Sweet 16 2012: 8 Players That Must Take Control for Their Teams to Win on Friday

Liz YoungbloodContributor IIIMarch 23, 2012

Sweet 16 2012: 8 Players That Must Take Control for Their Teams to Win on Friday

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    Had enough basketball yet?

    I hope not!

    After a ridiculous first weekend with upsets galore and then down-to-the-wire third-round games, we have finally reached the second day of the Sweet 16.

    You are allowed one breath to prepare yourself and then we dive right back into basketball.

    The Sweet 16 features some genuinely interesting matchups today, from a Kentucky Wildcats-Indiana Hoosiers rematch to a Xavier Musketeers-Baylor Bears slugfest.

    While team basketball should never be overlooked, many squads rely on one player to guide them to victory. Whether that player leads through statistics or pure emotion varies greatly.

    But for some teams, when their star is not on his game, the entire team suffers. Some players cannot handle the pressure of being a go-to guy, especially on such a big stage.

    Are these players up to the task?

    There's only one way to find out.

Tu Holloway

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    When the season began, Tu Holloway was a Player of the Year candidate and the Xavier Musketeers were a Top 15 team.

    How much difference a few months can make.

    The Musketeers fell completely off the map, and Holloway in no way resembled the tough, take-charge point guard that Xavier rode to win after win. Holloway often looked passive and meek on the court, and his team’s record suffered.

    But in the past few games, glimpses of the old Holloway have begun to surface.

    Against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Holloway scored 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting, and against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, he scored 21 points and shot 50 percent from deep.

    But most importantly, his fire was back. Holloway demanded the ball when the game was close, and he delivered. He repeatedly drove into the lane and willed shot after shot into the basket.

    His teammates fed off his energy, and Xavier played its most complete and together games since the very beginning of the season.

    The Musketeers have a tall (literally) task ahead of them in taking on the Baylor Bears, but if Holloway brings his have-no-fear attitude and plays like a point guard on a mission, Xavier has a very good chance of pulling off the upset.

Perry Jones III

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    Perry Jones III is one of the most enigmatic players on this list. By all accounts, the sophomore forward should be averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, easily. He is 6’11” and 235 pounds, after all.

    Instead, Jones is averaging a rather mediocre 14 points and seven rebounds a night and has far too many games in which he disappears completely. 

    In his two NCAA tournament games thus far, Jones has scored two points and seven points, respectively. That is not going to cut it much longer. He must take over if the Baylor Bears want to advance farther than the Sweet 16.

    In the Bears’ Big 12 tournament win over the Kansas State Wildcats, Jones scored 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. That is what Baylor needs out of him.

    When the team’s frontcourt is functioning at a high level, Baylor is almost unbeatable. The problem is that the team simply has not been in sync often enough to dominate.

    In the Bears' matchup against the Xavier Musketeers, Jones will have opportunities to truly live up to his potential. Xavier does not have enough bodies to slow down Jones, so it is simply up to him.

    If Jones plays as well as he is capable, Baylor will win easily. If not, it could be a long night for Bears fans.

Terrence Jones

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    This one could not be any easier. The first time the Kentucky Wildcats faced off against the Indiana Hoosiers, Terrence Jones scored four points, grabbed a measly single rebound and had six turnovers. 

    The result? The Wildcats' only loss of the regular season.

    So this time, Jones must come ready to play.

    Indiana has Cody Zeller, but outside of the freshman big man, most of the Hoosiers prefer to play around the perimeter. If Jones can take advantage inside, he can deliver the Wildcats a win.

    Jones has all the skill in the world, but at times it seems that he is still trying to figure out how to use it. Sometimes he posts up, sometimes he drives to the basket and sometimes he shoots jumpers. If he could do all of those things with authority, Jones would be one of the best players in the country. 

    As it stands now, though, he’s still awfully close.

    In the past five games, Jones looks like a different player. He has come just shy of posting a double-double in all five, averaging 10.4 rebounds and 14.4 points per game.

    Against the Iowa State Cyclones, Jones almost singlehandedly defended star Royce White and kept him in check throughout the game.

