The Final Four in Atlanta features some big scorers, but defense will be critical in the final two games. Names like Trey Burke and Russ Smith come to mind for scorers, but the big names of defense will be even more important.
Here are just a few defensive-minded players that must step up on the biggest state in college basketball in order to lead their teams to a national championship.
When it comes to dominant defenders, Dieng is arguably one of the best in the nation. He uses his 6’11’’ frame along with his 7’4’’ wingspan to dominate opposing players.
The numbers for Dieng are quite intimidating. He averages 10.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. According to Sports-Reference.com, his defensive rating of 79.9 was the best in the Big East and the third best in the NCAA.
Dieng will be critical in the success of the Cardinals when going up against Wichita State. The Shockers feature two impressive big men in Cleanthony Early and Carl Hall, who can score without much trouble. Dieng will need to minimize their scoring opportunities in order to end this Cinderella story. Luckily, he has a big height advantage and will be able to contest a lot of their shots when they try to score down low or drive in the paint.
The Michigan Wolverines feature some very impressive scorers, but Mitch McGary has been a big part of their success in the tournament. Since the tournament began, he has been averaging 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game.
The scoring is impressive, but the defense has been equally as helpful. He’s been able to contain opponents and box out better than he has all year. He averaged 6.2 rebounds per game during the regular season, but now that number's skyrocketed to five more a game. The 14 rebounds were huge against the Kansas Jayhawks, as he was able to limit second chances for Jeff Withey while getting his own second chances.
It will be important for him to stay hot in Atlanta. The Orange are a very difficult opponent with a lot of scorers, and he will need to play as well defensively as he has been so far in the tournament.
Carter-Williams has been one of the most impressive point guards in the country all season. He’s not only able to effectively run the offense for the Orange, but he is also able to give opposing point guards nightmares with his solid defense.
The defensive stats for Carter-Williams are pretty impressive. According to Sports-Reference.com, he averaged 2.7 steals per game, a steal percentage of 4.8 percent, a defensive rating of 87.2 and 3.5 defensive win shares. The steal percentage was the best in the Big East, and the defensive win shares were the second most in the country. In the tournament, he’s continued to be a pickpocket, averaging 3.3 steals per game.
It will be a very tough matchup for Carter-Williams in Atlanta, as he will be going against Trey Burke, the Wooden Award winner. Luckily, Carter-Williams’ lanky frame and ability to force turnovers will help significantly in the game, and the 2-3 zone of the Orange could frustrate the Wolverines’ scorers. The matchup between these two will likely be the biggest thing to watch for in the Final Four.
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