Every Elite Eight team has its star player – an All-American or main catalyst who can help carry their respective team to the Final Four. But in a men's NCAA Tournament of bracket-busting upsets and unexpected results, it's been the role players or supporting cast members who have played key parts.
These are the players who could be the difference in playing in April or going home one game short of the Final Four. In 2019, Mamadi Diakite was the unsung hero for eventual national champion Virginia – when his buzzer-beating bucket helped the Cavaliers force overtime and advance past Purdue in the Elite Eight.
Here is a look at seven X-factor players in the men's NCAA Tournament Elite Eight field:
Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA. The bruising sophomore guard, who leads the Bruins in rebounding, was the hero in helping lift UCLA past Michigan State with 27 points. The team's third-leading scorer, Jaquez plays with a grit and tenacity that injects energy into his teammates. He came up clutch vs. Alabama, finishing with 17 points – including a step-back three-pointer in overtime
Jarod Lucas, Oregon State. The sophomore guard is the Beavers' second-leading scorer with 13 points per game. He shoots 39% from three-point range and 90% from the free-throw line. His dagger triple with 1:12 left helped Oregon State finalize its upset victory over Loyola-Chicago in the Sweet 16.
BRACKETS: Men's and women's NCAA Tournament scores and schedules
L.A. STORY: USC and UCLA are in the Elite Eight together for the first time ever
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Four takeaways from the Sweet 16 that matter most for the Elite Eight
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