The college basketball season is only three weeks old, but it is not a very long season, with teams playing 30 to 34 games before March. Teams have already played six to eight games, meaning that the season is already at least 20 percent over for everyone. Here is what to consider when the calendar turns to March and you need to figure out how to fill out a bracket:
One-And-Done Teams Don’t Win
The 2012 and 2015 national champions were largely or substantially one-and-done teams. The 2012 Kentucky team which defeated Kansas for John Calipari’s first national championship had stars as one-and-dones, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The 2015 Duke championship team which defeated a veteran Wisconsin squad for the whole ball of wax was similarly defined by freshman superstars who carried most of the workload: Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, plus Tyus Jones. They won it all. Don’t think one-and-dones are doomed to failure. Winning once every few years is pretty good, not some aberration.
High Seeds Fail
Some high seeds fail, but if you are of the impression that high seeds normally don’t make the Final Four or win national titles, that’s not a correct assumption. Villanova was a No. 1 seed when it won it all last season. The 2017 national champion: North Carolina, a No. 1 seed… which beat another No. 1 seed, Gonzaga, in the title game. The 2016 national championship game was a No. 2 seed, Villanova, versus a No. 1 seed, North Carolina. The 2015 title game was a pair of No. 1 seeds, Duke and Wisconsin. The only national title won by a seed lower than No. 3 this decade was No. 7 Connecticut in 2014. High seeds don’t fail.
The 12 Seeds Dominate the 5 Seeds
The 12-over-5 upset regularly happens, but not to the extent that 12s usually go 3-1 against the 5s in the four games across the bracket each year. Since the NCAA Tournament increased from 53 to 64 teams in the 1985 event, the 5s have won near 65 percent of their games against the 12s. One or two 12s win each year, but not three or four. Pick your spots.
Did you see Villanova shoot the cover off the ball from three-point range in its two recent national championship runs? The 2017 North Carolina national championship team had balanced and effective scoring from the perimeter and the post. The 2013 national championship game was a shootout between Michigan and Louisville for much of the night in Atlanta. Dynamic scorers power the teams which go all the way.
Distrust The Big Ten
The fact that the Big Ten hasn’t won a national championship since 2000 – when Michigan State beat Florida in the title game – makes it easy to think that the conference should not be taken very seriously in March. However, the Big Ten has placed 14 teams in the Final Four since 2000. This past season, Michigan made the national championship game. In 2015, Wisconsin made the title game. In 2014, Wisconsin made the Final Four. In 2013, Michigan made the title game. Michigan State has made several Final Fours under Tom Izzo. There is a lot to like about this conference.