Puerto Rico Tip-off 2012: Players to Watch in NC State vs. Oklahoma State Final

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - MARCH 23:  C.J. Leslie #5 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives against Kevin Young #40 of the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Regional Semifinal at Edward Jones Dome on March 23, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. Kansas won 60-57. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After two rounds of intense action, North Carolina State and Oklahoma State are set on a collision course to determine the champion of 2012's Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament.

North Carolina State has looked the part of a top-10 team in the tournament thus far. The Wolfpack stamped their ticket to the final game with blowout wins over Penn State (72-55) and UMass (94-76) and will be the favorites when they take on the Cowboys on Sunday. 

Oklahoma State has put its resolve on full display in making it to the finals. The Cowboys battled to get out of the first round against Akron, beating the Zips in overtime, 69-65. The Pokes then came out the following night and played brilliant defense to blow out Tennessee, 62-45.

With one last game in the tournament to impress poll voters and NBA scouts, there are plenty of stars in this game to keep an eye on. These players should have a huge impact on who comes out on top in this high-profile matchup.


Le'Bryan Nash

If it comes down to the best player on the court, the Cowboys will have the advantage. Nash is an absolute beast.

The 6'7", 230-pound sophomore has an NBA body, the handles to play guard and the physicality to play forward. He currently leads the Cowboys in points per game and is second on the team in rebounds.

He turns the ball over a bit too much at 3.3 turnovers per game, but if he can take care of the ball then the Wolfpack will find it very difficult to contain him. Nash projects to be a first-round selection in next year's NBA draft and he could help confirm that with a solid performance in the final.


C.J. Leslie

The Wolfpack have been playing some great basketball, so it's hard to narrow down the field to just a few guys to watch. However, Leslie is the one who has garnered the most attention from NBA scouts.

The 6'9" forward has been key for the Wolfpack's fast-paced attack and plays really well in transition. At only 200 pounds, he may need to put on added bulk at the next level, but he's the perfect forward for the Wolfpack as they love to get out and run.

The Cowboys will be hard-pressed to find a big man who is able to consistently keep up with Leslie. He could be the deciding factor in this game.


Richard Howell

The big-bodied Howell is the muscle behind the Wolfpack operation.

At 6'8", 257 pounds, Howell allows the Wolfpack to slow down and get points on the low block when need be, and he also is the team's leading rebounder.

The senior is a huge reason that the Wolfpack are expected to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament this year and will be responsible for controlling the middle and protecting the rim against Nash and Co.

If Howell is able to control the glass and block shots, then the Cowboys will have a hard time pulling off the upset.