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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6. Hunter Dickinson (Kansas)

A former All-American, Dickinson put up monster numbers during three seasons starring at Michigan before deciding he wanted a change this past offseason. The Virginia native opted for the Big 12, landing with Bill Self at Kansas to bolster a Jayhawks program with big expectations for 2024. While Dickinson did miss the Big 12 Tournament, he’s been a major piece of Kansas’s success all season long just as expected.

He’s been a great interior presence for the Jayhawks while averaging 18.0 points and 10.8 rebounds, the first time in his career he’s averaged a double-double. Dickinson actually leads the Big 12 in both points and rebounds per game and showed his talents early, with 27 points and 21 rebounds against Kentucky back in November. Though Kansas hasn’t had an ideal season, Dickinson is a frontcourt monster that could help get the Jayhawks back to the second weekend and beyond if everything falls their way this week.

5. Braden Smith (Purdue)

One of the biggest young surprises in the Big Ten last season, Smith has been even better in year two for the Boilermakers this year. The fearless point guard for an elite Purdue squad, he helped lead the Boilermakers to the regular season title in the Big Ten, a 1-seed, and had a whole host of success on his own.

Smith averaged 12.5 points and 7.3 assists per game, sitting among the national leaders in assists while also making 45% of his 3-pointers. Smith has established himself as an elite offensive weapon for a Purdue squad that will be one of the favorites in March. He’s second in the nation in assists, dropping 16 against Northwestern several weeks back, and his lethal long-range shooting has Purdue excited for the coming weeks. He’s also picked up valuable experience after Purdue’s dreadful postseason during his freshman season.