the Rams to wins over Creighton, Colorado, and San Diego State and has them feeling confident that he can lead this team to even more success in his final dance.