Each Final Four team has their stars in the lineup. The Kansas Jayhawks and Villanova Wildcats each have a first-team All American point guard ready to battle in the semis. The Wildcats also have All-American Mikal Bridges at small forward. The Loyola-Chi Ramblers have Clayton Custer and a bunch of guards that are able to crush a defense. Meanwhile, the Michigan Wolverines have three heavy hitters that need to play well each and every night.
However, every 2018 Final Four participant has role players willing and ready to step up at a moments notice. For example, Ben Richardson scored 23 points in the Elite 8 for the Ramblers. Malik Newman has become the best player for Kansas and scored every point in overtime to defeat the Duke Blue Devils. Jordan Poole hit a game-winning three to keep the Wolverines’ season alive in the Round of 32. Another example is when Phil Booth dropped 20 points in the 2016 NCAA Championship game. These are just a few moments that we may not have seen coming before the NCAA Tournament started. Well, here are four players that may shine on the biggest stage when Final Four Saturday tips-off.
Aundre Jackson- Forward- No. 11 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
When you have three different players hitting big shots within the last six seconds of the game, it’s easy to overlook all of the other great things a team is doing. Well, forward Aundre Jackson has been one of those players that has steadied the ship for the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers anytime they needed a big bucket. Interestingly enough, Jackson is the only forward playing significant minutes for the Ramblers. It’s almost like Porter Moser needed at least one player to be added to the front court. However, Jackson does the majority of his damage in the paint with an assortment of mid-post drives. He uses the spin move and the glass very well. Moreover, Jackson’s quickness has been a bear for opponents all season. He is 1 of 5 double digit scorers for the Ramblers at 11 points per game. Jackson is scoring 12.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. That includes a six-point performance in the Elite 8 when he wasn’t needed to produce. Yet, Jackson is only playing 18 minutes per game. He is hitting over 60 percent of his shot attempts in the tournament. Once he comes into the game, Jackson provides a matchup nightmare. Now, Michigan has to question if Mo Wagner will guard Jackson or if they will use one of their guards to cover the unique forward. As we know, when the Ramblers go small, they are really small.
Zavier Simpson- Guard- No. 3 Michigan Wolverines
Zavier Simpson has been a calming influence for the Michigan Wolverines over the last half of the season. The sophomore point guard is producing 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. While maintaining his scoring for the Wolverines, Simpson has produced 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists during the NCAA Tournament. However, Simpson’s turnovers have gone up slightly from 1.4 to 1.8 in the tournament. Did we mention Simpson was perfect against the Florida State Seminoles? He didn’t commit one turnover in their Elite 8 win. Now, Simpson will face a different type of defense that may force him to attempt some jump shots. And that’s where the problem may arise. He is 2 of 8 from 3-point range in the tournament. In addition, Simpson struggles from the charity stripe. He shot 51 percent from the foul line this season. So far, Simpson has made 3 of 7 foul shots in the NCAA Tournament.
Lagerald Vick- Guard- No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks
If you know anything about the Kansas Jayhawks, you know they share the ball extremely well. As a result, the Jayhawks have five players scoring in double figures. Out of all of their athletes, Lagerald Vick might be the most explosive for Kansas. He is fifth on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game. Vick also produces 4.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as part of their four-guard lineup. In reality, Vick is playing the small forward position and could have the most pivotal defensive matchup in the Final Four. Will he get his opportunity to shut down Mikal Bridges? Vick has been as consistent as any player in the NCAA Tournament. He is averaging 13.5 points in four tournament games. He has a pair of 14-point games and a pair of 13-point games. However, Vick’s shooting is slightly below the season average at 46.5 percent. Still, Vick is connecting at a higher rate from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament. He is at 37.8 percent from 3-point range on the season. Yet, Vick is shooting 47.6 percent during the tournament. Unfortunately, he is coming off of a 2 of 7 3-point shooting day in the Elite 8. Therefore, the Jayhawks will have a question if Vick can recapture the form from the first three rounds. Hopefully, he will be able to catch one of his patented dunks on Final Four Saturday.
Eric Paschall – Forward- No. 1 Villanova Wildcats
The Villanova Wildcats are the third Final Four team with at least five double digit scorers on the roster. However, the Wildcats have six double digit scorers and they can all hit their opponents with a flurry of points. Forward Eric Paschall is producing 10.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game for the Wildcats. He is their most gifted dunker (possibly) and second on the team averaging 1.8 offensive rebounds per contest. However, Paschall does a lot more than play in the paint. He can shoot the midrange jumpshot. Paschall has also expanded his 3-point range. Now, he is connecting on 33 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. During the NCAA Tournament, Paschall is hitting 35.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. Yet, his overall field goal percentage has dropped to 43 percent during March Madness. Paschall’s ability to guard the perimeter will be the key to Villanova’s game plan. He may see plenty of time on Svi Mykhailiuk. Naturally, the Wildcats need their stars to play well. But, we may look back at Paschall as being the unsung hero if the Wildcats win.