Kemba Walker with the UConn Huskies. Christian Laettner with the ’92 Duke Blue Devils. Steph Curry with Davidson in 2008. Throughout the history of March Madness, there have been a handful of players who have taken the college basketball world by storm in the NCAA tournament, putting their team on their back and carrying them to a deep tournament run. And, with the NCAA tournament just over a month away, we’ve started our “March Takeover” features, as we profile players who could potentially dominate the tournament come March.
On January 5th, 2020, Michigan State senior guard Cassisus Winston served the rest of the basketball world a notice in a big way. Winston was coming off three consecutive games of 21 points with 50% shooting from the field, but he was not supposed to continue that production against Michigan and their elite defense. But Winston has faced his doubts throughout his whole collegiate career. Considered far too undersized, Winston was a fairly lightly recruited prospect, with only a few major school showing considerable interest. Michigan was the last school Winston visited, the school didn’t appeal to him, as he committed to the Spartans later that day.
In four years, Winston has continued to prove the doubters wrong, shooting at least 42% in all four seasons, as well as at least 38% from long range. With a dozen or so games left in the season – depending on how far the Spartans dance for – Winston is within range of becoming the first ever college basketball player to record 2,000 points and 1,000 assists for his career. After falling short in the Final Four last year, Winston entered the senior year with a singular goal, however, and, after some early struggles, the Spartans are heating up, as they eye a dream finish to their 2019-2020 campaign.
After being dismissed from the national picture after a series of tough losses to start the year, Winston and the Spartans crawled their way back into the picture, working their way into the Top 20 ahead of their showdown with then #12 Michigan. And there, as if he hadn’t done enough to showcase his abilities, Cassius Winston took Michigan and the rest of the country by storm with an elite performance, dropping 32 seemingly effortless points on the Wolverines, and that was with him only attempting one field goal in the final five minutes, when the game was long salted away.
Winston tacked on 9 assists, all while shooting 58% from the field as the Spartans throttled the Wolverines 87-69. His performance in that game earned one our selections as a potential “March Takeover” player. Winston showcased his ability to put the Spartans on his back, and his three-point shooting ability is reminiscent of players that have simply dominated the NCAA tournament with their ability to shoot their team to victory.
Michigan State may live and die by Cassius Winston – but if you’re going to live and die by a player, he’s a pretty good option to be stuck with.