Busting Brackets

2024 NCAA Tournament: Ranking the Top 20 Players from the South Region

Feb 24, 2024; Waco, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars guard L.J. Cryer (4) and guard Jamal Shead (1) react
Feb 24, 2024; Waco, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars guard L.J. Cryer (4) and guard Jamal Shead (1) react / Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
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4. LJ Cryer (Houston)

A national champion while a freshman at Baylor, Cryer has four years of experience in the Big 12, though this was the first while with the Cougars. Cryer spent three seasons in Waco and became a massive piece of the backcourt last year with the Bears before opting to transfer. He joined Houston as they themselves joined the Big 12 and has assumed a vital role for an impressive Cougars squad.

Cryer averages 15.3 points per game for the best figures of his career while still shooting 39% from outside the arc. This was his second year in a row leading the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage while this time becoming the predominant offensive weapon for Houston. Cryer put up several great performances, dropping 26 on Texas and 24 at Kansas and will be counted on if Houston is going to make another deep Tournament run. After all, he does have experience with that kind of success.

3. Kyle Filipowski (Duke)

This 7’0 center from New York was one of the nation’s top recruits two seasons ago. Filipowski had a great freshman campaign but surprised many when he announced he would return to the college game as a sophomore. He’s been a big part of Jon Scheyer’s success in his first two seasons at the helm of the Blue Devils, building on those numbers this year.

Continuing to expand his game, Filipowski averaged 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while also showing potential as a long-range shooter, hitting 35% of those shots. His offensive numbers took a step forward in this second season while he was also one of the ACC’s best rebounders and shot blockers. He’s always a threat in the paint and did have 28 points and 14 rebounds in Duke’s ACC Tournament loss to NC State, but that’s the kind of performance that can overload certain teams in the Big Dance. He’s the impactful frontcourt presence on a Duke team simmering with talent on the outside.