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X Factor

March 25, 2009

Since the sweet 16 is two days away, it makes sense to touch upon the X factor that is going to get teams to the ever so coveted, final 4.  The X factor is the underlying reason why a team makes it as far as they do.  Sometimes it revolves around a player, sometimes its a system.  No team has ever won a championship without the X factor.  This correlates to all sports, and all walks of life.  Everything we do as humans on a daily basis has an X factor at the core.  Every action is followed by a consequence, good or bad.  The X factor is the action that is followed by a postive or negative outcome.  I am using the sweet 16 to depict the X factor, because I feel as though sport is the easiest platform to use to portray the true meaning.

A 4 game winning streak for any of the 16 teams remaining in the tournament will mean, national champions.  Each team has their own charisma, but when times get tough they have to rely on their bread and butter, the X factor.  Lets break down the teams based on their X factors.

Pittsburgh:  The lethal combination of Fields, Young, and Blair gives the Panthers an inside out game that can’t be matched.  A floor general who penetrates defenses with the best of them, a versatile 6-8 phenom that can drain 3s, or posterize somebody.  Then there is mr double double, a beast in the paint, thanks to Blair Uconn fell twice to Pit during the regular season.

Uconn:  7-3 center Haseem Thabeet.  Teams have to be weary of him at all times, and he changes the tempo of the game.  Opponents are forced to strategize ways for Thabeet to leave the paint on defense.  As long as he doesn’t get in foul trouble, Uconn is a force to be reckoned with

Villanova:  Dante Cunningham, arguably the most improved player in the nation this year, Cunningham is elusive, and very strong.  He can play inside and out, and makes the Wildcats dominant guards even tougher to deal with

Syracuse:  Point guard Jonny Flynn has established himself as one of the best point guards in the country.  His dribbling ability, intelligence for the game, and the ability never to fatigue, gives the Orange a fighting chance at a final 4 birth/

Louisville:  Louisville has a ton of talented players on their team, but their X factor is Rick Pitino.  His defensive trap frustrates defenses and forces them into turning the ball over at an alarming rate.  It doesn’t hurt when you have Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, and Andre McGee up in players grills.  If the ferocious press can keep opponents heads spinning, there is a very good possibility of a national championship in Louisville.

Memphis:  Athleticism is the Tigers go to guy.  Memphis has the ability to change the tempo of the game from half court, to transition in the snap of a finger.  Relentless defense, and a freshmen point guard in Tyreke Evans that can play with the best of them.

Missouri-  Coach Mike Montgomery’s demand for attention to detail.  Missouri is seeking their first elite 8 birth in seven seasons. Forward DeMarre Carroll is 6-8 and dribbles the ball like he is a point guard.  His ability to push the ball up court at a fast pace opens up wide open jumpers for Leo Lyons, Matt Lawrence, and Kim English.

Duke- Gerald Henderson’s first step toward the basket is probably the best and fastest in basketball. Defenders are unable to stop his spurt to the hoop, and it leaves sharp shooters Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler wide open 3s, and lanes.

Arizona- Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are the Wildcats most talented players, but the X factor has to be point guard, Nic Wise.  When Wise’s shot is on, it takes the pressure off of Budinger and Hill, and gives the Wildcats a third wheel.  If they avoid foul trouble, the Cats can give Louisville a hard time.

Kansas- Bill Self gets the nod here.  After winning the national championship last year, Kansas didn’t return any starters and still find themselves in the sweet 16.  Self’s ability to transition from the talent that he had last year cannot be overlooked.  Collins, and Aldrich are the outside inside out duo, and are the core of this team.

Michigan State- Tom Izzo is possibly the best NCAA tournament coach.  He always has his teams set for deep runs in the brackets.  This year is no different, as he has helped develop point guard, Kalin Lucas, and forward Raymar Morgan, to be great compliments to each other heading down the stretch.  Goran Sutan will be counted on to drain the 3, if Michigan State expects to be in Detroit for the Final 4.

Xavier-  It starts and ends with BJ Raymond.  The leader, and unsung hero of this team, Xavier will need a lot more if they plan on taking down the Panthers to advance to the elite 8.

Gonzaga- A cohesive unit is what makes the Zags so electric.  Point guard, Jeremy Pargo, and big man Josh Heytvelt are a good inside out do.  Austin Daye is a future NBA star, and Micah Downs has stepped his game up immensely this season. They have the talent to keep up with UNC, but their up and down game goes right into the Tar Heels strengths.

Oklahoma-  Blake Griffin, Blake Griffin, Blake Griffin

UNC- Ty Lawson’s toe.  If he is healthy, UNC will not be beat as Lawson is faster with the ball than any player I have seen at the college level.  Tyler and Co will do their jobs if #5 is on the court.

Purdue-  Defense, Defense, Defense-  Purdue’s offense is their defense, and Matt Painter cannot emphasize that enough as the Boilermakers play the red hot Huskies.



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