NCAA Tournament 2011: 10 Biggest X-Factors in the Sweet 16
The first three rounds are in the books, and the 2011 NCAA Tournament has produced quite an eclectic group of teams in its Sweet 16.
On the one hand, we havet top seeds Ohio State, Kansas and Duke poised to make a run for a championship.
On the other, there’s VCU, Richmond and Butler who are trying to upset two more teams and make the Final Four.
Every team left has stars, and every team left has players they rely heavily on.
A team’s “X-factor” might not necessarily be its best player, but rather the player that, in order for his team to win, must step up big when it counts.
Here are the ten biggest X-factors in the Sweet 16.
10. Kevin Anderson, Richmond
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The former Atlantic-10 POY has risen to the occasion in Richmond’s first two games. He has carried the Spiders on his back and nailed a game-clinching jumper against Vanderbilt in the second round.
In order for the Spiders to get past Kansas, Anderson must play the game of his life. 20 points and 10 assists are in order for the senior if Richmond wants to make the Elite Eight.
9. David Lighty, Ohio State
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Though Jared Sullinger receives all of the hype, and rightfully so, Lighty is a very important member of the Buckeye squad.
Sullinger will get his against Kentucky, but Lighty needs to have a good game as well, otherwise the Buckeyes could get tripped up by the Wildcats.
8. Brandon Knight, Kentucky
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As was evident in the game against West Virginia, if Brandon Knight has a huge game, Kentucky will win.
Knight scored 30 against the Mountaineers in the third round, guiding the Wildcats to victory.
In their upcoming game against Ohio State, the Wildcats will need Knight to have another spectacular game, and will rely on Knight and fellow freshman Terrence Jones to lead Kentucky.
7. Harrison Barnes, UNC
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The young freshman is being asked to help carry the Tar Heels in their hopes of reclaiming the national championship.
In the third round against Washington, Barnes pitched in with 22 points on 9-19 shooting.
For UNC to move past an underrated Marquette squad, Barnes needs to have another 20-point contest.
6. Kenny Boynton, Florida
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Boynton will be asked to keep BYU star Jimmer Fredette in check in Florida’s Sweet 16 matchup.
If Florida is to move on, it will be because of Boynton’s defense against "the Jimmer."
5. Matt Howard, Butler
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Hayward who? Matt Howard has helped fans move past Gordon Hayward’s departure as he has led Butler to their second consecutive Sweet 16 birth.
Howard has been nothing but clutch, hitting the buzzer beater against ODU in the second round and knocking down the winning free throw against Pittsburgh.
Against Wisconsin, Howard will have to come up big late in the game once again.
4. Nolan Smith, Duke
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The Blue Devils’ senior guard is one of the nation’s best players, and has played like it thus far in the tournament.
In order for Duke to move past Arizona onto the Elite Eight, Smith must have another great game that Blue Devil fans have become accustomed to seeing from him this season.
3. Derrick Williams, Arizona
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Williams has been the catalyst for the Wildcats in their resurgence back to becoming a title contender.
He had a game-clinching blocked shot against Memphis in the second round and a game-winning three-point play against Texas in the third round.
Williams’ presence on both sides of the floor must be felt by Duke in order for Arizona to live to play another game.
2. Kemba Walker, UConn
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Walker has been UConn’s leader the whole season, guiding the Huskies to the Sweet 16. Game-winning shots have become his forte, and he has the capability of taking over a game single-handedly.
Against a tough San Diego State team, Walker will be asked once again to carry the Connecticut basketball team to a victory.
1. Jimmer Fredette, BYU
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Who else could be no. 1?
Jimmer-mania is sweeping the nation and rightfully so. From great passing to an almost limitless range, Fredette does it all for the Cougars.
In the regional semis against Florida, Fredette must again take over the game for BYU and score 30-plus points.
The Cougars can beat Florida and go far in the tournament, but they will only go as far as Jimmer Fredette takes them.