X-factors to watch during Butler-UConn showdown
Everyone knows about Kemba Walker. Everyone should know about Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. They are the three most important players tonight. But they are also just three of the ten players that will be on the court tonight.
Here are the five most important role players tonight:
Shabazz Napier, UConn: Napier plays a vital role for the Huskies in that he is the guy that allows Kemba Walker to move off the ball. The advantages to that are two-fold. Kemba is, at times, a more effective scorer when he is able to run off of screens. The star guard also gets his rest on the offensive end of the floor on the possessions that Napier brings the ball up. Napier is also UConn’s best on-ball defender on the perimeter, meaning he will likely be spending quite a bit of time defending Shelvin Mack.
Jeremy Lamb, UConn: Butler does not have many big perimeter players. With the exception of Chase Stigall, who is about 6'3", all of Butler’s back court players are right around six-feet tall. Lamb, on the other hand, is 6'5" with a big time wingspan. He’s going to be a very difficult matchup for Butler. Lamb’s biggest issue throughout the season was his aggressiveness and assertiveness. He’s always had the talent, its been an issue of taking advantage of that talent. If he attacks the basket tonight, he can be a very effective weapon.
Alex Oriakhi, UConn: Oriakhi is probably going to end up being matched up with Matt Howard tonight, which is going to be a tough matchup for him. Howard is not the athlete that Derrick Williams is, but he has a similar skill set, and Williams played very well in the second half of the Elite 8 against UConn. Oriakhi is also a matchup problem for Butler thanks to his sheer size and strength in the paint. He will need to be on the floor, because the drop off after Oriakhi in UConn’s front court is pretty big. This game may end up coming down to fouls. Will Oriakhi or Howard be forced to sit out with foul trouble?
Ronald Nored, Butler: Nored will be the designated Kemba-stopper for Butler. As Brad Stevens said in the press conferences, you cannot guard Kemba Walker with just one player. It has to be a team effort. But Nored will be the guy on the front line, chasing Kemba off of screens and guarding him one-on-one when he has the ball on the perimeter. UConn has other weapons, but containing Kemba is the first step towards beating the Huskies.
Khyle Marshall, Butler: There are things that Butler does very well, but offensive rebounding is necessarily one of them. That’s where Marshall comes into play. He’s an athletic, 6'7" freshman forward that is a terrific change of pace for what Matt Howard and Andrew Smith give the Bulldogs. UConn’s defensive rebounding can be exploited, and Marshall is the guy that will be expected to take advantage of that.