Final Four: Which Role Player Steps Up?
by Dennis Berry
(Louisville, KY )
Everybody knows the big names of the Final Four teams. Whether it be Kemba Walker or Matt Howard. But superstars do not win the title on their own. Every year in the Final Four a role player makes a huge impact during the weekend. Here are some players who may step up big for their teams.
You know about Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. They are the key to Butler's return to the Final Four this year. If the Bulldogs want a chance to win the title, those two will need someone to step up.
Senior Shawn Vanzant may be be that player. Although he has only averaged 8 points a game this season, he has Final Four experience. He has scored in double figures in 16 of the Bulldogs' 36 games this season. He shoots 46% from the field and 42% on threes. He almost has a 2:1 assist-to-turnover average.
If VCU tries to double Howard in the post, Vanzant can make the Rams pay. He can also be important to Mack, giving Mack and outlet if VCU tries to pressure him to take the ball out of his hands.
This will be Vanzant's final weekend as a Butler Bulldog. His play may determine if the Bulldogs play on Monday night. VCU Rams
Another player playing his last weekend of college basketball may step up and keep the Rams magical run going, senior Ed Nixon.
Nixon is the fifth leading scorer on VCU averaging 7 points a game and has scored in double figures in ten games. There is nothing wrong with having a senior in the backcourt. They have seen almost everything and can regroup a team on the court.
VCU just may need that come Saturday night. This team has had a good run, but it will be something else when they step out on the court against
Butler, a team that has been here before. Kentucky Wildcats
You know about the three freshmen Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, and Brandon Knight. You even know about the rise of senior Josh Harrellson in the NCAA tournament. The key to Kentucky having a shot at winning the NCAA is junior Darius Miller.
Miller has averaged 11 points a game on the season. He is averaging 9 points a game in the tournament. He will need to do more. At 6'-7" he is a match up problem for teams. If you try and put a guard on him, he can post you up. Put a big man on him and he can drive the lane. He can shoot the ball well, 48% from the field and 45% from three point line.
If Kentucky wants to bring home the school's eight national championship, Miller will need to come up big. Connecticut Huskies
For Connecticut this season has been about Kemba Walker. The junior guard has come up big when the Huskies have needed him to. Along the way, freshman guard Jeremy Lamb has stepped up as a side kick for him. The Huskies will need even more help if they want to bring home the title.
That help should come in the paint from Alex Oriakhi. The 6'-9" sophomore made an impact during the season. He has scored in double figures in 22 games this season. He has seven double-doubles this season. He has not had one in the NCAA Tournament yet. When Kentucky and Connecticut played in Maui, Oriakhi had 18 points, 3 blocks, and 10 rebounds.
He will need to have another dominate performance if the Huskies want to move on.
Of course, we do not know which role player will step up. As history has shown, national champions have been won when a player has a big game when his team needed it most.