There are a number of factors that determine how far teams advance in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Here are a few to consider when picking your brackets this week:
1. The Preseason Factor: Often teams that are picked high early in the season find their mojo after struggling in midseason for whatever reason. Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville were tabbed 1-2-3 in the AP Poll and the Spartans and Cardinals are excellent choices to come out of their regions despite only being seeded fourth. The Spartans battled injuries all season but got healthy late and stormed to the Big 10 Tournament title with a solid win over Michigan.
2. Defense Wins: In any sport (see the Super Bowl), you’re better off going with teams that are strong defensively than those which are more offense-oriented. Many of the top teams fit that bill as Florida, Virginia, Louisville, Michigan State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, San Diego State and Saint Louis pride themselves on being stingy. Unfortunately, a few of these teams such as Syracuse, Pitt and Cincy are challenged offensively which figures to be their downfall. Some of the more explosive teams that are suspect defensively are Villanova, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Kansas, North Carolina, Providence, Duke, UCLA and Creighton.
3. Point Guard Play: In the old days, having a top center was the key to going far in the tourney. Now the point guard position is the premier position in college basketball. Scottie Wilbekin of Florida, Fred Van Vliet of Wichita State, Shabazz Napier of Connecticut and Tyler Ennis of Syracuse are four of the best in the nation while combo guards Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Marcus Paige of North Carolina and Russ Smith of Louisville can score with anyone. On the flip side, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky have been inconsistent at that spot.
4. Coaches Caches: If all factors are equal, go with the coaches who have tournament experience and have won national titles before. That would be Billy Donovan (twice with Florida in 2006-07), Rick Pitino (both with Kentucky and Louisville), Tom Izzo of Michigan State, Mike Krzyzewski (four titles with Duke), Roy Williams (two titles with North Carolina), Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Bill Self of Kansas and John Calipari of Kentucky.