Final Four 2014: Breaking Down Each Team's Key Player

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2014

Wisconsin 's Frank Kaminsky reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half in a regional final NCAA college basketball tournament game against Arizona, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong

The Final Four. More entertaining than the Fantastic Four and The Four Seasons (both the band and hotel chain), healthier than Four Loko and the reason the Fab Four will live on in infamy.

The Final Four. Bastion of the buzzer-beater, curator of the classic moment, keeper of "One Shining Moment."

The Final Four. It's when the men are separated from the boys, and the articles with cliches are separated from the articles penned by writers who aren't lazy.

But which men will emerge as heroes in this Final Four? Which players will be the key to their team's chances at a title? And will there be more alliteration?

All of these answers and more, below.


Frank Kaminsky, C, Wisconsin

Everything you need to know about Frank Kaminsky was summed up in three paragraphs written by C.L. Brown of ESPN:

Kentucky would be wise not to sleep on Kaminsky's ability. He put up 28 points with 11 rebounds against Arizona and 19 points against Baylor, which had a frontcourt as big and imposing as the one the Wildcats will put in front of him Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

Arizona coach Sean Miller said Kaminsky has "got to be one of the best offensive players who plays college basketball, for sure."

"Frank Kaminsky," Miller said, "is the reason Wisconsin's in the Final Four."

Okay, so there is a bit more to be said about Kaminsky. His versatility, for example—he's as likely to sink a three as he is to put the ball down and drive to the hoop as he is to post up a player as he is to earn an easy tap-in crashing the glass. 

And there's his unflappable demeanor. His gangly, somewhat awkward movements that always seem to work in his favor. The fact that he went from a draft afterthought to a player that likely will crash the first round if he leaves college this year (though another year at Wisconsin wouldn't hurt). 

He's arguably the tournament's most intriguing player. And if Wisconsin are to get past Kentucky and go on to win a National Championship, he'll also need to be the tournament's best player.


Shabazz Napier, G, UConn

Hipsters may say that Ryan Boatright needs to step up for UConn to be successful, which he has done often in his tournament. Or maybe they would point to DeAndre Daniels needing to play the role of sidekick for UConn to win a title.

Shut up, hipsters. Both of those players are important, yes, but UConn isn't going anywhere unless Shabazz Napier continues to be the best player on the court.

While Boatright was putting up 16 vs. Iowa State and 17 against St. Joe's (and Daniels added 27 vs. the Cyclones and 18 against the Hawks), Napier had 19 and 24, respectively. He leads his team in points (18.1), rebounds (5.9) and assists (4.9) per game. 

And with the game in the balance, you can bet he's the one taking the shot. 

Few players have been more valuable to their team than Napier. That won't suddenly change in North Texas.


Scottie Wilbekin, G, Florida

Scottie Wilbekin isn't Florida's most talented player, but he is the team's most clutch performer. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports breaks it down:

He wants the ball at the end of the game, and over the course of his career he's gotten progressively better at making winning plays with it. The guy who threw a foolhardy alley-oop out of bounds in the final minutes of a meltdown, come-from-ahead loss at Kentucky last year was the guy who played great late in Rupp this year. The guy who was 4 for 17 and committed six turnovers in two South Region games a year ago was King Clutch against UCLA, despite not playing terribly well until it absolutely, positively mattered.

"I like it," Wilbekin said of late-game, close-game scenarios. "Those are the times of the game where the game's on the line. It's the funnest to play in those type of games."

Wilbekin is unselfish. He's smart. He's second on the team in points (13.4) and first in assists (3.7) per game. He shoots a solid 39.6 percent from three-point range. He knows when to put the ball on the floor and take it to the rim.

He's a leader. He's a baller. He's a senior. 

And he's most certainly the key for Florida.


Aaron Harrison, G, Kentucky

Julius Randle is the safest double-double bet in all of college basketball. James White has gone hot and cold during the tournament. Andrew Harrison has picked up his play, but ultimately, he's at his best when he's feeding his teammates.

But with the game on the line, Kentucky needs Aaron Harrison to step up. And he did just that against Michigan.

Truthfully, he's done it throughout the tournament, averaging 16 points per game. It took him awhile to get cooking against Michigan in the Elite Eight, but his four three-pointers in the game's last eight minutes certainly spoke of his ability to come up big in the clutch.

If Kentucky needs someone late to lift them to victory, expect them to turn to him.