Kentucky vs. UConn: Unexpected Heroes That Will Take over in NCAA Title Game

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIApril 6, 2014

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05: Dakari Johnson #44 of the Kentucky Wildcats goes up for a shot as Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Wisconsin Badgers defends during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Chris Steppig-Pool/Getty Images)
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While Kentucky and UConn plan on how to best mitigate the efforts of each other's top players, the guys who play smaller roles on each respective club will likely be in position to step up.

Breakout performances in the NCAA tournament happen pretty frequently. Role players and unknown talents have shown the ability to take over games with their intensity and clutch shot-making ability.

There are multiple candidates in this year's March Madness finale to do just that. Their roles are all different, but they share the fact that each one's efforts will be crucial to success for each respective team.


DeAndre Daniels, UConn

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05: DeAndre Daniels #2 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a shot against the Florida Gators during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Gett
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DeAndre Daniels came up big against Florida in the Final Four, dropping 20 points and bringing in 10 boards. The double-double was crucial in sealing the win, as Shabazz Napier was as dominant as he had been in earlier tournament games.

John Allen of points out, however, that Daniels isn't always the most consistent of players: 

The junior forward was the kind of player who could score 23 points against Boston College and then get only seven points against Indiana the next night, as he did in November, or string together a week like this in late January: 23 points and 11 rebounds vs. Memphis, 3 and 4 vs. Louisville and then 31 and 12 against Temple.

Daniels doesn't need to go for a double-double against Kentucky for his team to win. All he needs to do is capitalize on wide-open looks and convert when Napier finds him in space. Napier will command double-teams. When that happens, everyone on the Huskies needs to step up.

The forward is a prolific shooter from distance and can make the Wildcats pay if they let him slip behind their defense.


Alex Poythress, Kentucky

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 30:  Alex Poythress #22 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball over Caris LeVert #23 of the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the midwest regional final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Alex Poythress and Kentucky got a bit of a scare after taking care of Wisconsin in the Final Four, per Brett Dawson of

Poythress is a bit dinged up, but it doesn't appear to be anything major. It shouldn't keep him out of action, and it probably won't impact his game all that much.

The sophomore has just 31 total points in the tournament. The Wildcats don't often run their offense through him given the supremely talented freshmen on the roster, but there was a time (last season) when Poythress was a viable scoring threat.

He scored 11.2 points per game in 2012-13 on 58.1 percent shooting. He's a player that can score when asked to, and Kentucky might look to get him some looks early on to catch the Huskies off guard. While they're preparing for the exploits of Julius Randle and Aaron Harrison, Poythress might rack up some easy points.


Dakari Johnson, Kentucky

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05:  Dakari Johnson #44 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal against the Wisconsin Badgers at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Dave Skretta of the Associated Press reports that Willie Cauley-Stein will not suit up for the title game, via ABC News. That will make the exploits of big man Dakari Johnson even more important.

Johnson started in place of Cauley-Stein against Wisconsin, logging 18 minutes and scoring 10 points. He also brought down seven rebounds, five of which were offensive.

The 7-footer is long and is capable of grabbing boards against even the most physical competition. His long reach aids him in doing so. While he's only played more than 21 minutes once in this tournament (31 against Louisville), head coach John Calipari might ask him for more against UConn.

Johnson can help re-direct shots in the paint and limit UConn's second-chance opportunities. Against a strong offensive team like the Huskies, it is key to prevent them from gaining extra possessions.

Johnson's line may not be the sexiest after the game is over, but his impact will certainly be felt in the middle.