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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

The four ‘other guys’ who have a major stake in their team’s Final Four success

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Can Doron Lamb keep up his hot shooting as Kentucky heads to New Orleans? (AP)

Jared Sullinger. Anthony Davis. Thomas Robinson. Peyton Siva.

They're the star pieces at the helm of each of the four teams heading to New Orleans next weekend.

But it's been more than just those individuals who have gotten their teams to college basketball's biggest stage.

Here's a closer look at the most important "other guys" for Kentucky, Kansas, Ohio State and Louisville.

Kentucky — Sophomore guard Doron Lamb

Kentucky's big. Kentucky's strong. Kentucky's deep. Kentucky's athletic. Kentucky is ridiculous in every way. We get it.

But adding a nice dose of finesse for the better part of the season has been sophomore sharpshooter Doron Lamb — a 47 percent shooter both from the floor and from long range.

And he's been as hot as any of the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament.

One of Lamb's worst shooting performances of the season came in UK's last loss, when he went 2 of 11 in the SEC title game loss to Vanderbilt. Since then, he's 21 of 37 (56.8 percent) in four tourney games and 9 of 15 from deep.

Against Louisville, that efficiency will be valuable, as the Cardinals have made their surprising Final Four run by mostly winning in grinding fashion. They've defended well and made good, uncontested looks from the perimeter tough to come by. Opponents are only shooting 38.1 percent against them over four games so far.

In the first meeting between the two, Louisville was able to keep Lamb quiet from the floor. He was just 1 of 7, but did damage at the free-throw line, going 8 of 9. He could factor in there again, as he's Kentucky's best free-throw shooter this season, firing at roughly an 85 percent clip.

Kansas — Senior guard Tyshawn Taylor

The Jayhawks' four-year starting point guard has cut down significantly on his signature questionable decisions with the ball as a senior, especially during a closing stretch to the season in which they've won 13 of 14 heading into the Final Four.

Can Taylor still get a little too sped up at times? Yes. He had one of those moments late in the team's Elite Eight victory over North Carolina, firing off a 3-pointer in transition when he was in a 1-on-4 situation.

[ Pat Forde: Bill Self outcoaches Roy Williams and lifts KU into Final Four ]

But in terms of point guards, he provides one of the toughest matchups in America, especially when he's locked in. He's an opportunistic, sticky defender, can score in just about any way and is tough to stay in front of. He had a strong outing against Ohio State's Aaron Craft back in December (nine points, 13 assists), and whoever gets the better of that individual showdown could go a long way in determining who advances to Monday night.

Ohio State — Senior guard William Buford

This is it for Buford, who has had an outstanding four-year run at Ohio State, but he's heading to the Final Four looking to snap a bit of a shooting slump.

Overall, it's been an inconsistent offensive campaign for the 6-foot-6 gunner, who is unexpectedly averaging career lows in field-goal percentage (41.5) and 3-point percentage (35.1) this season.

He's had a rough go of it of late, especially this last weekend in Boston. Despite Ohio State combining for 158 points in a pair of wins, Buford was 4 of 20 from the floor in the two games.

[ Dan Wetzel: Final Four-bound Buckeyes take cue from coach ]

Can Ohio State win without a consistent Buford?

Yes. The Buckeyes have done it plenty this season.

But they're that much better when he looks like the player many expected coming into the season.

In Ohio State's regular-season meeting with Kansas, with Sullinger on the bench due to injury, he scored 21 points, but needed 23 shots to get there and was just 1 of 6 from beyond the arc. He won't have the same pressure on him Saturday with Sullinger in the mix this time, but it could make things tougher for Ohio State's star big man if Buford & Co. aren't giving the offense as much balance as possible.

Louisville — Sophomore center Gorgui Dieng

Dieng doesn't necessarily have to find ways to consistently score against Anthony Davis.

But he needs to be close to as effective on the glass and on the defensive end as Kentucky's freakishly good star freshman.

While Davis altered games all season while leading the nation in blocks (4.6 bpg), Dieng wasn't too shabby himself, ranking eighth (3.2 rpg).

He's been strong in both of those areas in the NCAA tournament, while enjoying his best defensive outing against the strongest frontcourt he's faced yet in the postseason, with seven blocks and nine rebounds in a Sweet 16 silencing of Michigan State.

[ Related: Louisville after-party site had special meaning for Rick Pitino ]

Dieng blocked six shots in the December loss to Kentucky, but has only gotten sharper since then. The key for him will be avoiding foul trouble against an opponent that will attack the rim. Louisville's frontcourt presence takes a major blow if he can't be on the floor for extended periods of time.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for RunRebs.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanmgreene.

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