As if you needed another reason to march into the madness, here are 10 players with Bay Area ties to watch during the NCAA Tournament:
(1) Aaron Gordon (Arizona; Archbishop Mitty-San Jose):
Who else? The San Francisco Chronicle's only three-time Metro Player of the Year hasn't disappointed in a superb freshman season for the Wildcats. He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year while averaging a team-best 7.8 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-9 forward was second among Pac-12 freshmen in scoring at 12.3 per game while shooting 48 percent.
Gordon was a McDonald's All-American, the MVP of the game, in fact, and led Mitty to two state and three Northern California titles.
The Wildcats (30-4) are the No. 1 seed in the West and open Friday against 16th seed Webber State. (2) Davion Berry (Weber State; Hayward):
Do we have another Damian Lillard story? The under-recruited 6-4 senior guard is Weber State's leading scorer at 19.1 per game, while making 38 percent on three-pointers and 81 percent from the line. He also leads the team in steals, assists and is third in rebounds. From Oakland, Berry was a first-team All-HAAL performer but garnered little attention before attending Cal State Monterey Bay for two years. Unlike Lillard, he isn't expected to be drafted, but should get looks in the NBA summer league.
It may be a short run at NCAA as the Wilcats (19-11) are the 16th seed out West and draw No. 1 Arizona on Friday. (3) Isaiah Taylor (Texas, Saint Mary's-Berkeley):
The 6-1 freshman point
guard has played in all 33 games and is second on the team with a 12.5
scoring average and leads the team in assists (3.9). Taylor left St.
Mary's after his sophomore year and moved to the Houston area where he
starred two seasons for the Village School, averaging better than 15
points and 10 assists per game.
The Longhorns (23-10) are the No. 7 seed in the Midwest and take on 10th-seed Arizona State on Thursday. (4) Dominic Artis (Oregon; Salesian-Richmond):
The 6-1 sophomore has played in 23 of 32 games after starting most of his freshman season. He comes off the bench and averages 17.6 minutes, 4.3 points and 2.3 assists per game. Last season he scored in double digits in NCAA Tournament games against Oklahoma State and Louisville. He played three years at Salesian and helped them to a state title as a freshman before transferring to Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.)
as a senior. Opener: T
he Ducks (23-9) are the seventh seed in the West and take on 10th-seed BYU (23-11) Thursday.(5) Kevin Aronis (New Mexico State, Analy-Sebastopol):
The 6-3 senior guard has played in all 35 games for the Aggies, and averages 7.5 points while shooting 44 percent from the field and 73 percent at the line. A three-point specialist, he's made a team-best 76 of 172 (44 percent). He led Analy to 56 wins in two seasons before going to Santa Rosa JC where he averaged 12.3 per year as a sophomore.Opener:
The Aggies (26-9) are the 13th seed in the West and take on fourth seed San Diego State on Thursday.
(6) Elliott Pitts (Arizona, De La Salle-Concord):
Gordon's teammate wasn't seeing much court time until injuries struck and the 6-5 true freshman has made the most of it. He's logged some key minutes, and hit two three-pointers in a win at Colorado, another tournament team. Pitts was a three-year starter for De La Salle and averaged 17 points per game.
(7) Marcus Lee (Kentucky, Deer Valley-Antioch):
The 6-9 freshman and 2013 McDonald's All-American has played in 21 of 34 games, started four and averages 6.0 minutes, 2.1 points and 1.3 rebounds per game. He's made 19 of 32 shots (59 percent) but only 7 of 16 free throws. The true freshman averaged 17.7 points, 19.5 rebounds and 6.7 blocks per game leading Deer Valley to the Division I NorCal finals last year.Opener:
The Wildcats (24-10) are the No. 8 seed in the Midwest and play 9th seed Kansas State Friday.(8) Ryan Staten (San Diego State, Piedmont):
The 6-2 junior guard has played in only seven games and averages 2.7 minutes and 0.9 points per game. He averaged 14 points a game his senior year at Piedmont.Opener:
The Aztecs (29-4) are the fourth seed in the West and play New Mexico State on Thursday. (9) E.J. Floreal (Kentucky, Palo Alto):
The 6-4 freshman forward has played in just three games and scored two points. He played at Palo Alto three seasons before his father, former Stanford track coach Eldrick Floreal, accepted the same position at Kentucky. E.J. transferred to Dunbar, where he averaged 11.3 points per game.(10) Brandon Ashley (Arizona, Bishop O'Dowd-Oakland):
The 6-8 sophomore forward would be near the top of this list if not for surgery to repair a ligament in his right foot ended his season last month. He'll be in street clothes throughout the tournament, but his Wildcats figure to make a deep run. Ashley sustained the injury on Feb. 1 and he was the team's third-leading scorer at 11.5 points per game in 22 starts. Ashley was a three-year starter for O'Dowd, but he transferred to Findlay Prep as a senior and earned McDonald All-American status. Ashley has indicated he will return to Arizona for another season.