Michigan State is back in the top 10 and the emergence of junior center Derrick Nix is a big reason why. In the past couple of years, Nix has probably made the biggest transformation in terms of appearance in all of college basketball he has shed close to 50 pounds. Nix came to East Lansing weighing almost 320 pounds and spent most of his first two seasons playing limited minutes simply because he couldn't last more than that without gasping for air. Nix gave up his favorite dinner meal, Little Caesar's pizza, and completely changed his lifestyle. This season, he has been an imposing 270-pound force for the Spartans and has more than doubled his playing time, averaging almost 20 minutes per game. He's certainly one to watch in the next couple weeks of madness.
As a highly touted freshman last season, the Brazilian seven-footer was labeled a bust as he spent most of the year on the bench for Jim Boeheim's Orangemen. Melo recommitted himself during the offseason, though, as he changed his diet to shed weight and focused on improving his endurance. It has paid off big time this season Melo has emerged as Syracuse's defensive anchor and leader, averaging more than three blocks and five rebounds per game. Thanks to Melo's commitment in the offseason to getting healthy, Syracuse is rolling into March Madness as the number two team in the country.
Fifth-year senior Mike Scott has the surprising Virginia Cavaliers back near the top of the ACC, averaging more than 17 points and eight rebounds per game. Last year, a season-ending injury nearly derailed Scott's career. During his recovery, Scott got lazy and developed some questionable eating habits, including frequent meals of microwaved Krispy Kreme doughnuts and vanilla ice cream. Luckily, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett stepped in and arranged a series of meetings with Virginias nutritionist for Scott. By eating much healthier during the offseason, Scott shed the weight he had put on while recovering from his injury and came back for his final season stronger than ever, and it has certainly paid off.
When Ohio State played on the road last year, Sullinger would constantly get heckled by rival fans about his weight. As a freshman phenom for the top-ranked Buckeyes, Sullinger weighed more than 280 pounds. To get ready for this season, Sullinger cut out many of his usual favorites from his diet, like burgers and fries from McDonald's and Wendy's, and replaced them with healthy Subway sandwiches. He also worked overtime on his conditioning. This year, weighing nearly 20 pounds less, Sullinger has the Buckeyes in the hunt for the National Title again. Averaging almost 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, he appears to be primed to lead his team to make a deep run in the tournament.
Cooley spent his first few seasons in South Bend at the end of the bench. This year, though, Cooley has played like a new man, averaging over 12 points and nine rebounds per game and leading the Fighting Irish to a surprising 21-win season in the tough Big East conference. Again, an improvement in health was the cause for the transformation, but for Cooley it wasn't a new diet. Instead, he gave up video games. According to Cooley, he had become addicted to video games and wasn't focusing on eating right, sleeping, and working out, the essential routine for busy college athletes. It got so bad that Cooley had to tell his friend to take the video games away. Luckily for Notre Dame fans, Cooley is now focused on "reality" and is a player to watch in the coming weeks during March Madness.