Skip to content

Four Final Four X-Factors

Apr 1, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

source: Getty Images

Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Two will transfer out of BYU

    Apr 20, 2015, 10:45 PM EDT

    Saint Marys Cal BYU Basketball AP

    BYU is losing two reserve players to transfer.

  2. Iowa lands a strong-shooting junior college forward

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Fran McCaffery AP

    Iowa landed a junior college forward to close out a six-man class.

  3. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg up and moving after heart surgery (VIDEO)

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg is up and on his feet after heart surgery.

  4. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige undergoes arthroscopic ankle surgery

    Apr 20, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    North Carolina star point guard Marcus Paige had successful surgery

  5. All-MAC guard Shannon Evans to transfer from Buffalo; is athletics director Danny White at fault?

    Apr 20, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Shannon Evans is leaving Buffalo. Is athletic director Danny White the reason why?

  6. Rhode Island lands perimeter help in graduate transfer from Towson

    Apr 20, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Rhode Island added some immediate help shooting the ball.

  7. South Florida lands a graduate transfer from Gonzaga

    Apr 20, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Angel Nunez AP

    South Florida continues to hit the transfer market hard.

  8. Reports: Long Beach State lands talented back court transfer

    Apr 20, 2015, 3:17 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Evan Payne averaged 18.0 points for LMU last season.

  9. Memphis lands a commitment from talented PG transfer

    Apr 20, 2015, 2:47 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Tarrant will step into the starting point guard role for Memphis.

  10. Kyle Wiltjer to return to Gonzaga for his senior season

    Apr 20, 2015, 2:38 PM EDT

    Kyle Wiltjer (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Wiltjer will likely be a preseason all-american.

  11. Greek Freak 2.0? A first look at Kostas Antetokounmpo (VIDEO)

    Apr 20, 2015, 1:58 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The younger Greek Freak is hitting the AAU circuit this summer.

  12. Illegal fishing, driving infraction lead to arrest for Mississippi State player

    Apr 20, 2015, 12:52 PM EDT

    Mississippi State athletics Mississippi State athletics

    This is the leader in the clubhouse for the weirdest offseason story.

  13. LSU lands top 50 Class of 2015 guard Brandon Sampson

    Apr 20, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    (Under Armour) (Under Armour)

    Sampson gives LSU one of the best recruiting classes in the country.

  14. 2015 College Basketball Updated Early Entry List

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:05 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Who’s going pro? Who’s returning to school? Who are we still waiting to hear from?

  15. Five-star forward sets date for college announcement

    Apr 19, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Brandon Ingram’s down to six schools: North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and NC State.

  16. Central Michigan lands former Youngstown State guard

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:05 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Marcus Keene averaged 15.6 ppg last season, and with Chris Fowler entering his senior season this is a good pickup for the Chippewas.

  17. Four-star shooting guard’s upcoming decision an important one for St. John’s

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Brandon Sampson will pick LSU, Oklahoma State or St. John’s on Monday, and he’s an important recruit for the Red Storm.

  18. Bucknell announces hiring of former assistant Nathan Davis as head coach

    Apr 19, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT

    Randolph Macon Athletics Randolph Macon Athletics

    Nathan Davis, who won 78.3 percent of his games as head coach at Randolph Macon, was an assistant at Bucknell from 2003-08.