X

Have feedback / suggestions? Let us know!

NCAA Basketball March Madness

2013 NCAA Tournament: 10 Players That Will Make Or Break Their Team’s Run in the Sweet 16

1 of 11

10 Players That Will Make Or Break Their Team's Run At The National Championship

10 Players That Will Make Or Break Their Team's Run At The National Championship
Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

We’ve made it to the Sweet 16, where the stars of the NCAA really start to shine. There have been plenty of great individual performances during the first two rounds of the tournament, but there’s bound to be plenty more as the stage gets bigger and games become more important.

There are a lot of quality teams remaining among the final 16 teams, and those teams will be winning as a team and losing as a team as we get to the late stages of the tournament. However, many of the teams left are dependent on one or two of their players showing up in big games and coming through in the clutch. So we’ve put together a list of ten players that will either make or break their team’s run to the national championship with their play, starting in the Sweet 16.

These are the types of players that will be heroes if they’re able to lead their team to the Final Four and ultimately a national championship. Conversely, these are also the players that will be scapegoats and take the blame if they struggle, don’t play to their potential, and their team loses before reaching the Promised Land.

These aren’t necessarily the best players on their respective teams, although some of them are, but they have the potential to be the most important player on their team. They have the opportunity to give their team the boost they need to rise above the challenges that face them at this stage in the tournament. So, without further adieu, here are ten players that are either going to make or break their team’s national title hopes:

2 of 11

Mark Lyons, Arizona

Mark Lyons, Arizona
Casey Saplo - USATODAY Sports

Lyons is the closest thing the Wildcats have to a true point guard, which means he needs to be at the top of his game for Arizona to advance. He’ll have Ohio State’s Aaron Craft harassing him in the Sweet 16, and if he struggles in that matchup, it’ll be tough for Arizona to win. The Wildcats have enough talent to win the national championship, and it’s Lyons that has to play mistake free basketball in order to make that happen.

3 of 11

Erik Murphy, Florida

Erik Murphy, Florida
Kim Klement - USATODAY Sports

Florida is perhaps the most well rounded team left in the tournament, but Murphy is the biggest key for them. He is the best stretch 4 in the country and is a matchup nightmare for teams on the perimeter. However, outside of him the Gators don’t have much size or depth inside behind Patric Young, so Murphy has to be able to defend big guys and can’t get into foul trouble, or else Florida might be in trouble.

4 of 11

Cody Zeller, Indiana

Cody Zeller, Indiana
Rich Barnes - USATODAY Sports

There are so few impact post players in college basketball, and Zeller is one of them. He has the kind of size and skill inside the paint that can carry a team to the national championship. However, when Zeller doesn’t play well the Hoosiers are too reliant on their perimeter shooters, which means if they go cold from the outside, they’re likely to lose, and that makes Zeller a make or break player.

5 of 11

Ben McLemore, Kansas

Ben McLemore, Kansas
Peter Alken - USATODAY Sports

McLemore is a talented freshman, but he has struggled down the stretch, averaging 7 points in his last four games, all against NCAA Tournament teams. When he hasn’t scored, the Jayhawks have struggled to beat mediocre teams, and there are no more mediocre teams left in the tournament for Kansas to play. He scored just two points against North Carolina, a game that Kansas trailed by nine at halftime. If he can score 15 points a game from here on out, he’ll be a difference maker, but if McLemore continues to struggle against quality teams, it’ll be tough for Kansas to keep winning.

6 of 11

Russ Smith, Louisville

Russ Smith, Louisville
Jim O'Connor - USATODAY Sports

Smith doesn’t have the nickname “Russdiculous” for nothing. He’s a guy that can keep both teams in the game with his shot selection and decision-making. The way Smith can score, he can definitely help carry Louisville to the national championship, but he’s just as capable of making a lot of mistakes and giving a game away. He’s the definition of a “make or break” player for the Cardinals.

7 of 11

Vander Blue, Marquette

Vander Blue, Marquette
Mark Zerof - USATODAY Sports

Marquette hasn’t played great in this tournament, but Blue has saved them in both games: scoring the game winning basket in the final seconds against Davidson and then going off for 29 points against Butler. It’ll be up to Blue to continue to carry the Golden Eagles; if he falters at some point, Marquette won’t survive.

8 of 11

Shane Larkin, Miami

Shane Larkin, Miami
Jim Cowsert - USATODAY Sports

Miami may be a great team, but Larkin is the biggest reason why they’re ACC champions and the biggest reason why they’re playing in the second weekend of the tournament. He’s the point guard so everything runs through him. If Larkin continues to play at a high level, he has a chance to carry Miami to a national championship, but if he has an off game at some point, the Hurricanes won’t be able to win without him at this stage of the tournament.

9 of 11

Trey Burke, Michigan

Trey Burke, Michigan
Rick Osentoski - USATODAY Sports

If you didn’t already know, it’s been obvious during the first two rounds of the tournament: Burke is the engine that makes Michigan go. He has the kind of talent that can completely take over a game, which makes the Wolverines a legitimate national championship contender, despite struggling at the end of the season and dropping to a 4 seed. However, without strong point guard play, Michigan is nothing more than an average team and won’t last much longer in this tournament.

10 of 11

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Brian Spurlock - USATODAY Sports

Thomas is the only player averaging double figure points per game for the Buckeyes, so he is critical to their success. If Ohio State ever gets into a track meet, they’ll need Thomas to help them keep pace, because they can’t always rely on Aaron Craft making a buzzer beater to bail them out. Thomas can surely carry the Buckeyes out of the West Region and into the Final Four, where they’ll have a chance, but if he’s not scoring at a high rate, Ohio State’s chances don’t look good.

11 of 11

James Southerland, Syracuse

James Southerland, Syracuse
Kelley L. Cox - USATODAY Sports

Southerland found his shooting touch during the Big East Tournament, and not so coincidentally, the Syracuse offense started to look good. At 6’8’’, Southerland is a tough matchup on the perimeter, because he can shoot over defenders with ease. If Southerland gets hot from deep and starts making shots the Orange are nearly impossible to beat. However, if Southerland goes cold, the Syracuse offense isn’t good enough to win a national championship, as their stingy defense can only take them so far.