Watching games tonight around the country and I’m left with the distinct impression that nobody is really any good. That’s an exaggeration of course, but there are more “top line” teams with major flaws than in any recent season, IMO.
Duke’s not getting to a Final Four. I’ve said it multiple times this year and watching tonight, the message gets driven home to me yet again.Two reasons, both on display tonight in a game which was closer than it should have been due to Carolina veterans suddenly playing with their heads up their asses late:
1. The zone simply will not cut it against teams with good guard play (helps if they’re vets but not necessary) and some shooters. The odds are very, very strong that they’ll run into such a team by a Regional final.
2. Defensive rebounding. Duke is such a great offensive rebounding team that this gets completely overlooked. MSU is having some vulnerability there and they do…45th in the nation. You know where Duke is? #117 and that was before giving up 932 offensive rebounds to Carolina tonight. It shouldn’t be a surprise…poor defensive rebounding tends to go with heavy reliance on zone defense and you see it in a game like tonight. Carolina is a really good offensive rebounding team…#3 in the nation coming into tonight…but that was a flat out tattooing they administered to Duke.
I’m not saying Duke goes out in the first weekend (they might, though), but I just cannot imagine them getting the kind of gift draw they’ll need to win 4 straight in this thing, not with the vulnerabilities they have.
Virginia is a really solid team in many ways, but do they look the part of a #1 overall to anybody? Anybody? They’re not as vulnerable on the defensive glass as Duke is, but it’s a problem area for them, so that’s one thing to watch. Bilas mentioned it tonight when talking about them maybe seeing an opponent like…Michigan State, in an Elite Eight type of game. He thinks that’s what it’ll take to beat them. I agree that type of team (an MSU, a Cincy, WVa) could be a problem. I also think this…to get to a Final Four, I believe that the vast majority of the time, your team better have 95th percentile guys, meaning that you have players who when faced with big situations can go out and just make a play that few others cans. That can manifest athletically or via skill, but it’s mostly the former. I don’t know that I see that guy on UVa’s roster and that’s been the problem in other recent years where they’ve been essentially this kind of team but unable to break through with a deep March run. Offensively, they do one thing really well…not turn the ball over. Beyond that, not a great offensive team. They’re 90th in eFG%, not a great 2 point shooting team, don’t offensive rebound or get to the line a ton. Who’s that guy who can just go out and make a play no one else on the court can in an Elite Eight game when the chips are down? Guy? I don’t see it.
Carolina has some nice elements…experienced guards and a veteran forward they can count on in Maye. Great offensive rebounding team too…but I just don’t see it on the offensive end. You look at the shooting numbers and they’re a whole lot of not good. Really, the offensive rebounding and relatively solid TO numbers is what’s keeping that offensive rated where it is…they do not shoot it the way you’d expect from a KenPom #5 offense. I have a feeling they probably run into someone along the way who does a decent enough job keeping them off the offensive boards to take them out.
I’ve been way, way down on Kansas all year. Nothing’s changed. They’re playing without the big kid now. They think he’s back for the Tournament but it’s an MCL sprain, so who knows whether that’ll be the case or how effectively he’ll be able to move if he does play. The idea that this bunch is likely going to end up with a 1 seed is an indictment of the entire process the Committee uses. Offensively they’re pretty good but this is a suspect team defensively and like Duke, they are prone to getting hammered on their defensive glass. I am very interested to see what 8/9 draw they end up with…if it’s a team with any kind of size and ability to offensive rebound, I’m going to be very tempted to pick them to not make it out of the first weekend.
West Virginia? Again, really weak on the defensive boards and I never, ever have faith in that style over the run of a 6 game tournament.
Anyone believe in Arizona? Kentucky? Auburn just got beat today by Alabama. Xavier has somehow had a teflon coating on what I think has been a performance level which does not reach what I normally expect from a 1 or 2 seed and they got beat today by Providence. Nova probably wins the Big East but their close has been less than spectacular.
Obviously some of these teams are going to make a run. My point is that it’s one of those years where I think it’s pretty obvious that the Final Four will be comprised of flawed teams, since that’s all I see out there. It’s also why I think if you’re any of the four Big Ten teams who will be in this thing, you have no good reason not to feel as if you’re fully capable of going on a run yourself…because everybody’s flawed. Nobody’s great.