Final Four 2012: Each Team's Unheralded Hero in NCAA Tournament

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 28, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 22:  Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts against the Cincinnati Bearcats during their 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Semifinal game at TD Garden on March 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

With so many NBA prospects in the Final Four this year, it's easy to forget that a couple stars don't make a team. It takes a collective effort to win a national championship.

Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville have all had under-the-radar heroes in the NCAA tournament, whether they've been coming off the bench or have simply been hidden among superstars.

Here's a look at each team's unheralded hero throughout March Madness.

 

Russ Smith, G, Louisville

Sophomore Russ Smith averaged just 21 minutes and shot 35 percent from the floor this season.

But Smith has stepped up for the Cardinals on the big stage, averaging 15.6 points in the past three games, including a 19-point outburst against Florida in the Elite Eight.

Beyond Smith's scoring off the bench, he adds to Louisville's mantra: "Steal anything in sight." He averaged 2.2 steals this season and had three steals against New Mexico in the round of 32.

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 24:  Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals moves the ball against Erving Walker #11 of the Florida Gators in the first half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Final at US Airways Center on March 24, 2012 in Phoenix
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

 

Darius Miller, G, Kentucky

Imagine scoring 19 points in consecutive NCAA tournament games and being an afterthought.

That's what Wildcats bench guard Darius Miller did against Iowa State and Indiana.

The problem is, Miller is coming off the bench because he's behind the likes of Doron Lamb, and when he does get into the game, he's overshadowed by such players as Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague.

Miller is shooting 47 percent from the field this season and 37 percent from downtown. Yet, nobody really talks about Darius Miller when talking about Kentucky.

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 23:  Darius Miller #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots past Christian Watford #2 and Will Sheehey #10 of the Indiana Hoosiers in the second half during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Semifinal game at the Georgia Dome on
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State

Aaron Craft is one of the most underrated guards in the country.

Not only does the sophomore point guard run the Ohio State offense effectively, he's a terror on the defensive end. He's a big part of what the Buckeyes do on defense. He's averaging 2.5 steals on the season and has 13 steals in four NCAA tournament games.

There will be a lot of star power when Ohio State and Kansas collide but, the reality is, Craft's impact on Jayhawks point guard Tyshawn Taylor may be the X-factor that boosts the Buckeyes to the national championship game.

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 17:  David Stockton #11 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs looks to pass the ball in the first half as he is defended by Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol En
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 

Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

People are finally beginning to recognize Jeff Withey.

Why? Because the junior center has 20 blocks in four NCAA tournament games, including the 10 he posted against N.C. State in the Sweet 16.

Withey is averaging 3.5 blocks for Kansas this season, and he's been a huge part of its interior defense. He's also the reason why I think the Jayhawks have the best chance against Anthony Davis and Kentucky out of all the remaining teams.

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 18:  Sandi Marcius #55 of the Purdue Boilermakers attempts a shot in the firsthalf against Jeff Withey #5 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the third round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 18, 2012
Eric Francis/Getty Images

 

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