3 Key UNC Players to Watch in March Madness

North Carolina is headed to the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites. They need these three X-factors to perform well to go far.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Cormac Ryan

Another player who hasn't made the offensive leap the Tar Heels have been hoping for this season is Cormac Ryan. After transferring from Notre Dame last summer, there was an expectation among Tar Heel hopefuls that Ryan would become the missing perimeter scorer North Carolina needed.

That has largely not been the case. Well, except for his ridiculous scoring outburst against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium. There, he hit six threes on his way to 31 points, his highest mark of the season.

He went back to missing more shots than makes in the ACC tournament as he averaged 5.5 points in 33.5 minutes on 3/16 shooting from the field in the last two games. His season averages of 37.7% field-goal percentage and 34.2% from three leave plenty to be desired.

However, Ryan has surprisingly blossomed into one of the best defenders on the team. There is a reason he still plays 30+ minutes every game despite being largely ineffective all season.

He can stay in front of bigger players as well as defend quicker guards. This allowed coach Hubert Davis to switch out more on the perimeter, making it very difficult for opponents to drive inside the paint.

Ryan will be the X-factor for North Carolina during March Madness. If he has a hot shooting game or two, the Tar Heels can beat anyone. But even if he doesn't, his intensity, strength, and defensive chops will be as valuable as they have been all year.