The Sweet 16 games featured plenty of drama and star power, and now the first set of Elite Eight matchups have a high standard to live up to.
This is the point in the tournament where individual players need to step up and deliver spectacular moments. Michigan’s Trey Burke proved this with an insanely deep three-point shot to tie the game against Kansas.
The Wolverines went on to win, and the teams playing on Saturday will be hoping one of its stars can step up and deliver a performance like that.
Here are the stars to watch in Saturday’s games.
No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 3 Marquette
When: 4:30 p.m. ET
C.J. Fair, F, Syracuse
Syracuse has not had a go-to player during the tournament, with each game producing a different leading scorer.
Brandon Triche led the scoring effort in the blowout over Montana, while C.J. Fair had the most points against Cal, and Michael Carter-Williams paced the offense in the upset over Indiana.
But Fair’s athleticism makes him the most dangerous member of this team, and he impacts the game in several different ways. He is a scoring threat, but he is also a fantastic rebounder and help defender.
If Fair can fill up the stat sheet against Marquette, Syracuse will have an excellent chance to move on to the Final Four.
Vander Blue, G, Marquette
While the Orange may not be sure about who their leading man on offense will be, Marquette will have no doubt.
Vander Blue is averaging just under 20 points per game during the tournament, and he has already hit a game-winning shot. His layup against Davidson kept the Golden Eagles alive in the round of 64.
He gets to the basket at will and is a streaky outside shooter. If he finds his rhythm early in this game, it will stretch Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone defense.
Blue will be the key to Marquette’s offense, and if he goes off, his teammates will follow him to Atlanta.
No. 9 Wichita State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
When: 7:05 p.m. ET
Cleanthony Early, C, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early had a fantastic start to the tournament while coming off the bench, but he was mediocre in his last outing after being inserted into the starting lineup.
He had 21 points in the round of 64, then tied for the team lead with 16 points in the upset over Gonzaga, but his scoring total dropped to just eight points against La Salle.
Early is clearly more comfortable coming off the bench, and this is how he should be used against Ohio State.
If he can’t find a way to have a big night, the Shockers stand little chance in this game.
Deshaun Thomas, F, Ohio State
Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross proved that they can come through in the clutch, but they never would have been in position to hit game-winners if Deshaun Thomas had not led the team in scoring.
He has scored 20 points or more in all three tournament games, and he is the Buckeyes' only consistent offensive threat.
Thomas has a complete skill set and can score from anywhere on the floor. His ability to dominate down low or step out and nail outside shots will pose matchup problems for Wichita State.
While Ohio State may require more late heroics, the game will not be close unless Thomas has another impressive scoring night.
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