During March Madness, star power is good, but one can never underestimate the X factor.
A case in point, when Michigan All-American Trey Burke went ice cold against South Dakota State and finished the game 2-12 from the floor, the Wolverines had to lean on freshmen Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas for the necessary scoring punch to move on.
But every team in the Final Four brings its own X factor this year heading into Saturday night:
Nik Stauskas, Freshman SG, Michigan
As noted above, Stauskas has been huge for Michigan all season. Beyond his stellar three-point shooting (45 percent), he also likes to attack the lane using his wiry 6-foot-6-inch frame to finish at the rim. Syracuse presents an interesting challenge with the 2-3 matchup. On one hand, it becomes susceptible to the three, but the reach of the 'Cuse wings could make it very challenging for even the best shooters to get clean looks.
James Southerland, Senior F, Syracuse
It's pretty simple with Southerland: If he's hitting shots, as he's done pretty much all season, Syracuse is an almost unstoppable offensive unit. At 6 feet 9 inches, his ability not only to stretch a defense in the half-court but also to spot up in transition makes teammate Michael Carter-Williams that much more dangerous. But he is not an especially strong rebounder and at times can be lazy on defensive. Southerland, who shoots more than six threes per game with an efficiency rate of 40 percent, has to stay hot through the Final Four for the Orange to win its second national title under Jim Boeheim.
Chane Behanan, Sophomore F, Louisville
Louisville's guards get a lot of attention, as does center Gorgui Dieng, but Behanan is an absolute rock in the paint. He's a solid rebounder for an undersized four man, and his overall toughness remains a key component for Rick Pitino's club. Plus, he converts in the paint and is shooting nearly 51 percent for the year.
Fred Van Vleet, Freshman G, Wichita State
Just a freshman, Van Vleet has emerged as a reliable reserve because of his three-point shooting (43 percent) and playmaking. He hit multiple daggers against both Gonzaga and Ohio State, and alongside Malcolm Armstead he gives the Shockers a much needed additional ball handler. Freshman sharpshooter Rob Baker has had his moments, but Van Vleet's versaility will be much needed in the Final Four.
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