Everyone knows that one of the biggest reasons Kentucky is a favorite in this weekend’s Final 4 Odds is freshman guard Brandon Knight. He’s hit two game winners, scored 30 points in another game, and been one of the breakout stars of this tournament.
But Knight hasn’t gotten the Wildcats to this point alone. Here are three under the radar Kentucky players which could impact Saturday’s game with UConn.
Josh Harrellson, Sr., C: In scanning the entire college basketball landscape, there simply might not be a single player who has transformed himself more from 2010 to 2011 than Harrellson. Incredibly, the 7’0 senior played a total of 88 minutes last year, scoring just 22 points. As for this year? Well he’s averaged 28.5 minutes a game, and was second on this team in rebounding at 8.7 a game.
And maybe most impressively, Harrellson has saved some of his best work for this NCAA Tournament. He’s scored in double figures every single game, averaging 14.7 points and nine rebounds per game, and played his best game in Kentucky’s shocking upset over No. 1 overall seed Ohio State. In that contest, Harrellson scored 17 points, ripped down 10 boards, and kept Buckeyes All-American Jared Sullinger in check.
With the Final 4 Odds out, Harrellson will again try to control the boards against a small-ish UConn team.
DeAndre Liggins, Jr., G: While Harrellson’s impact on this Kentucky team can be measured on the stat sheet, it isn’t nearly as easy to explain how important Liggins has been in this tournament run. The 6’6 guard has routinely been given the toughest defensive assignment on the opposition, and routinely come up big.
That was certainly the case in Kentucky’s Elite Eight win, when Liggins played 35 minutes, and spent of that time guarding North Carolina freshman stud Harrison Barnes. Liggins had three steals in that game, and while Barnes had a respectable 18 points, he shot just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. Credit Liggins there.
Also, Liggins offensive game is coming around as well. Despite averaging just 8.8 points during the season, he has now averaged over 13 in the last two games.
Terrence Jones, Fr., F: The last piece to a Kentucky win in the Final 4 Odds could very well be the enigmatic Jones.
Looking at Jones’ stats, many might be surprised that he’s on the “under the radar,” list. After all, he was one of Kentucky’s best players during the regular season, averaging 15.8 points and 7.8 rebounds. However in the tournament he’s been quiet, averaging just 10 points and six rebounds per game.
Simply put, if Jones is focused, he will have a big game Saturday. There is no one on the UConn roster that can guard him.
But when it comes Jones, that’s always a big “if.” He could be key to Kentucky covering the Final 4 Odds.