This one is a no-brainer. Russ Smith has been arguably the best player in the NCAA Tournament so far and he means so much to his team. Louisville’s defense will be key tonight, but if Smith only scores five points, the Cardinals will most likely lose.
Luckily for Louisville, though, Smith is averaging 25 points per game in the tournament. His worst scoring performance was last game against the Wichita State Shockers.
Peyton Siva has to come up big on the offensive side of the ball as well–being the distributor for this team–but Smith scoring the basketball at a high rate is a must for this team. Players on the Louisville bench stepped up last game when Siva was not playing at his best. Luke Hancock played a huge role for the Cardinals last game with his 20 points. Keep in mind, he was only averaging 7.7 points per game on the season. Hancock stepping up again for Louisville would be great, but I suspect that Siva will be a more efficient scorer.
There really is no player that could make up the offensive production of Smith on this team.
It also helps that Smith is a great defender no matter who he faces. There will be plenty of roll players that have to step up for this team, and the defense will have to play a big role, but Smith is the biggest x-factor by far for Louisville.