Which fatal flaw might doom some of the nation's top teams in March?
Every team has a weakness. Even Kentucky.
Winning and losing in the NCAA Tournament is almost always about the matchups. A bad draw or a little bad luck in the first weekend of the Tournament can turn a potential championship season into a disappointment. The key for upset-hungry teams in March will be their ability to pounce when the time is right.
The teams that will be among the favorites to advance to Final Four have earned that status by being balanced, sound teams on both side of the court. Only one of them can be a champion, though.
Here’s how things could unravel for some of the nation’s top teams.
Fatal flaw: A backcourt collapse
The nation’s only undefeated team and undisputed No. 1 has so few flaws, it’s tough to pick out the weak spots that could doom a run to the Final Four. An opponent getting ridiculously hot from 3 would seem to be a must to beat Kentucky, but how could the Wildcats beat themselves? The guards might do it. Point guard Andrew Harrison has had his lapses at times, though’s also had his share of standout games this season. The offense has run better for stretches this season with Tyler Ulis at the point, but will Calipari put his team into the hands of a 5-9 freshman in the Tournament? Kentucky’s 3-point shooting (160th nationally at 34.3 percent) and free throw shooting (100th at 71 percent) is also the only other non-elite part of the Wildcats’ game.
Fatal flaw: Closing out wins
For the time being, the Cavaliers have overcome this flaw, preserving wins over Pittsburgh, Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech with ease. But there was a stretch in late January and early February where lopsided games early in the second half became more dramatic in the final seconds. This is how Virginia lost its only game of the season to Duke on Jan. 31, but even Wake Forest in Charlottesville and Virginia Tech in Blacksburg made the Cavs work to preserve a lead.
Fatal flaw: Defending attacking guards
The diminished depth is a major concern, though it will be less so when benches shrink in the NCAA Tournament. Instead, the biggest problem for Duke has to be problems defending guards. Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant shredded Duke’s guards earlier this season. So did Miami’s duo of Angel Rodriguez and Manu Lecomte. Virginia Tech took Duke to overtime a week ago thanks to its guards getting to the rim. Duke was a bad defensive team a year ago and got burned by Mercer in the Tournament. Could history repeat itself?
Fatal flaw: Rebounding
Villanova isn’t necessarily an undersized team — particularly by Villanova standards — but the Wildcats aren’t a big team, either. The 6-foot-11 Daniel Ochefu is the only regular taller than 6-7. He averages 8.3 boards per game. Every regular is 6-2 or taller and top guard Darrun Hilliard is 6-6. Yet Villanova ranks 115th in offensive rebound rate and 160th in defensive rebound rate on KenPom.com.
Fatal flaw: Scoring from its stars
Arizona won’t play many games tougher than the Wildcats’ win in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. Utah’s a great defensive team, but Arizona should still wonder if it can score enough to make it to the Final Four. Freshman Stanley Johnson went 3-of-19 from the field, which would be a footnote if not for Arizona’s struggles a week ago against UCLA. In that game, Gabe York and Dusan Ristic came off the bench to bail out the starters in a 57-47 win over the Bruins.
Fatal flaw: Frontcourt depth
Good thing Frank Kaminsky never gets into foul trouble. Wisconsin has proven that it can keep winning even without its starting point guard, but surviving any absence of Kaminsky would seem to be slim. Kaminsky is the only player on the roster taller than 6-9. That said, Kaminsky foul trouble is a true rarity. He hasn’t played with more than three fouls in a game all season.
Fatal flaw: Free throw shooting
Gonzaga has one of the most balanced and efficient offenses in the country, making it all that more baffling that the Bulldogs can’t hit free throws. Gonzaga is converting only 69.8 percent of free throws this season, raking 150th nationally.