Zach Lofton, New Mexico State
• Senior guard
• High school: St. Bernard’s and Columbia Heights
• Lofton was the Southwestern Athletic Conference player of the year last season at Texas Southern, but he transferred from his third school in four years (also Illinois State and Minnesota). The 6-3 guard leads New Mexico State in scoring with 19.8 points per game, which included 21 points in the Western Athletic Conference tournament title game win.
JP Macura, Xavier
• Senior guard
• High school: Lakeville North
• Macura is the player opposing fans love to hate, because he makes big shots and responds to hecklers. The 6-5 sharpshooter saw his scoring average drop from 14.4 to 12.2 this season, but he’s shooting better from the foul line, 78.5 to 84.3 percent, and improved from three-point range, 34.0 to 34.7 percent.
Reed Nikko, Missouri
• Sophomore center
• High school: Maple Grove
• The 6-10, 250-pound Nikko had a tougher time carving out playing time in his second season with the arrival of high-profile recruits Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon. But he played in all 32 games for the Tigers, while having 11.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes.
Carson Shanks, Loyola-Chicago
• Senior center
• High school: Prior Lake
• For the first time in program history, North Dakota made the NCAA tournament last year with Shanks as a contributing post player. But the 7-footer decided to transfer as a graduate and join the Ramblers for his final college season. The rarely used reserve center has averaged 2.6 minutes in 11 games this season.
Jericho Sims, Texas
• Freshman forward
• High school: Cristo Rey Jesuit
• Arguably one of the most athletic frontcourt players in the Big 12 this season, Sims made the most of his opportunity late in the season when starting center Mo Bamba was out with an injury. The son of former Gophers player Charles Sims averaged 13.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in three games in a starting role, which included winning Big 12 newcomer of the week honors.
Ian Theisen, South Dakota State
• Senior forward
• High school: Osseo
• The 6-9 Theisen has helped to add bulk in the frontcourt alongside Jackrabbits All-America Mike Daum. He’s averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 17.4 minutes this season. Theisen has scored in double figures four times this season.
Gary Trent Jr., Duke
• Freshman guard
• High school: Apple Valley
• Following his former high school teammate Tyus Jones’ footsteps, Trent is one of the Blue Devils’ top players as a freshman. The 6-5 guard turned into a projected first-round NBA draft pick, ranking third on the team in scoring (14.3 points) and second in three-point field goals (85). Trent, the son of former NBA big man Gary Trent, had a career-high 30 points vs. Miami (Fla.) on Jan. 15.
Kyle Washington, Cincinnati
• Senior forward
• School: Benilde-St. Margaret’s
• Washington transferred from North Carolina State two years ago and established himself as one of the top forwards in the American Athletic Conference. The 6-9 Champlin Park native has started 66 games for the Bearcats in two seasons. He’s averaging 11.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks this season.