Apr 1, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT
You know all about the stars of the Final Four at this point. Shabazz Napier and Julius Randle were all-americans. Scottie Wilbekin was the SEC Player of the Year. Frank Kaminsky is no longer the secret weapon for Wisconsin after he shredded Arizona and star forward Aaron Gordon over the weekend.
Those are going to be the guys that get the most attention and the most spotlight, but here are the four biggest x-factors as we head into the final weekend of the college basketball season:
DeAndre Daniels: Daniels has the talent to be a lottery pick. That’s not me speculating, that’s a fact. He’s 6-foot-9 and athletic with three-point range, the ability to put the ball on the floor and finish above the rim, and the length to be an excellent defender at every level. He absolutely dominated Iowa State in the Sweet 16, playing a major role in UConn’s win on a night where Napier had a (relatively speaking) off-night: 27 points, 10-for-15 shooting, 10 boards, two blocks. But he can also go through stretches where he completely vanishes offensively, and those are the nights that UConn struggles.
Against a powerhouse like Florida, UConn is going to need Daniels playing his best basketball. If I’m Kevin Ollie, I go to him early and often. A motivated DeAndre Daniels could be the difference between celebrating a trip to the Final Four and having a chance to play for the national title.
Wisconsin’s defensive rebounding: Kentucky is the best offensive rebounding team in the country. Part of that is common-sense, as no one in the country — let alone in this Final Four — has the kind of size and athleticism to matchup with Kentucky on the front line. But there’s more to it than that: Kentucky leads the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, according to KenPom, grabbing 42.5% of their misses.
Wisconsin is a good defensive rebounding team — No. 12 nationally — but that doesn’t mean things are going to be easy against the Wildcats. Wisconsin likes to play three small guards, the biggest of which, Josh Gasser, gives up three inches to the smallest player in Kentucky’s perimeter. Sam Dekker starts at the four, and he’s a 6-foot-7 small forward that will be tasked with blocking out Julius Randle. Nigel Hayes, who plays alongside Kaminsky and Dekker when the Badgers want to go big, may end up being the most important player for Bo Ryan on Saturday.
Kentucky’s three-point shooting: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison and James Young shot a combined 35.1% from three this season. In the NCAA tournament, they have combined to go 22-for-49 from deep, or 44.9%. It’s more than just that, however: in each of their last three wins, the biggest shot of the game — the eventual game-winner — was a three-ball from one of those three. Against Wichita State, Young gave Kentucky the lead for good with a three with just 1:40 left. Against Louisville, it was Aaron Harrison hitting the go-ahead three-pointer with 40 seconds left on the clock. And on Sunday against Michigan, Aaron Harrison hit four threes in the final eight minutes, the last of which came with just 2.3 seconds left on the clock.
Dorian Finney-Smith: UConn has a top ten defense nationally, but if there is a weakness, it is their ability to defend the three-point line. Michael Frazier can shoot the cover off of the ball, and you can bet that the Huskies are going to do everything they can to keep him from showcasing that ability on Saturday night. Scottie Wilbekin is Captain Clutch, meaning that UConn will be expecting him to take and make his open threes. Finney-Smith is the guy that can be a difference-maker. He’s a streaky shooter, a guy that can hit three or four in a row but that also went weeks in between made threes at one point this season. When he’s hitting, he gives the Gators another look in their ball-screen offense with his ability to pick-and-pop.
Jul 29, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT
The Bruins will be tested by the time Pac-12 play rolls around.
Jul 29, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT
Chad Frazier was arrested back in April.
Jul 29, 2014, 11:34 AM EDT
Another surprise cut was made at the point guard spot
Jul 29, 2014, 10:12 AM EDT
Beyond the glitz and glamour of the highest levels of AAU basketball are kids fighting to land one of a few coveted scholarships.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT
The procedure wasn’t know until Agau took to social media.
Jul 28, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Richard Pitino likes that he can feed his players now.
Jul 28, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
Wisconsin got some pretty cool rings for making the Final Four.
Jul 28, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT
After tearing his ACL less than a year ago, Harry Giles looks healthy and prepared to battle for No. 1 in the Class of 2016.
Jul 28, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT
Northwestern head coach Chris Collins will be working with pros this summer.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT
Seven thoughts are a weekend at AAU Nationals and Super Showcase in Louisville.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:36 PM EDT
Haley is the first member of Washington’s 2016 recruiting class.
Jul 28, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT
Our Raphielle Johnson spent five days at the tournaments out in Vegas last week. Here are his thoughts on them.
Jul 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Miami of Ohio assistant coach Trey Meyer is a native of North Augusta and grew up working, playing and coaching at Peach Jam.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:36 PM EDT
The scary part? The rising junior’s game is finally starting to develop.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Izundu played very limited minutes as a sophomore
Jul 28, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
Want to guess how much they spend on planes for recruiting?
Jul 28, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
The best of the best from the final week of the July live evaluation period from Las Vegas and Louisville.
Jul 28, 2014, 9:57 AM EDT
Thon Maker won’t be on the team either, but it is loaded with former college stars.
Jul 28, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Skal Labissiere may want to go to Europe. That does not mean Europe wants him.
Jul 27, 2014, 9:39 PM EDT
Despite not being included among the five official visits, Indiana and UNLV remain options for Zimmerman.
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