    If Jones comes to play, there are very few teams in the country that can defeat the Wildcats. It is simply a question of whether he is mentally ready to do so.

Cody Zeller

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    Can the Indiana Hoosiers do the unthinkable? Can they follow up their buzzer-beating triumph over the Kentucky Wildcats with another win in the Sweet 16?

    To have any hope of going 2-for-2 against Kentucky, Cody Zeller must dominate for the Hoosiers.

    In his freshman season, Zeller has morphed into one of the best big men in college basketball. He has a legitimate post game, and his height causes big problems on defense.

    When the two teams first met, Zeller scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds. That won't be enough this time around.

    Zeller has to win the battle against trophy-laden Anthony Davis. One major reason Indiana was able to pull off the upset was because the Hoosiers got Kentucky's freshman phenom in foul trouble.

    Zeller cannot be afraid to take the ball at Davis and frustrate the Wildcats' paint game on defense. He must stop penetration and block shots right and left.

Stilman White

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    Okay, just kidding. Kind of.

    Poor Stilman White—the North Carolina Tar Heels point guard who looks like he is all of 15 years old—does not have to take over a game for his team to win.

    He just has to get the ball to the people who can.

    That may be easier said than done for a player who averages 4.3 minutes per game and has the biggest bull's-eye on his back of almost any player in the Sweet 16.

    No one knows exactly what is going to happen with Tar Heels point guard Kendall Marshall, who is currently listed as questionable because of a broken wrist. Will he play at all? If so, how much?

    Most importantly, how effective will he be? 

    Right- or left-handed, basketball players generally need both hands and arms to be mostly fully functioning in order to play at a high level (unless you’re Kobe Bryant). Even if Marshall plays, then, it will be impossible to know how well he can perform.

    So Stilman White, it’s your turn.

    If the poor kid can be somewhat steady at point guard and feed the ball to Tyler Zeller and John Henson down low and hit Harrison Barnes for open jumpers, North Carolina will likely beat the Ohio Bobcats. 

    But point guard is the most important position in the game—and the Tar Heels are going from one of the best point guards in the country to a baby-faced rookie named Stilman.

D.J. Cooper

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    Well, the Ohio Bobcats already beat the No. 4 seed Michigan Wolverines. Why not the No. 1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels?

    North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall is still questionable thanks to a wrist injury, and if Ohio has any hope of advancing, it must capitalize on that. 

    Point guard D.J. Cooper has been stellar throughout the NCAA tournament. Against Michigan, he scored 21 points and had two rebounds and five assists.

    In the next round, against the South Florida Bulls, Cooper scored 19 points to go along with six rebounds and seven assists.

    The kid can play against anyone—and he should be licking his chops for a chance to take on a Tar Heels team that might be starting a freshman point guard.

    Cooper must take the ball right at whatever point guard North Carolina plays. If Cooper can get North Carolina on its heels early, Ohio will have the advantage.

    Cooper’s play will be the difference in whether the Bobcats have the confidence to upset the Tar Heels. If he comes out hot and can capitalize on his matchup, Ohio will start to believe it can take out the No. 1 team in the region.

C.J. Leslie

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    The North Carolina State Wolfpack looked like anything but a No. 11 seed in their dismantling of the San Diego State Aztecs and their win over the No. 3 Georgetown Hoyas.

    Will it look the part again against the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks?

    The answer to that question lies largely in the play of C.J. Leslie. The sophomore forward is only 6’8” but plays like he is the biggest guy on the court.

    Against Georgetown and its impressive group of big men, Leslie scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. He continually took the ball right at the Hoyas and was able to convert.

    Now, he has the task of matching up against Thomas Robinson, a Player of the Year candidate.

    Leslie must do all he can to slow down Robinson on defense and make him work on offense. If Robinson is expending all of his energy trying to stop Leslie from scoring, he will not be as effective on offense. 

    NC State’s best quality is its ability to be scrappy. The team gets loose balls, harasses teams on defense and flat-out hustles on every play. That style of play does not only apply to guards either.

    Leslie must poke at the ball, body up against Robinson and give his team energy.

    The Wolfpack haven’t been playing like a No. 11 seed so far, but can they play better than No. 2 Kansas?