The Michigan Wolverines played in what many considered to be the best conference this year, the Big 10. So heading into the NCAA Tournament, the teams that called the Big 10 home had high expectations. For Michigan, it seemed like a certain group of players had even higher expectations set upon them. The Wolverines boast two former NBA players, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III, as well as NPOY hopeful Trey Burke. Many assumed Michigan’s possible successes would end up in the hands in one of those three players.
Nik Stauskas, on the other hand, is a freshman who has received the smallest amount of pub of any of the young Wolverines. On the season, he had only averaged just above 11 points per game. So it would be understandable if the world at large did not consider Stauskas as a key-factor in Michigan’s run to the Final Four.
Well, the big dance should have taught us all by now that it is x-factors like Stauskas that makes all the difference. The freshman doubled his scoring average and helped lead Michigan past the Florida Gators in the Elite 8. It wasn’t that his teammates played horrible, but Stauskas did enough to help make the game into a blowout. Without his excellent play, Michigan might have been forced to rely on Burke’s clutch abilities.
The Wolverines are off to the Final Four to play the Syracuse Orange. Now, Syracuse has to gameplan for more than just the Wolverines’ three name stars. Even if Stauskas never duplicates that performance in the tournament, teams now have to play him honestly.
Adding another weapon, or in the worst case scenario a new decoy, at this stage of the NCAA Tournament is a great gift for Michigan. If they can captalize on it or not, well, we will just have to wait until next weekend to find out.
Joe is a Senior Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone