A championship hinges on the emergence of X-factors — the players who will rewrite the destiny of their team.

Should they falter, a once-promising season may end prematurely. Should they rise to the occasion, an unlikely victor may be crowned.

Eight teams will soon embark on a season-long quest to reach the PBA Elite League presented by Snickers Playoffs and ultimately become champions.

Matches will be swung by clutch performances and inexcusable blunders. By those that anticipate the transition and those that miss the move. By the messengers that deliver and those that fail to send.

Ryan Ciminelli and the 2023 Waco Wonders are a testament to the power of an X-factor. While they ranked last in the power rankings, the Wonders were the only team with two left-handed players, an advantage that proved insurmountable when the stakes were greatest.

To be clear, the Wonders didn’t win the Elias Cup solely because they had two lefties. They won because all five players performed above their average and because Ciminelli body-swapped with John Wick.

Underdogs proving the doubters wrong. Superstars living up to impossibly high standards.

That’s what the PBA Elite League is all about.

These are the eight players who could swing the PBA Elite League season, which begins Tuesday evening at Bowlero Northrock in Wichita, Kan. The first two rounds will be livestreamed at 7 p.m. Eastern on BowlTV.

Mitch Hupé, Waco Wonders

Biggest question: Can Hupé tap into his limitless potential?

With PBA Elite League teams competing all season long on various oil patterns, a left-handed duo may not be the advantage it proved to be in 2023. There will be moments when Waco needs a right-hander to step up and shoulder the burden.

Enter Hupé, the 28-year-old Canadian who has flashed his immense talent on the PBA level. After winning his first title last season, Hupé could be poised to take his game to the next level.

It helps the Wonders that Hupé owns the Roth pattern, too.

When he won the Roth/Holman PBA Doubles Championship with Packy Hanrahan, he bowled on the Roth pattern during dual-pattern match play. Two years ago, he shredded PBA League qualifying on the Roth pattern at Bayside Bowl.

Hupé will play a crucial role in getting the Wonders to Bayside; and if he is successful, he’ll be critical to their chances of winning the whole thing.

Arturo Quintero, Portland Lumberjacks

Biggest question: Can Quintero be the same player outside of Bayside Bowl?

Since his selection during the 2022 PBA League draft, Quintero has made Portland manager Tim Mack look like a genius. His performance that year, which helped the Lumberjacks win a third straight Elias Cup, was MVP-caliber. 

But away from his new home of Bayside Bowl, Quintero hasn’t been that guy in nearly two calendar years. He finished 66th in points in 2023 with one top-20 finish.

The Lumberjacks feed off Quintero’s boundless energy, but they will need him to demonstrate more versatility this season.

Jakob Butturff, Go Bowling! Dallas Strikers

Biggest question: How will Butturff respond to falling in the draft?

Of the players selected in the third round of the PBA Elite League draft, here is how they ranked on the 2023 points list: 40th, 29th, 38th, 31st, 30th, 4th, 32nd, 33rd. 

Notice the outlier?

Butturff’s precipitous fall can largely be explained by the leg injury with which he ended the 2023 season. When healthy, Butturff has been the world’s best left-hander over the past few seasons.

If his leg is healed and Jakob Butturff bowls like Jakob Butturff, the Strikers struck gold.

Sean Rash, Las Vegas High Rollers

Biggest question: Is Rash healthy?

Simply put, a healthy Rash catapults this squad to perhaps the PBA Elite League’s best team.

If Rash misses a few matches due to injury, which is possible given the quick turnaround between tour stops, the High Rollers appear more than equipped to handle that with Thomas Larsen penciled in as their sixth man.

But if Rash is healthy, and he's going to work his hardest to ensure that is the case, Las Vegas landed a versatile, team-oriented player who excels on the fresh and is, at worst, a top-15 talent. That’s a terrifying proposition for everyone else.

Packy Hanrahan, New Jersey KingPins

Biggest question: Can Hanrahan continue his star trajectory?

Here’s a scenario: The KingPins are facing the Motown Muscle. It’s the 10th frame. Both teams can strike out for 216. EJ Tackett or Anthony Simonsen is due up for Motown.

Who has the ball in hand for New Jersey?

The KingPins have a solid collection of team-first players, but they don’t have an unassailable star. This issue became abundantly clear last season when manager Carolyn Dorin-Ballard completely reshuffled their lineup after one game against the Wonders.

They need an alpha. An assassin. A set-it-and-forget-it anchor. Someone who has it

Hanrahan, who CDB initially tasked with anchor responsibilities last season, is the most likely candidate. The 28-year-old has improved every season of his career.

If Hanrahan can continue his maturation, the KingPins just may have the franchise talent they’ve lacked since prime Pete Weber.

Dick Allen, Akron Atom Splitters

Biggest question: Can Allen turn back the clock?

The Atom Splitters have won three Elias Cup titles, tied for the most of any team. But they have not won or even made the finals since 2018.

Coincidentally, that was the last year Allen was on the team.

Many of Allen’s career highlights have been in PBA League competition. He’s a spark plug, a showman who relishes the big stage. He lives for these moments.

With four major champions on the squad — Chris Via, Jesper Svensson, Tom Daugherty and François Lavoie — the Atom Splitters don’t need the 2015 MVP version of Allen to succeed.

But if anyone has access to a time machine specifically engineered to bring a past version of professional bowler to the present day, it’s Atom Splitters manager Mark Baker.

Justin Knowles, Motown Muscle

Biggest question: Can Knowles provide a left-handed changeup?

In Anthony Simonsen and EJ Tackett, the Muscle have the best 1-2 punch in the PBA Elite League. They will throw a lot of strikes in the fourth, fifth, ninth and 10th frames.

Jason Sterner will provide a steady, lead-off presence and championship pedigree; Sam Cooley earned the trust of Simonsen and Tackett last season; Zac Tackett may not have much experience, but no better team is better equipped to mentor the young’un.

If they can add a quality left-hander to that equation, Motown could be live to throw the back five every single game.

The Muscle did not roster a lefty last year, but rotated through a trio of southpaws — Keven Williams, Matt McNiel and Mykel Holliman — in the three previous seasons.

With Jason Couch, a Hall of Fame southpaw, riding in as the new sheriff in town, perhaps he can help Knowles reach his potential.

Tomas Käykhö, Bowlero L.A. X

Biggest question: Can Käykhö excel on near-fresh lane conditions?

Käykhö, a two-hander with slower ball speed, generally finds greater success as patterns break down; however, there won’t be much transition during two-game PBA Elite League baker matches.

There is still plenty of evidence to suggest Käykhö is capable of thriving in this environment. Not only was he sensational during with third-place U.S. Open performance, but the Chicago Breeze tasked Käykhö with anchor duties over Dom Barrett.

L.A.’s new player-manager Jason Belmonte demonstrated his trust in Käykhö. Belmonte selected the 26-year-old 22 spots earlier in the December draft than July's.

If Käykhö is the real deal, L.A. X could have the Elite League’s most feared four-headed monster in Belmonte, Kevin McCune, Dom Barrett and Käykhö. It enables Belmonte to call Darren Tang and Keven Williams out of the bullpen in positions for each to succeed.

More information on the PBA Elite League presented by Snickers, including the schedule and rosters, is available here