The 2012 NCAA tournament has entered the final stage: the Final Four. All four teams left have one goal in mind, and that is to win a championship. However, each team has one thing it must do to win it all.
Kentucky is the No. 1 team in the country, but John Calipari and company have a matchup with rival Louisville in the Final Four. On the other side, we see a matchup between Kansas and Ohio State that pits two similar teams that are getting hot at the same time.
The Final Four is nice, but it is not the ultimate prize in college basketball. All four teams are looking for a title, and to win it, they must first do these things.
Tyshawn Taylor is not Kansas' best player, but he is its most important. While Thomas Robinson does the heavy lifting, Taylor gives the team a new element to its game.
Taylor struggled in the first three games of the NCAA tournament. He averaged less than nine points per game, shot 0-of-12 from three and had as many turnovers as assists.
These numbers were flat-out depressing for Kansas fans, who saw their point guard average 17.3 points and 4.8 assists per game and shoot almost 40 percent from behind the arc.
Taylor gives this team an outside game, and when he struggles, so does the team. Taylor has the ball in his hands for so much of the game that his play dictates how the rest of the team does, and when he struggles, it can be felt much more obviously than any other player.
Taylor played well in the team's last game against No. 1 North Carolina, dropping 22 points on the Tar Heels and racking up six assists, five rebounds and five steals. He is the reason the team is headed to the Final Four.
Kansas will need Taylor to play well in the Final Four if the Jayhawks are to win it all, so the team will try to get him going early.
Ohio State has made it to the Final Four because four of the five starters have been on. Four of the five.
William Buford is playing slightly below his normal standard, averaging only 13.8 points per game compared to his season average of 14.7. Buford isn't playing badly, but he could be playing better.
The Buckeyes have big man Jared Sullinger dominating inside, and DeShaun Thomas is playing the best basketball of his career. Point guard Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. are also playing well. The only starter who isn't is Buford.
Buford is the X-factor for the Buckeyes. When he is hot, the team has a great inside-outside combination, and he has the potential to be this team's leader.
If the Buckeyes are going to step up and win it all, they will need Buford to play up to his potential.
The Louisville Cardinals are hot, winning the Big East tournament and then making it to the Final Four.
The team is trying to replicate what UConn did last year, winning the Big East tourney and the NCAA tourney, and they will have to do so in a similar fashion. (While Louisville will have to beat Kentucky in the championship game like UConn did, I am talking about style of play here.)
We all remember last year's championship game as one of the lowest scoring in history, and Louisville will have to win defensive struggles if it's going to win it all.
Louisville simply does not have the firepower to compete with teams like Kentucky, Kansas and Ohio State. In order to win games in the Final Four, Louisville will have to play stingy defense and keep other teams from scoring more than 75 points.
While Chance Behanan, Russ Smith, Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith can score well, they cannot compete in a high-scoring game against any of the other teams in the Final Four.
The only way Louisville will win any more games in this year's tournament will be to play excellent defense.
Kentucky has been the most dominant team in college basketball this season, losing only one game during the regular season on a buzzer-beating three by Christian Watford to Indiana, 73-72.
During the Big Dance, the team has won every game by double-digit points, blowing out every team it has played. In fact, in most of its games, Kentucky's opponents came back to make the score respectable, but the Wildcats still won by double digits.
With seven future NBA players, this team combines three starters from last year's Final Four team with four recruits in the top 20 from the Class of 2011. This is one of the most talented teams in history, and it simply needs to keep playing well.
With the National Player of the Year favorite, possibly the top two picks in this year's NBA draft, up to four lottery picks and an incredible amount of talent, this team has been on fire.
The Wildcats are on track for an eighth national championship, and they just need to keep playing like they have been to win it all.