NCAA Tournament 2013: X-Factors for Each Team in Sunday's Elite 8 Action
At this stage in the NCAA tournament, every player needs to step up.
Teams are too good to be beaten by one star alone. Coincidentally, there's not that one transcendent player this year who is far and away better than the rest.
There's no doubt that the most important players need to have big games. However, it's often a team's third or fourth option going for 10-15 points that helps decide a game. A coach can try and plan for a team's leading scorer putting up big numbers, but it's that big game from a lesser starter that causes many more problems.
Here is one player for each team who will be a deciding factor in each of the Elite Eight matchups.
Michigan Wolverines: Mitch McGary
Mitch McGary is saving his best basketball for the NCAA tournament.
Prior to Michigan's 78-53 win over the Virginia Commonwealth Rams, McGary's season high for points was 14. He went for 21 points in that round of 32 victory. He then followed that up with 23 points against the Kansas Jayhawks in the Sweet 16.
McGary's also been a force on the boards, recording 37 rebounds in the Wolverines' three tournament games.
Michigan's chances of making the Final Four will likely hinge on Trey Burke. Should the star guard start slow again, though, McGary can help to provide some cover.
Florida Gators: Will Yeguete
The game between Florida Gulf Coast and Florida changed when Will Yeguete was on the floor. The Eagles had gotten out to a quick start, and the Gators were reeling as a result. Defensive improvements were needed, and Will Yeguete brought that when he entered the game.
He helped to turn the game around, helping Florida score 16 points en route to a 30-26 lead. The Gators never trailed the game again, due in large part to Yeguete's defense.
Florida has been a great defensive team and showed exactly why on Friday night. Yeguete helped to clamp down on the Eagles' perimeter players and forced FGCU into 20 turnovers on the night.
With so many talented guards on Michigan, Yeguete will need to be the defensive spark once again.
Duke Blue Devils: Quinn Cook
Quinn Cook has had a rather muted NCAA tournament. He's averaging 11.7 points a game but only managed 11 points in the Blue Devils' three tourney wins. Cook has made four of his 21 shot attempts.
Although Tyler Thornton got the majority of the playing time against the Michigan State Spartans in the Sweet 16, Cook should be getting the start against Louisville.
Many fans will be watching Russ Smith versus Seth Curry. The battle between Cook and Peyton Siva could be much more interesting. Much like Cook, Siva has yet to get going in the tournament. He battled foul trouble in the win against the Oregon Ducks.
Coincidentally, the Cardinals had a tough time creating distance between themselves and the Ducks. If Siva is neutralized again, Louisville might have trouble getting past what is a much better team than Oregon.
Louisville Cardinals: Gorgui Dieng
It's going to be up to Gorgui Dieng to mitigate the impact of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. The duo brings both size and skill underneath.
While not an offensive star, Dieng can change the game with his defense. He's averaging 2.5 blocks and 9.5 rebounds a game. Dieng has been strong in the tournament, with 30 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks.
Plumlee and Kelly are combining for 30 points a game. Cutting them off would be a huge step for Louisville. It should want this game to be decided by the guards. The Cardinals have an advantage there. Smith and Siva are better on paper than Curry and Cook.
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