NCAA Tournament 2013: Players Who Must Step Up to Help Their Teams Advance

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2013

February 9, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Kenny Boynton (1) dribbles the ball as he calls a play against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the first half at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA tournament is a great chance for players to shine on the big stage. However, this also means that poor performances stick out even more than usual.

This year, there are a number of teams that are very reliant on only a couple of players. As a result, those squads could be in for early exits if a key player or two does not live up to expectations.

While these men might not be the stars of their teams, a big showing will be very important to advance past the opening game and into the round of 32.


Aaron Craft, Ohio State

Deshaun Thomas is going to score points for Ohio State. The forward has reached double digits in every game this season, and that is unlikely to stop in the NCAA tournament.

However, the Buckeyes have struggled at times when the leading scorer does not get much support on the offensive end. While Lenzelle Smith can hit shots, the pressure comes down on Aaron Craft.

The point guard is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, but he has been very inconsistent offensively. He showed that by scoring 20 points in the Big Ten tournament semifinal win over Michigan State, only to be held to single digits in the other two games.

Craft needs to be aggressive with the ball and drive to the lane. This will set up the rest of his team for success throughout the tournament.


Kenny Boynton, Florida

Florida had a couple of tough losses down the stretch, and each one was due to an inability to make big shots late in the game.

Kenny Boynton has the skill to make shots, but he has not been doing that for the Gators as of late. Instead, they are almost too balanced to succeed in the tournament. It becomes a problem if no one wants the ball with time running out.

The senior has not been that player because he has not made shots with consistency. He is shooting under 40 percent from the floor this year, including only 32.5 percent from three-point range.

If he starts making his shots, Florida will be tough to beat.


Elijah Johnson, Kansas

It is hard to expect Elijah Johnson to score 39 points every game like he did against Iowa State in February. However, he has shown that he has that ability.

He has also shown that he can be a great distributor when he had 22 assists in two games earlier this month. On the other hand, he also has 11 turnovers in the last two contests.

Kansas has a lot of veteran leadership and even more talent, but they will not contend for a national championship without consistency from the guard position.

Over the next couple of weeks, Johnson needs to play within himself and not try to force anything. Missed shots and turnovers are not going to help the Jayhawks win anything.


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