Opinion: It’s X-Factor Season

The leaves are changing and the temperatures are dropping, which means it is time for writers and bloggers to start filling headlines with their relatively unfounded predictions for college basketball.

One of my current favorites is the notion that, for the second year in a row, Branden Dawson will be the “x-factor” for Michigan State this year.

Last year, Impact Izzone’s very own Blake Froling wrote a piece about Dawson being last season’s x-factor. At the time, I agreed. Dawson was a guy people had seen flashes from but were not entirely sure how he was going to perform or what role he was going to fill. This was largely because he is a freak athlete who is undersized for his position and does not possess a reliable jump shot.

Blake and I have joked on the podcast that he could reword that article and it would still hold water this year. Then, while perusing the college basketball headlines, I found an article on SB Nation that, once again, cited Dawson as the x-factor this year.

I cannot take it anymore.

First of all, what is an x-factor? Is that the guy a team needs to be at his best or the team will not win? Because I would have to disagree that the fate of a team should be on a 6-foot-6 power forward. Is he the most promising guy on the team this year? I’ll take my chances with more well-rounded players such as Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine and Alvin Ellis.

This leads me to believe that the term “x-factor” just means, “As a writer, I have no idea how to label this guy. He’s not bad but he’s not great, so I’m going to call him the ‘x-factor’ because that doesn’t really mean anything.”

Given this definition, MSU as a team is the x-factor. If Dawson averages 20 points and 10 rebounds this year, Michigan State can still be an awful basketball team. If he gets injured in the exhibition opener against The Master’s College and never sees the floor again, the Spartans can still make a run in March. Putting the entire fate of a team on one player is unrealistic and just plain silly.

Here is what Dawson is: he is a very talented, very athletic, undersized big man who will become nearly unguardable if he can consistently hit a jump shot from inside 15 feet. He averaged nearly a double-double last season and, based on his consistently improving stats over the past three seasons, can be expected to have another great year this year.

There are no x-factors on this team that has so many variables. There are only a ton of question marks that cannot be cleared up until the games are played.

Andrew Hayes is the host of Impact Izzone for Impact Sports

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports