Ohio State G LaQuinton Ross
Stars don't win titles alone.
It doesn't matter how talented a team's best player is. If he doesn't have proper support, his team doesn't have a chance to make it all the way through the gauntlet that is the NCAA tournament. Good teams know how to neutralize a team's star player.
Then, it's a matter of a team's supporting cast stepping up when it counts the most. The players who are arguably the most important are those who manage to get hot at the right time and bring an added dimension to their teams.
With that in mind, here are three players who could turn the tide for their respective squads.
Marquette Golden Eagles: Chris Otule
Vander Blue has been the biggest difference-maker for Marquette up to this point. His scoring has been vital for a Golden Eagles squad that doesn't score a ton of points to begin with.
With Chris Otule, though, Marquette has a big body who can help counter what is a very strong Syracuse team underneath. The Orange have the second-most rebounds of any team in the country.
Otule doesn't have great numbers, but he has great size. He used that size to his advantage against the Davidson Wildcats in the round of 64. Otule had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Syracuse Orange: James Southerland
James Southerland has made a huge jump this season. His points per game is up from 6.8 last season to 13.4 this year. He's been especially good on the boards this year as well, averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.
The Orange have a significant advantage over their Big East opponents when it comes to rebounding. It's an advantage Syracuse needs to exploit.
As evidenced by the numbers, Southerland is also a dependable scorer. He is a great athlete and shooter. This is the first year Southerland's followed through on his potential. It couldn't be coming at a better time as the Orange are this close to the Final Four.
Ohio State Buckeyes: LaQuinton Ross
Ohio State doesn't rely on a ton of depth. What little production the Buckeyes get off the bench needs to count. They need to ensure the talent gap between themselves and the Wichita State Shockers comes through over 40 minutes.
It shouldn't be a problem if LaQuinton Ross plays like he has in his last two games. Only averaging 8.0 points, Ross has gone for 17 points in both wins over the Iowa State Cyclones and Arizona Wildcats.
Ross was the difference against the Wildcats as it was his three-pointer with two seconds that gave Ohio State a 73-70 win. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas get the headlines. It's Ross, though, who has really helped OSU get to the Elite Eight.
Wichita State Shockers: Malcolm Armstead
Malcolm Armstead does it on both ends of the floor. The Shockers find themselves in the Elite Eight in large part to his consistent play across the board.
He's scored 46 points in Wichita State's three tournament wins, adding 14 rebounds as well. That's not a bad total for a 6'0" guard. With his perimeter defense, Armstead can also cause havoc for opposing players.
Armstead does need to find his stroke from three-point range, though. He really struggled against the Pitt Panthers and Gonzaga Bulldogs. If he finishes something like 1-of-6 from behind the arc again, the Shockers might have enough to get past the Buckeyes.
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