INDIANAPOLIS: The Sweet 16 stars you know.
Kispert, Mobley, Zegarowski, Butler, Buddy Buckets they’ve all been on national TV or talked about enough that even casual college basketball fans know their names.
This is about those guys you might not know, players from smaller schools or who otherwise don’t get the same attention as the prime timers.
They’re just as good, just as important to their teams maybe more so and are part of what has made this the maddest of Marches so far.
MAX ABMAS, ORAL ROBERTS
His last name is pronounced ACE’-miss, which is ironic because he rarely does. The 6-foot-1 sophomore was lightly recruited out of Jesuit High School in Dallas and now all the power programs have to be wondering how they missed out on him.
Abmas led the nation in scoring at 24.5 points per game and didn’t care who he was going up against, scoring 33 against Oklahoma State, 28 against Wichita State. His range conjures up images of from-the-logo-shooters like Steph Curry and Damian Lillard, and he’s a dead-eye, shooting 41% from the arc.
Abmas had 29 points in the 15th-seed’s opening upset of No. 2 Ohio State, then 26 against Florida to send them to the Sweet 16 for the first time 1974.
Oh, and he’s a biomedical chemistry major, so he’s aces in the brains department, too.
CAMERON KRUTWIG, CHICAGO LOYOLA
The wispy mustache can’t hide the fact that we’ve seen the Ramblers’ fun-loving big man before.
The 6-foot-9 senior from Algonquin, Illinois, was a central figure in Chicago Loyola’s Cinderella turn at the 2018 Final Four. Now he’s back and there’s no looking away when he’s on the floor, for reasons far beyond the Krustache.
The 255-pound Krutwig has the heft of a center, but the hands and passing skills of a guard. He’s the conductor of the Ramblers’ offense from the middle of the lane and the never-give-an-inch anchor of the defense.
Krutwig was the first center in 15 years to be named Missouri Valley Conference player of the year after averaging 15.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
He also has a personality to match his beefy presence on the court, whether it’s playing harmonica or an impromptu karaoke version of Hall and Oates Private Eyes” on the Dan Patrick radio show.
QUENTIN GRIMES, HOUSTON
His name may sound familiar. Grimes was one of the top recruits out of The Woodlands, Texas, in 2017 and had his pick of blueblood programs. The 6-foot-5 guard ended up at Kansas, where he started 36 games as a freshman.
Grimes entered his name in the NBA draft after the season, but decided to return to school. Problem was, Jayhawks’ coach Bill Self, assuming Grimes would remain in the draft, had already filled his scholarship.
The one-and-done in Lawrence worked out well for him and the Cougars.
Thriving in Kelvin Sampson’s free-flowing system, Grimes has the Cougars drumming up memories of the Phi Slama Jama days at Houston. He leads the Cougars with 18.1 points and has them on the cusp of their first Elite Eight appearance since 1984.
His half-brother, Tyler Myers, plays for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, so his family is obviously oozing with athletic ability.
CHRIS DUARTE, OREGON.
OK, we know, the Pac-12 isn’t exactly a small league and Oregon is by no means a mid-major.
It’s all about Pac-12 After Dark.
Duarte is unquestionably one of the nation’s best guards, but all the late games on the West Coast prevent him from getting his full due.
A 6-foot-6 senior, Duarte was born in the Dominican Republic and played high school basketball in New York. He started his college career as the sixth man at Northwest Florida State College before arriving in Eugene.
Duarte played through a broken pinky at the end of his junior season and, with the added perspective of becoming a father, dedicated himself to getting bigger and better for his senior season.
Duarte became Oregon’s catalyst at both ends, leading the Ducks with 17.0 points while spearheading coach Dana Altman’s ever-changing defense.
Basketball fans everywhere, not just the West Coast, will know just how good he is after this run.
ETHAN THOMPSON, OREGON STATE
The Beavers’ guard suffers from the same Pac-12 After Dark affliction as Duarte, but also from little brother syndrome. Older sibling Stevie was one of the greatest players in Oregon State history, so the comparisons are always going to follow him.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard has carved out a name for himself during four seasons in Corvallis, scoring in bunches, dishing out assists and snaring rebounds.
Thompson led Oregon State in scoring 15.6 points per game while averaging 3.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He’s also the unquestioned leader on the floor and in the huddle, taking a team picked to finish last in the Pac-12 to its first Sweet 16 since 1982.
His name is Thompson. Ethan Thompson.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and updated bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket