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February 22, 2009

Who is the nation's biggest unsung hero?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

This week's question: Who is your pick for the biggest "unsung hero" in college basketball today?

Greg Anthony's answer:
This could be the season Pittsburgh finally makes that leap in the NCAAs. It won't be just because of sophomore sensation DeJuan Blair's ability to control the paint. And Sam Young is a stud and one of the best swing players in the nation; he's just as likely to hit a 3-pointer as he is to take you off the dribble and flush it. Still, Pitt's success will be because of the little engine that could, Levance Fields. He epitomizes what makes college basketball enjoyable. He doesn't overpower you with size and strength, he doesn't dazzle you with speed or quickness and he's not going to consistently beat you with his shooting touch. What he does as well as anyone is give his team a chance to win every time he steps on the floor. He understands the flow of the game as well as anyone and he plays to win. There's never any other agenda other than getting the "W," and that's why his team plays so consistently. He handles pressure, he keeps his teammates involved and he knows that in order for Pitt to be at its best he has to be the engine that makes the car go. The young man does not get enough credit. If Pitt makes it to Detroit, remember the conductor of this orchestra. Nobody in America is more effective.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
When there is talk about the nation's best point guards, you never hear Pitt's Levance Fields mentioned. He's not flashy, nor a great shooter nor a blur with the ball. Indeed, he doesn't even really look the part; he's a bit on the pudgy side and his shot is anything but textbook form. So what? The guy is tough and he's a winner. He's overshadowed on his team by big men DaJuan Blair and Sam Young, but Fields leads the team in minutes played and has an almost 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. It's one thing to have that kind of ratio in the Big South Conference; it's another to have it in the Big East. Fields is Pitt's third-leading scorer and a solid 3-point shooter. He also has a lot of heart: He struggled from the field for 36 minutes of Pitt's showdown game at UConn last Monday, but he hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the game to lift the Panthers to the win. This guy deserves more notice.

Jason King's answer:
Without a doubt, the most underrated, underappreciated player in college basketball is Connecticut forward Jeff Adrien. Future lottery picks such as Hasheem Thabeet and flashy guards such as A.J. Price may command most of the attention, but Adrien is the guy who sets the tone for one of the most physical teams in the country. People say they wouldn't want to run into Adrien in dark alley. Heck, I wouldn't want to run into him in a line to get into the sanctuary for Sunday church service. The guy is flat-out mean or at least looks like it when he pounds his chest and screams toward the crowd after a dunk or a block. With his chiseled arms and his thick, menacing frame, the 6-foot-7 Adrien is the king of fighting for offensive boards and getting second-chance points. He should also be commended for averaging more than 33 minutes per game in each of the past three seasons. Still, even though he scores 14 points and grabs 10 rebounds per game, Adrien's biggest attribute is that he intimidates people and because of him, so do the Huskies. He's perfect for Connecticut and for this award category.

Steve Megargee's answer:
Don't be fooled by Illinois senior guard Chester Frazier's meager scoring production. He has helped make the Illini one of the nation's most improved teams this season. Frazier averages only 5.4 points per game, but he also keeps Big Ten opponents from scoring much. Frazier has shut down some of the Big Ten's top players. He held Ohio State's Evan Turner to a season-low four points on 2-for-7 shooting. He hounded Purdue's E'Twaun Moore into a 2-for-9, six-point performance. With Frazier defending them most of the way, Michigan State's Kalin Lucas shot 3-for-10 and Penn State's Talor Battle was 3-for-11 against Illinois. Frazier is versatile enough to have defended guys who play every position but center. Frazier has managed to play tenacious defense without getting into foul trouble. He has been whistled for a total of 16 fouls in 14 Big Ten games. Defense is Frazier's specialty, but he's not a one-dimensional player. Frazier leads the Big Ten with 5.4 assists per game and ranks third on his team with 4.8 rebounds per game. He's a major reason Illinois appears headed back to the NCAA tournament.



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