Norman Powell – UCLA Bruins – 2013, 2014, 2015
One of three Raptors to lead his team to three or more NCAA Tournaments, Norman Powell was a key cog in UCLA’s mid-decade run of success.
After failing to make the tournament in his freshman year, Powell was a solid role-player during his sophomore season. UCLA entered the tournament as a six seed, but were beaten by 20 in the opening round by upset-minded No.11 Minnesota.
The 2014 Bruins, now having added Zach LaVine to their ranks, came back stronger. Powell saw his role expand, and the team entered as a four seed.
After handling No.13 Tulsa in the first round, Powell put on an efficient showing against No.12 Stephen F. Austin in the Round of 32, scoring 16 points on 6/9 shooting. A Sweet 16 matchup with No.1 Florida would prove to be too much, however, and the Bruins were sent home.
Powell’s senior year was defined by a brutal non-conference schedule. The Bruins ambitiously scheduled North Carolina, Kentucky, Gonzaga and Oklahoma out of conference, and lost all four games. Due in part to this, they entered March as an 11 seed. But somebody forgot to tell Norm. Powell dropped 19 points on No. 6 SMU in the first round, as UCLA scored the nail-biting 60-59 upset. In the Round of 32, they drew No.14 UAB, who were days removed from upsetting Thomas and Iowa State. Powell avenged his future teammate, as UCLA got the win. They’d bow out to No. 2 Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
Pascal Siakam with the New Mexico State Aggies in 2015
Pascal Siakam is living proof that you don’t need to be an elite college player to have a great NBA career.
After a successful, if average, freshman campaign, Siakam and his New Mexico State Aggies won the WAC (yes, their conferences is called the WAC) and entered the tournament as a 15 seed.
Awaiting them was No. 2 Kansas. The Jayhawks had their way with the Aggies, winning 75-56. Siakam went 2/6 with eight points.
Siakam had no way of knowing it then, but a guy who he’d celebrate on top of a party bus with in four years’ time would go on to knock out that same Kansas team in the next round.