Final Four 2014: The difference makers may not be household names

Jonathan Daniel

By now we all know Scottie Wilbekin, Shabazz Napier and Frank Kaminsky. But who are the x-factors that could lead their team to victory in Dallas?

SB Nation 2014 Final Four Preview

The first game of the 2014 Final Four will feature Connecticut and Florida and everyone wants to see Shabazz Napier, Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather. The second game, between Wisconsin and Kentucky, features Frank Kaminsky, Ben Brust, Julius Randle and the Harrison twins.

But who else is there? Who, with the game on the line, could be the one player that sends his team to the National Championship Game?

Here's a look at one guy from each team who could steal the spotlight from the established stars.

No. 7 Connecticut: Amida Brimah

In all honesty, UConn's spot should belong to DeAndre Daniels. As a matchup nightmare who can spot up from long range, get to the rim, rebound and even make his free throws, he can take the attention away from Napier in a hurry. But his 27-point, 10-rebound performance against Iowa State in the Sweet 16 should have him near the top of Billy Donovan's scouting report.

Enter Amida Brimah.

When the Huskies and Gators met in December, Brimah had yet to establish himself on either end of the court. Though he played 17 minutes in that game, he was not much of a factor (3 points, 1 rebound, 1 block). But a lot has changed since then. Brimah broke out with a 20-point, eight rebound, five block performance against Central Florida five weeks later, and though he's been inconsistent since then, it's clear that when he stays out of foul trouble, he could cause problems for just about any opposing big man.

No. 1 Florida: Dorian Finney-Smith

For Brimah to be effective, he will have to contain the Gators' inside duo of Patric Young and Will Yeguete. When Dorian Finney-Smith comes off the bench, things don't get much easier.

He can score and rebound, making him a walking double-double threat. Perhaps his best game came on Jan. 11 when he played 42 minutes, scoring 22 points and hauling in 15 rebounds. And like Daniels of UConn, Finney-Smith's work doesn't end inside. Though he season-long numbers might not show it,  Finney-Smith has the potential to catch fire from three. A horrid streak that lasted most of February skewed the numbers a bit, but he also lit up both Kansas and LSU with four triples in each game.

He's not known as a shooter, but when that part of his arsenal is on, he can be tough to contain, especially for a UConn team that struggled guarding the perimeter in the Elite Eight against Michigan State.

No. 8 Kentucky: Alex Poythress

The sophomore who has seen his production take a huge hit since last year has an equally huge opportunity on Saturday. With Willie Cauley-Stein likely out for the Wildcats against Wisconsin, Poythress can make up for some lost time by filling the void and sending Kentucky to the title game.

His coaches and teammates have expressed their support, saying they've seen the potential Poythress brings.

"The only thing that holds him back is himself believing," (Kentucky coach John) Calipari said. "We all look at him as a beast. There are things he does in practice and these guys stop and say, 'Do that in the game!'"

Poythress's scoring numbers have been cut in half this year (11.2 points per game as a freshman to 5.8), his rebounding has taken a hit (6 per game down to 4.4) and he is playing seven fewer minutes per game. There were stretches this year where he made the most out of his time -- the Wildcats are 5-2 when he scores in double figures -- but there has been no consistency whatsoever. If Poythress can make an impact, helping out Julius Randle inside, Kentucky might have what it takes to knock off another higher seed en route to an improbable championship game appearance.

No. 2 Wisconsin: Nigel Hayes

Though it might be the job of the Badgers' opponent on Saturday to hand things over to its freshmen, don't overlook forward Nigel Hayes. He has come off the bench every game this season, sometimes to extraordinary results. His season-high 19 points at Northwestern in January came on 8-12 shooting as he nearly matched the Wildcats' first-half scoring out-put (Hayes had 13 in the first half, Northwestern had 14).

Hayes has yet to have a statement game in the tournament, but with the opportunity to go at Randle on both ends of the court, that could change on Saturday. He typically sees a little under 20 minutes per game and provides a solid compliment to sophomore Sam Dekker.

Whether or not Hayes can make a difference remains to be seen, but like Poythress, he already has the trust of his teammates and is the one tasked with keeping things loose in the locker room.

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