7 Players Who Can Impact the NCAA Tournament on Defense

Chris Boucher's Oregon Ducks secured a 1 seed, and his shot blocking is a big reason why.

The NCAA Tournament pits teams of all playing styles -- defense-first, run-and-gun, three-point shooters -- against one another.

And while we'll all be focused on the star players and our alma maters, we shouldn't overlook some players who can impact the tournament on the defensive end.

Based on some advanced metrics, which players could impact the Big Dance?

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Joel Bolomboy, F, Weber State

Bolomboy, the Big Sky Player of the Year, is averaging in 12.7 rebounds per game this season, third best in the country among qualified players and tops among players in the NCAA Tournament. His 9.3 defensive rebounds per game also ranked third in the country and first in the Tournament field. His 31.5% Defensive Rebounding Rate (the percentage of defensive rebounds he collected while on the court) ranks fifth in the country -- and, again, is tops in the field of 68. He'll have his hands full in round one, as Xavier's 54.9% Total Rebound Rate ranks 26th in the country this season.

Brice Johnson, F, North Carolina
Devin Williams, F, West Virginia

Both Johnson and Williams own identical Defensive Rebound Rates of 29.3%, tying for 12th in the nation this season. Johnson's 7.7 defensive boards per game rank 15th, but Williams' 5.9 rank just 68th, showing how Pace can impact per-game numbers. Stephen F. Austin, West Virginia's first-round opponent, tied for 67th in the nation this year in Total Rebound Rate.


Kris Dunn, G, Providence

Dunn's 2.5 steals per game is tied for third-best in the nation this year among qualified players, and his Steal Rate of 4.4% ties for 12th. He's one of the most elite swipe guys in the tournament, and he would likely be the main reason Providence bests USC in their 8/9 matchup. USC, though, ranks tied for 65th in Turnover Rate at just 14.4%

Alex Caruso, G, Texas A&M

Caruso owns a Steal Rate of 4.3%, right on the heels of Dunn's mark of 4.4%. He's notched 2.1 steals per game this year, tied for 19th in the country. Green Bay, A&M's opponent, is tied for 18th in Turnover Rate, though, so both steal guys could have an issue making their mark on the defensive end of things.


Chris Boucher, F, Oregon

Boucher's Oregon Ducks might be a bit overrated as a 1 seed, but he's done his job this year, posting a Block Rate of 12.4%, 13th-highest in the country. That shines through in his 3.1 blocks per game, tied for second in the nation this season.

Prince Ibeh, C, Texas

Ibeh's 2.0 blocks per game ranks just 40th nationally, but his Block Rate of 11.6% ranks 20th. He played only 559 minutes this year, but his shot-blocking could help Texas, a 6 seed, get the best of Northern Iowa in the first round and square off against Texas A&M in the Round of 32.