X-Factors to Watch in Villanova vs. Milwaukee NCAA Tournament Matchup
The first game of the 2014 NCAA tournament for No. 2 Villanova and No. 15 Milwaukee comes on Thursday night in Buffalo, N.Y.
The Wildcats and Panthers will be in search of a victory to move onto Saturday's third-round game against either No. 7 UConn or No. 10 St. Joseph's in the East Region.
Both teams possess plenty of stars, but the true difference-makers could be the players who do all of the little things right at the First Niagara Center.
Continue reading for a look at five players who could be X-factors in the second-round clash.
Tony Chennault, G, Villanova
Tony Chennault has been pushed deeper down the Villanova rotation this season because of the arrival of two key freshmen, but he still has proved his worth.
He may not have the best stat line of any player in this second-round game, but he does all the little things that coach Jay Wright asks him to do.
The senior guard is a solid defender who can also deliver a key pass to a teammate on offense.
Intangibles are why Chennault will earn playing time on Thursday night, and just like he has done for 32 games, he will do all the little things for Villanova.
Steve McWhorter, G, Milwaukee
Steve McWhorter averages the most minutes per game of any Milwaukee player with 34.1, but his contributions can be underappreciated at times.
He is only the fifth-best scorer on the Panthers roster, but he delivers in most statistical departments. The junior averaged eight points, 4.2 rebounds and a team-high four assists per game in his 34 appearances this season.
In the Horizon League tournament semifinal upset of Green Bay, McWhorter recorded a season-high 10 rebounds in 40 minutes.
If he delivers the same type of effort against Villanova, he could be celebrating an upset win with his teammates.
Dylan Ennis, G, Villanova
The older brother of Syracuse star freshman Tyler Ennis was a key contributor off the bench for Villanova in the first part of the season.
In recent weeks, his production has slipped due to the development of freshmen Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart. While he has seen less playing time of late, Ennis still has a chance to prove he belongs on the floor during the Big Dance.
Almost every year we hear a story of a player who barely played during the regular season who finally turns the corner and stars in March.
Ennis, who has scored five points in his last seven games, has the potential to be that player for Villanova.
Austin Arians, F, Milwaukee
Sophomore forward Austin Arians came up big in all three Horizon League tournament games for the Panthers, delivering point totals of 13, 12 and 12.
Arians, who averages 10.9 points per game, is another consistent player in the small Milwaukee rotation.
What stands out about him is that he averages the least amount of turnovers per game (1.4) of the five starters. In a game against a standout team from a power conference like Villanova, the Panthers must limit their turnovers to prevent the Wildcats from going on a run, which is why his play will be so important.
Daniel Ochefu, C, Villanova
Villanova center Daniel Ochefu has improved his play in almost every game of his first season as a starter.
He has turned into a reliable paint presence to partner JayVaughn Pinkston, as the guard-heavy Wildcats look for a more balanced attack.
The 6'11" sophomore gives the agile Villanova offense an extra threat on the offensive end, and he is also able to keep possession alive now that he has learned to use his size down low. Ochefu does not have to turn into the top producer of points during the Big Dance, but he will have to impose his will on the glass for Villanova to advance.
Prediction: Villanova 81, Milwaukee 56
In all honesty, this game should be all Villanova from the start.
The Wildcats are out to prove that their upset loss to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament was just a fluke, and Wright will have them ready to play on the big stage.
The young, fearless group that Villanova puts on the floor should assert its dominance early and often.