Sweet 16 2013: Role Players Who Will Be Deciding Factors in Friday's Games

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2013

Mar 28, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Ryan Kelly at a press conference during practice the day before the semifinals of the Midwest regional of the 2013 NCAA tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Sweet 16 will feature stars like Russ Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr., but the games will be decided by the role players who complement those stars.

There are four exciting games on the slate for Friday night's action, including the highly anticipated matchup between FGCU and Florida. 

We'll take a look at three role players who will key their team's victories with strong performances. 

Casey Prather, Guard/Forward, Florida

Florida has a tall task ahead of it against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.

The Eagles love to run, and head coach Billy Donovan will need to be smart about keeping his starters fresh against such an opponent. 

Prather averaged over 16 minutes per game during the regular season, but he's seen his workload increase in the NCAA tournament. He's averaged 22.5 minutes per game and has been a key contributor on both sides of the floor. 

Though Prather hasn't scored a plethora of points, he's been selective with his shots, hitting on five of his eight attempts. He's also contributed seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals in Florida's two tournament games.

Prather will be a key contributor for the Gators in their impending victory over the Eagles.

Ryan Kelly, Forward, Duke

The upcoming contest between Duke and Michigan State should be intense. 

The Spartans feature a punishing frontcourt that is led by bruiser Derrick Nix, who measures in at 6'9" and 270 pounds. Nix has been a beast thus far, averaging 18 points and 12.5 rebounds in his team's first two games of the tourney.

Adreian Payne is no pansy, either, at 6'10" and 240 pounds. He went off against Memphis, scoring 14 points, pulling down 10 rebounds, blocking five shots and stealing two passes.

Mason Plumlee is Duke's answer to Nix, and Kelly will need to match Payne. 

It's a matchup he's capable of winning, and though Kelly struggled against Creighton, he's up to the task. Kelly's presence inside will be a huge key for the Blue Devils as they advance to the Elite Eight.

Montrezl Harrell, Forward, Louisville

Oregon is playing excellent basketball right now, and Louisville will have its hands full against the Ducks on Friday night.

Russ Smith and Damyean Dotson will be dueling all night long at the guard position, and it won't surprise anyone to see both of them score 30-plus points. 

The game will be won and lost down low, though, and the Ducks feature an incredibly gifted forward who has been playing out of his mind the past two games. Arsalan Kazemi has scored 19 points and hauled in 33 rebounds in this tournament.

Louisville have the players to counter Kazemi, though. Gorgui Dieng is the team's star center, and he'll have a big role in this upcoming game, but Harrell will be the player who puts the Cardinals up over Oregon.

Harrell has been superb in this tournament. He's made the most of his limited opportunities, hitting on eight of his 11 field-goal attempts. This freshman forward will key Louisville's win against Oregon and send the Cardinals to the Elite Eight.

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