Final Four 2014: Pinpointing Each Team's X-Factor in Dallas

Kendall Baker@@kbaker0506Contributor IIIApril 2, 2014

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 27:  Michael Frazier II #20 of the Florida Gators reacts after hitting a shot against the UCLA Bruins during a regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the FedExForum on March 27, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

My bracket's still perfect, is yours?

Just kidding. 

At this point in the tournament, though, do we really care about our brackets?

While rooting for all of our picks to make it through to the next round is exciting—except for the fact they never do—there's something very refreshing about the arrival of the Final Four. 

Finally, I can sit back, forget about the billion dollars I didn't win, and enjoy the beautiful game of basketball. 

As we prepare for Florida vs. Connecticut and Kentucky vs. Wisconsin, the same names are going to be getting thrown around. 

Kaminsky, Randle, Harrison, Wilbekin, Young, Napier. They are, without a doubt, the keys to their respective teams winning.

However, basketball is a team game and in order for each of these programs to win a championship, they'll need much more than their star players.

Here is each Final Four team's biggest X-factor.


Florida Gators: Michael Frazier II

When Florida is shooting—and making—threes they're impossible to beat.

No, like seriously, they are. 

The only two times lost this season, they shot a combined 8 of 23 from beyond the arc. Both their attempts and percentage from those two games were way down compared to their season averages.

If three-point proficiency spells victory for the Gators, then Michael Frazier, who led the SEC in three-point percentage this season (44.8%), has to be their X-factor.

Do you stop Patric Young inside or Michael Frazier outside? That's a question Florida's opponents have been asking all season.
Do you stop Patric Young inside or Michael Frazier outside? That's a question Florida's opponents have been asking all season.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Consider this:

Patric Young is an absolute beast. When he sets a high ball screen, what do you do as a defense if the Gators are hitting their threes? You have to pick your poison.

And poison kills, people. 

If you decide to stay with Frazier and deny him the open look, then you have the 6'9", 240-pound Young barreling down the lane for a layup. If you help on Young, Frazier's hitting that shot all day.

Unless, of course, he's not. Then Florida could be in trouble. 


Connecticut Huskies: Free-Throw Shooting

UConn shot the fifth-highest percentage from the charity stripe this season (77.4). That is a HUGE weapon to have at this juncture.

UConn's Starting Five: Free Throw Shooting
PlayerFree Throw %
Shabazz Napier86.6
Ryan Boatright79.0
Niels Giffey70.5
DeAndre Daniels78.7
Phillip Nolan78.9

Regardless of matchups, Final Four games are almost always tight. Teams have been playing together for so long, and with so much practice time leading up to these games, everybody's execution is on point.

Shabazz Napier is one of many great free-throw shooters for the Huskies.
Shabazz Napier is one of many great free-throw shooters for the Huskies.Elsa/Getty Images

In the last two Final Fours, the average point differential in those six games was 5.5. The biggest margin of victory was Kentucky's eight-point win over Kansas in the 2012 National Championship Game.

UConn's free-throw-shooting ability is going to keep them in every game, especially considering their best player, Shabazz Napier, is someone who makes a living driving the lane and drawing fouls.

Plus, if they're leading late in the second half, it's going to be a bigger advantage than any one player's performance could possibly provide.


Kentucky Wildcats: Dakari Johnson/Marcus Lee

When you consider the four teams that remain, Kentucky is the only one that is truly dominant on the interior.

Marcus Lee came up huge in the Elite Eight against Michigan.
Marcus Lee came up huge in the Elite Eight against Michigan.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Julius Randle sets the tone down there, but it will be the duo of Johnson and Lee that will be asked to maintain it.

Against Wisconsin, it will be interesting to see how Calipari decides to match up with Frank Kaminsky. If he sticks Randle on him, Johnson and Lee are going to be able—and expected—to alter every other Wisconsin player's shot at the rim.

If they match up with Kaminsky themselves, it will be paramount to Kentucky's success that Dakari Johnson takes advantage of his strength inside and that Marcus Lee is the confident athlete he was against Michigan.

Every other player on Kentucky that will be playing big minutes in Dallas is proven. We know what they can—and more or less will—do. 

These two, on the other hand, are question marks.


Wisconsin: Three-point shooting

Earlier this season, Wisconsin went through a stretch where they lost five of six games. They had been 16-0 prior to this streak, so one might attribute the losses to the Badgers becoming overconfident or complacent and simply getting what they deserved.

However, they'd be wrong.

Those losses are directly correlated to one thing: poor three-point shooting.

In those five games, Wisconsin shot 27 of 102 from three-point rage, good for 26.5%.

Ben Brust is the top three-point threat on a Wisconsin team that really relies on the deep ball.
Ben Brust is the top three-point threat on a Wisconsin team that really relies on the deep ball.Harry How/Getty Images

In comparison, they've shot 33 of 84 (39.3%) from distance in their four NCAA tournament games. 

While Frank Kaminsky is clearly the key against a Kentucky team that has no real answer for him defensively (does anyone?), Wisconsin is going to struggle if they can't knock down their threes.

Even Kaminsky himself becomes much less of a threat if he can't stretch the floor and make shots from beyond the arc.

Wisconsin made just under eight three-pointers per game this season, which was tied for 14th in the country. On the sport's biggest stage, they'll need to rely on what they do best in order to win.



As previously stated, there are plenty of big names playing in Dallas, and they will make their impact felt for sure.

Yet, basketball is a team sport and one where the tiniest details often matter the most.

The thousands of three-point shots Michael Frazier shot during the offseason could propel the Florida Gators to the national championship.

The countless hours spent in the gym by the UConn Huskies working on their free throws could be the difference between them going home and winning it all. 

Two unproven Kentucky freshmen, including one who barely played until their last game against Michigan, are suddenly keys to victory.

And finally, will Wisconsin continue winning with the three ball or build a house with bricks like they did back in January?

Toss your brackets aside and stop beating yourself up for not believing Harvard had what it took to upset Cincinnati. 

Forget the bets and the office pools.

It's time for the fun part: basketball.


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