Final Four Bracket 2012: Key Players to Watch for Each Matchup

Howard CowanContributor IIIMarch 26, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 25:  Anthony Davis #23, Eloy Vargas #30 and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate their 82 to 70 win over the Baylor Bears during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Final at the Georgia Dome on March 25, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In an NCAA tournament riddled with historic upsets, the Final Four stage will be no place for a Cinderella story.

Kentucky punched their ticket with an 80 to 67 win against Baylor, marking the school’s 15th appearance in the Final Four.  

Big 12 powerhouse Kansas reached the semi-finals for the first time since 2008, when they won it all.

The second-seeded Ohio State will take on the Jayhawks after knocking out No. 1 Syracuse in the East Regional Final, 77-70.

Though Louisville may be the most surprising team in the Final Four, they are riding an 8-game win streak,and are hot off a Big East Tournament Championship. UConn anyone?

This years’ Final Four will showcase some of the most talent-laden match ups in recent memory, with most teams having more than one lottery pick.

Here are four players to watch in the Final Four Semi-Finals.


Thomas Robinson.

By now most people probably know Thomas Robinson’s story of adversity, but the fact of the matter is, the man can flat out play ball.

The 6’10” junior averaged almost 17.9 points per game this year, and is a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year.

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Thomas Robinson #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts late in the second half against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Final at Edward Jones Dome on March 25, 2012 in St Louis, Missou
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Robinson is a force in the paint grabbing almost 12 boards per game during the season. In the semi-finals, his defensive skills will be challenged as he battles last year’s POY finalist, Jared Sullinger.

Despite the regular season impressive numbers Robinson has struggled in four tournament games, shooting a pedestrian 28-58 (38%) from the field, well under his 52 percent regular season total.

If the Jayhawks are to win a national championship, Robinson has to be the dominant force that has NBA scouts drooling.


Peyton Siva

If you had told Rick Pitino he could have beat Florida with his star point guard on the bench during the final minutes of the Elite 8 matchup, he would have called you crazy.

The 6’ junior is the glue for the Cardinal's offense, but more importantly he is the catalyst for their tenacious on-ball defense, one that held Michigan State to a tournament low 44 points.

Siva has picked up his game during their tournament run, dishing out 7 assists and grabbing two rebounds per game

For Louisville to continue its momentum, Siva needs to pressure the Kentucky guards and he must stay out of foul trouble.

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 24:  Head coach Rick Pitino yells over at Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals in the second half against the Florida Gators during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Final at US Airways Center on March 24, 2012 in Phoe
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It’s pretty clear that if Siva fouls out with four minutes left against the Wildcats, the Cardinals are done against their in-state rivals.



Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Despite the temptation to focus on Anthony Davis and his dominance inside, the performance of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may be more important to Kentucky’s chances of winning.

The 6’7” forward averaged 21.5 points per game in the two wins against Indiana and Baylor, up from the 12 PPG he scored during the season.

Kidd-Gilchrist has also been downright clutch from the line over the past two games, hitting all 14 of his free throws. With the game on the line, the freshman has delivered.

Kentucky comes in as the favorite to win it all,  and if the freshmen forward continues score for the Wildcats, they will hoist the championship trophy in New Orleans.


William Buford

Ohio State may have one of the best big men in the country not named Anthony Davis, but the play of William Buford in the backcourt will be key to a championship game appearance.

Buford adds senior leadership and is a major scoring threat despite his poor shooting percentage in the tournament so far. During the regular season the 6’6” guard averaged close to 15 points for the Buckeye offense, but has struggled in the tournament, hitting only 30 percent from the field and just seven of 21 from the three-point line.

Ohio State needs to get production from Buford to be successful against Kansas, in case junior spark plug Lenzelle Smith cools off from behind the arc (6 for 10 in the last two games.)

If Buford can return to regular season form, Ohio State has a good chance at taking the Championship back to Columbus for the first time since 1960.