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March 26, 2008

Finding future bracket busters

With guys like Davidson's Stephen Curry, Western Kentucky's Courtney Lee, Butler's A.J. Graves and other mid-major stars shining in March, we wondered what recruiting classes and players have the same kind of potential in 2008.

Rivals.com offers up five mid-major sleepers to keep an eye on for the next four NCAA tournaments.

Bracket Busters
NEVADA
2008 recruiting class: PF Luke Babbitt; SF Joey Shaw; SG Mark McLaughlin; PG London Giles

Notes: Mark Fox and staff inked one of the best mid-major classes in the nation, checking in at No. 23 after the early signing period. The Wolfpack added junior college wing and former Indiana player Joey Shaw in the last couple of weeks. Shaw's addition further enhances the incoming recruiting class. Babbitt is the gem of the class while McLaughlin has a chance to be an all-conference level player in the WAC just like fellow Washingtonian Marcelus Kemp was this season.

Star power: Babbitt has a chance to be the face of the mid-majors during his college career. The McDonald's All-American committed to Ohio State early in the recruiting process but decided that he wanted to stay in his hometown of Reno for a reason. The reason is March Madness, plenty of WAC titles and a chance to take the Wolfpack deep into the tournament. Along the way, don't be surprised to see Babbitt re-write the school record books.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS
2008 recruiting class: PF Anthony Booker; PG Kevin Dillard; SG Torres Roundtree; SF Chris Parrish

Notes: The Salukis missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. Don't expect the omission from the Big Dance to last for very long. Especially with the nation's No. 25 recruiting class coming to Carbondale. Led by Booker, a four-star forward, head coach Chris Lowery has plenty of players that can help right away and in the long term. This class gives the team plenty of depth and instant-impact star power.

Star power: While Booker is the highest ranked player in the class (No. 29 overall in the class of 2008) and he should expectedly shine in SIU's offense, keep an eye out for Dillard. The Chicago native has always been a winner whatever the level he has played at and it seems the bigger the stage, the bigger the performance from the 5-foot-10 Rivals150 point guard.

GEORGE MASON
2008 recruiting class: PG Andre Cornelius; PF Kevin Foster; PF Michael Morrison; SF Ryan Pearson

Notes: The Patriots have taken full advantage of a more prominent national name on the recruiting front and extended it's reach beyond the Virginia-Maryland-Washington D.C. area. Jim Larranaga and his staff went North and South for four very talented prospects in 2008. Cornelius should see strong minutes at the point while the trio of Foster, Morrison and Pearson are major scores for the Colonial Athletic Association school because of the versatility all three bring to the rotation. All three stand 6 feet 7.

Star power: Cornelius should thrive in the CAA because of his big game ability, afterburner speed and scoring touch from the point guard spot. He has shined in the underdog role his whole career because of his 5-foot-9 size. Cornelius was flirted with by the high-majors but no one could ever really pull the trigger. With that in mind, he should be firing away come tournament time.

NEW MEXICO
2008 recruiting class: PF Will Brown; SF Curtis Dennis; PG Nate Garth, SG Phillip McDonald; PF Isaiah Rusher

Notes: The Lobos inked a starting five in 2008. And all five could see starter's minutes right out of the gate. All five were recruited by the high-major schools in some capacity but saw an opportunity to play right away. Keep an eye on Rusher. He has always been a high upside player but struggled with consistency during his high school career. He spent this season at the prep school level, got his act together and has finally put the pieces of the puzzle together.

Star power: McDonald spurned offers from Kansas and other high-majors to play for Steve Alford. Expect the Houston native to come in and make a splash right away. Paired with senior-to-be Chad Toppert, a 6-foot-7 forward, the two have great size on the wings and should be able to shoot over the competition. McDonald went to New Mexico for an opportunity to shine and that moment could very well come in March.

SAINT MARY'S
2008 recruiting class: SF Collin Chiverton; PF Tim Williams

Notes: Sure, a two-man class won't put fear into the other seven teams in the West Coast Conference but the Gaels have a pair of players that should make a significant impact right away. Chiverton and Williams are good enough to help keep Saint Mary's in the NCAA tournament. Williams, an undersized but effective power forward, should shine because of his brute strength and grit.

Star power: As the WCC becomes more and more balanced, teams outside of Gonzaga continue lock up all-conference, instant-impact type players. Chiverton is one of those players. The 6-foot-5 wing enters college on a great upswing. He helped lead his team to the state finals in California before losing to Orange County powerhouse Mater Dei. Chiverton has great size for his position and versatility that will be hard to match up with in conference play.



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