Florida and Wisconsin have each punched their tickets to the Final Four, but they were only able to get there thanks to some key performances from important players.
While basketball is a true team sport, there is no denying that some players have a bigger role than others. Each team can win or lose based solely on the performance of its stars.
In Day 2 of the Elite Eight, fans will watch to see if Connecticut's Shabazz Napier, Michigan's Nik Stauskas or Kentucky's Julius Randle can help lead their teams to victory or hold them back. Based on what we saw in Saturday's games, these stars can have a huge effect on the games.
Here is a look at the key performances from those important players and how they made an impact on the Elite Eight games.
All Your Bracket Essentials
|Elite Eight Day 1 Results|
|No. 1 Florida||62-52||No. 11 Dayton|
|No. 1 Arizona||64-63 (OT)||No. 2 Wisconsin|
No. 1 Florida 62, No. 11 Dayton 52
Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
There are certain players in any sport who simply turn it on when it matters most. Scottie Wilbekin has exemplified that, as he continues to play better as the games get more important.
The Florida point guard did not even lead his team in scoring this season, averaging just 13.4 per game. However, he has averaged 19 in the past three games while seemingly taking every shot down the stretch.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN was one of many who noted the clutch factor:
Meanwhile, Dan Wolken of USA Today figured the game was over once Wilbekin started to take over late:
Perhaps most impressive is the senior's ability to remain in control in high-pressure situations. This statistic is simply incredible:
Wilbekin did miss some shots late, but he was the only Florida player to score in the last nine minutes of the game. If he keeps getting buckets, the Gators will continue winning until they take home a national championship.
Jordan Sibert, Dayton
Dayton made its run to the Elite Eight thanks in part to excellent depth. Head coach Archie Miller uses 12 players a game, 11 of which scored against Stanford in the Sweet 16 victory.
Despite this, Jordan Sibert had clearly been the leader on offense, averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game during the regular season. In the win over Stanford, he had 18 points while going 4-of-9 from three-point range.
Unfortunately, he was nowhere to be seen against Florida, as the Gators completely took him out the game.
Sibert finished with zero points on just 0-of-3 shooting. One assist, one steal and one foul are all he contributed in 30 minutes of playing time. Obviously, this was a rare situation, as noted by Brett Edgerton of ESPN:
Still, the guard was unable to come through when his team needed him the most. Dyshawn Pierre and Devin Oliver did their part on offense, but the Flyers needed something out of Sibert, and he could not help.
Dayton should be proud of an excellent run to the Elite Eight that will go down as one of the more exciting runs in school history. However, a poor game by Sibert might have cost the squad a chance at even more.
No. 2 Wisconsin 64, No. 1 Arizona 63
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Arizona coach Sean Miller was run on target with his assessment of the Elite Eight game, via Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:
Frank Kaminsky was virtually unguardable in the win, scoring 28 of the team's 64 points and adding 11 rebounds.
The big man was able to get the better of fellow seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski in the low post, constantly using great post moves to finish in the paint. Meanwhile, he also showed off his range while going 3-of-5 from behind the arc.
When he was not creating shots for himself, he was earning easy put-back baskets thanks to seven offensive rebounds.
No matter whom Arizona put on Kaminsky, the junior was able to find a way to score in some way. He discussed his impact after the game, via Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
I just wanted to do anything I could to make sure that we won that basketball game. I personally wanted it really bad and everyone on our team wanted it really bad. We all wanted to do it for each other. I was able to chip in my part, but it was a team effort.
The center did more than chip in, as he was the star attraction in a highly competitive game. If he continues to play at this level, it will be extremely difficult for anyone remaining in the tournament to stop him from posting more big numbers.
Nick Johnson, Arizona
Like Wilbekin, Nick Johnson has earned a reputation throughout the season as someone who makes big plays with the game on the line. Against San Diego State in the Sweet 16, he was held scoreless for 37 minutes of game time before getting 15 points in the final three minutes.
He was not as good in the closing minutes against Wisconsin. The All-American guard scored his last points with 5:26 left in regulation, which is not good in a game that went into overtime. Unfortunately, things just got worse from there.
With Arizona down one, Johnson had a chance to tie the game but was called for an offensive foul on this play:
You can make a decision for yourself whether it was the right call, and many are very adamant that it was wrong:
Either way, it goes down as a turnover with the game on the line.
Johnson actually got another chance a few seconds later but dribbled too long and never got a shot off. Bomani Jones of ESPN notes the mistake:
While the junior did score 16 points, he went 6-of-16 from the field and made too many mental mistakes to help his team win. This does not discredit all that Johnson did during the season, but he did not help his team in the Elite Eight.
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