When the college basketball postseason begins, it is not always the top stars that shine. The Big Ten tournament will see a few lesser-known players have some huge performances.
The average fan knows all about Michigan's Trey Burke, Deshaun Thomas of Ohio State and Indiana's Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. These players will have to be as good as usual for their teams to make a deep run.
However, these men will also need to step up in order to help their squads over the next week. Here is a bracket of the Big Ten tournament, along with the biggest X-factors of the event.
Mitch McGary, Michigan
Michigan has one of the best backcourts in the country with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., plus Nik Stauskas shooting threes. However, the lack of size inside could be an issue this postseason.
Glenn Robinson III leads the team in rebounds at only 6'6", but the squad needs someone who can compete with the Zellers of the league. Mitch McGary is that player.
The highly touted freshman has received inconsistent playing time this season, but he has done well when in the game. He averages 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds in only 17.4 minutes per game this season.
When he got into foul trouble against Indiana and only played eight minutes, the Hoosiers dominated on the boards by a 47-26 margin. Their easy second-chance points helped them stay in the game and eventually leave with the win.
He needs to play with intelligence in the Big Ten tournament, but that should not slow down his ability as a great rebounder and solid defender. If he plays well, Michigan can go far.
Jordan Hulls, Indiana
While Jordan Hulls has his flaws as a below-average defender who lacks size, he excels in other areas, like three-point shooting.
The guard finished the regular season as the leading three-point shooter in the Big Ten, also ranking in the top 10 in the nation. He made a ridiculous 48.7 percent of his shots from deep, which is actually down from his 49.3 mark from a year ago.
Indiana has other shooters like Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford on the roster, but those players receive a lot of attention from opposing teams. If defenses choose to double-team either of these men or Cody Zeller down low, Hulls needs to be the person to make them pay.
There have been some games where Hulls has really lit it up this year, scoring 17 or more on five occasions. If he can reach that level against the top teams in the conference, the Hoosiers will be tough to beat.
Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Ohio State
Although Lenzelle Smith is a bigger part of his team than some of the other guys on the list, Ohio State's second-leading scorer is one of the more inconsistent players in the country.
That was on display in recent weeks as the guard scored 24 points against Northwestern and then only five in the next game against Indiana. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they were able to win both games.
With Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State has a talented scorer who puts up close to 20 points almost every single game. The problem is that he does not get support from his teammates on a regular basis.
Smith must stay aggressive as a secondary scorer for the Buckeyes to help when they get into shootouts with teams like Michigan and Indiana. Otherwise, there simply will not be enough points on the board to win these games.
Derrick Nix, Michigan State
Derrick Nix has never been much of a scorer, but he can make a huge impact on every game he enters.
The forward is a massive force down low and can push other players away from the basket on the defensive end. When he is playing well, he can rack up a double-double with ease.
In the Big Ten, there are not too many skilled big men who know how to score down low. Nix must continue to patrol the middle of the court and force opponents to take harder shots.
Additionally, this is a very young Michigan State roster. As the only senior, Nix has to be a leader as someone who has achieved team success in the past.
If the rest of the team follows his example, Tom Izzo can be headed for yet another deep run in the Big Ten and the NCAA tournament.
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