Final Four Previews: The battle of the x-factor

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Elijah Johnson has been a difference maker for Kansas over the last six games.

He’s averaging 15.8 ppg. He’s shooting 45.5% from three.  Not only is he helping to keep the floor spread with his shooting, but Johnson has given Kansas a third-scoring option of late. That takes some of the pressure to produce off of Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson.

Lenzelle Smith has been a difference maker for Ohio State this season.

He had 33 points in Ohio State’s two games in Boston. He went for 28 points in a win over Indiana. He had 17 as Ohio State beat Michigan. Against Syracuse in the Elite Eight, Smith went for 16 in the second half, hitting two huge threes that helped the Buckeyes hold on to a lead as the Orange started their comeback.

Care to take a guess who will be matching up on the perimeter on Saturday?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a strong performance out of one of these two could end up being the difference. Look at it like this: Aaron Craft is going to give Tyshawn Taylor fits the same way that Jeff Withey, if he can stay on the floor, will give Jared Sullinger fits. Thomas Robinson may not be able to guard Deshaun Thomas on the perimeter, but Thomas will be overmatched in the paint against either Withey or Robinson. William Buford is talented but maddeningly inconsistent.

Put it all together and, well, you can see why the scoring Smith and Johnson provide is valuable.

Is it worth noting that Johnson had 15 points and Smith just three in the first meeting between these two teams?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.