6 Breakout Stars from First Week of the NCAA Tournament

Just one week in, the NCAA Tournament has already provided a wild amount of entertainment, with almost too many upsets to count. Many college players have risen up, and will continue to rise, to lead their teams on NCAA's biggest stage. Here are some of the biggest breakout stars from Week 1.

6. Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tennessee

If there's anything that we've learned the past two seasons, it's that we should probably stop referring to Middle Tennessee as an underdog. The 12-seed Blue Raiders dismantled 5-seed Minnesota 81-72 under the leadership of senior F Reggie Upshaw, who put the team on his back by scoring 21 points, including 7 consecutive points after Minnesota cut MTSU's lead to 4.

5. Elijah Stewart, USC

Elijah Stewart led his team to an incredible upset of SMU, hitting a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to seal the 66-65 victory for the Trojans. On top of that heroic shot, the junior guard 22 points and hit 6 three's over the course of the game. 

4. Jeff Dowtin, Rhode Island

Jeff Dowtin absolutely exploded in his first trip to the NCAA Tournament. The freshman guard had been pretty much a non-factor for URI in the regular season, averaging 4.9 points per game. However, he showed up at exactly the right time, draining 23 against 6-seed Creighton and leading the 11-seed Rams to the upset victory.

3. Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin

Senior forward Nigel Hayes was the definition of clutch for the Badgers this weekend. Hayes scored 19 points against Villanova, including hitting the layup that destroyed the defending champion Wildcats' hopes of winning back-to-back titles. After a disappointing junior year, Hayes has already redeemed himself in a huge way.

2. Trevon Bluiett, Xavier

While junior G Trevon Bluiett has consistently been ranked as one of the elite scorers in college basketball over the last few seasons, he propelled himself to hero status this week. First, by dropping 21 points to lead a second half comeback against 6-seed Maryland. Then, by scoring 29 points in a display of dominance as 11-seed Xavier throttled 3-seed Florida State, 91-66.

1. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina

While his name was still relatively unknown until this weekend, it's hardly a surprise that Sindarius Thornwell has been an impact player during the tournament, as he is the current SEC Player of the Year. In the Gamecocks' shocking upset of Duke, the senior guard lit up the Blue Devil's defense, scoring 24 points and notching 5 assists.

With the Sweet 16 starting this week, there are sure to be more players putting their name in headlights by leading their teams to victory.

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