2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament

NCAA Tournament 2012 Schedule: X-Factors Who Will Decide Final Four Games

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 17:  Darius Miller #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Iowa State Cyclones during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 17, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2012

Superstars win championships in college basketball, but X-factors are the glue that holds teams together in the dog days of March.

With the Final Four just days away, there are a number of players flying under the radar for each team that deserve to get their name mentioned, both for their contributions throughout the season and their importance to the games this weekend. 

Here are the underrated X-factors for all four teams playing on Saturday that need to play lights out in order to ensure they make it to the national championship game. 

 

Kentucky

Darius Miller

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 11: Darius Miller #1 and Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrate after the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Memorial Gymnasium on February 11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 69-63. (Photo by Joe R
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

While the Wildcats have as much high-end talent as anyone in the country, Miller has not gotten the credit that he deserves for being a dynamic shooter. 

Miller has provided the Wildcats with that leadership they need to keep all their talented freshmen on the right track. He is one of the most underrated players on the Kentucky roster, which will make his performance against Louisville that much more special. 

He is going to hit shots from the outside, which will open up the inside for Anthony Davis against the vaunted Cardinals defense. 

 

Louisville

Gorgui Dieng

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 17:  Gorgui Dieng #10 of the Louisville Cardinals falls into the scorer's table attempting to save the ball in the first half against the New Mexico Lobos during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Rose
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Playing against Kentucky means that the Cardinals will have to score a lot more points than they have thus far. We know they play great defense, but their opponents in the tournament have not been dynamic on offense. 

Florida is the best team they have played, but the Gators are useless if they aren't hitting three-point shots. 

Dieng is going to be locked in a matchup with Anthony Davis. He doesn't touch the ball as much as he should, but he makes it count when it comes his way. He needs to have a big game to give the team a chance to win. 

 

Ohio State

Lenzelle Smith Jr. 

LAWRENCE, KS - DECEMBER 10:  Amir Williams #23 and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. of the Ohio State Buckeyes walk back upcourt after a timeout during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks on December 10, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Talk about saving your best for last: Smith has played two of his best games while at Ohio State in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, scoring a total of 35 points and grabbing nine rebounds. 

Smith will need to have another game like that against the fast Kansas team that seems to be hitting its stride. 

The Buckeyes have found the right formula to win games in the tournament, but they can't ease up now that they are so close to the national title. Smith is going to be the key that determines whether they are playing on Monday night. 

 

Kansas

Travis Releford

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 25:  Travis Releford #24 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, Misso
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Jayhawks do not have a dynamic offense. They don't shoot the ball well from behind the arc, which means they need all of their scorers to show up and contribute significantly if they want to defeat an underrated Ohio State offense. 

Releford is a big guard at 6'6", and he has created some matchup problems in the tournament. He has scored at least 10 points in two of Kansas' last three games, and his shot selection has been phenomenal. 

As long as he is creating open shots for himself and getting others involved, the Jayhawks will be on their way to the national championship game. 

 

Final Four Schedule (Game Time is EST)

Saturday, March 31

No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Louisville at 6:09 p.m. on CBS

No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Kansas at 8:49 p.m. on CBS

 

National Championship Game

Monday, April 2

Kentucky/Louisville Winner vs. Ohio State/Kansas Winner at 8:00 p.m. on CBS

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