NCAA Basketball (2015-16)

March Madness is almost here!  We're spotlighting some of the best teams in our newsletter so that you know what to watch out for during the Big Dance!  We'll copy them over to this database so you have a easy way of finding each of the teams we've written about so far. 

Happy reading! 

 

Arizona

What are their strengths?  The team’s rotation includes 5 juniors or seniors and experience has been shown to pay off in the tournament.

What are their weaknesses?  They don’t do well in close end of game situations, and unfortunately they happen a lot.  Arizona's 7 losses this season have been by a combined 27 points.  Those games came down to either poor defense or missed shots by guard Gabe York who has gotten a lot of the flack.

Who should I watch out for?  Ryan Anderson is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, but he’s not the best at defense or blocking shots despite his height.  Also keep an eye out for Allonzo Trier and Gabe York who are the team’s other top scorers.

Baylor

What are their strengths?  Baylor has one of the top 10 offenses in the country.

What are their weaknesses?  They run zone defense, but it allows their opponents to shoot 37% from 3-point range, which is some of the highest allowed in the country.

Who should I watch out for?  Senior Taureen Prince is team’s leading scorer.  Lester Medford leads the Big 12 in steals and assists percentages.  Also, keep an eye out for Rico Gathers, who leads the conference in total rebounding percentage.  This may be the last time you see him on the basketball court, because he’s headed to Baylor’s football team next season and then he’ll be trying his hand at the NFL.

 

Duke

Why Duke?  You know Duke as the college basketball behemoth that everyone loves to hate.  They won the tournament last year and they have won 5 college Championships since 1991.  They also have famed Coach K, who is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history.

Or maybe not…  Duke is in a bit of trouble this season.  This is the first time in 8 years that they have been ranked outside the Top 25.  

What’s up with all this losing?  Center Amile Jefferson has been out since January with a broken foot. They really need him back to help with their defense (ranked all the way down to 149th in the nation) and for his leadership abilities as one of the few seniors on the team.  Unfortunately, it looks like he is not expected to return this season, so the Duke team is short-handed and they could get really worn down and tired through the tournament.

So what should I watch out for?  Check out star small forward Brandon Ingram, who is a serious scoring threat.  He’s only a freshman and he’s expected to be a top 3 NBA draft prospect.  If you’re a Duke hater, lookout for Grayson Allen who is the next big Duke villain.  What makes him so hate-able?  He's been seen tripping two players on the court.

 

Indiana

What are their strengths?  The Hoosiers are hitting their stride in time for March Madness.  The Hoosiers have one of the top 10 offenses in the country, scoring nearly 83 points per game.  That’s thanks to their hyper accuracy; they shoot 50% on field goals (3rd highest in the country) and nearly 42% from 3-point range (5th highest). 

What are their weaknesses?  They had a rough start to the season, including a 20-point loss to Duke in December and losing one of their top scorers (James Blackmon Jr.) to a season-ending knee injury.  Recently they’ve turned things around by getting additional role players into the game and stepping up their defense.  

Who should I watch out for?  The team’s leading scorer is senior Yogi Ferrell, who recently won Big 10 player of the week. Teammates Troy Williams and Thomas Bryant also help scoring and rebounding.

 

Iowa

What are their strengths?   The Hawkeyes are great at defending their opponents without getting themselves into foul trouble.  The team also has 4 starters who are seniors, which means they’ll have a lot of experience out on the court and that tends to help in the big stage of the tournament.

What are their weaknesses?  They’re going into the tournament in a bit of a slump.  They have lost 5 of their past 7 in really close games.  What’s going wrong?  They have been getting a bit sloppy, turning the ball over, not executing, and not getting loose balls.  And while the team has great starters, they don't really have many players that can contribute on the bench.

Who should I watch out for? Jarrod Uthoff is their star player, leading the team in points and blocks, and completing the package with great rebounding. Peter Jok is the next best scorer, but he’s been slipping recently in efficiency.  Also watch out for Adam Woodbury who is the key to the team’s rebounding.

 

Iowa State

What are their strengths?   The Cyclones are the 2nd best team offensively in the nation.  They are terrific shooters, making over 50% of their field goals.  On top of that they also boast a lot of experience, which should help them out in the tournament.  Their three top players are seniors: Georges Niang, Abdel Nader, and Jameel McKay (the team’s top rebounder).

What are their weaknesses?  They are weak on defense, allowing their opponents to rack up some of the most points in the conference.  In particular, they have difficulty defending against the 3-point shooting teams.

 

Kansas

Why Kansas?  Kansas has one of the oldest and winningest basketball programs in the country.  They have a long illustrious basketball history, including the fact that James Naismith (the inventor of basketball) was the school’s very first basketball coach.

What are their strengths?  Consistency, consistency, consistency.  They have won or shared the Big 12 title the past 12 straight seasons and played in March Madness for 26 straight seasons, the longest live streak.  Even though there have been upsets galore this season, Kansas has shown that they are the real deal by being the only team to maintain a top-7 ranking in both the AP and Coaches’ Polls for the past 16 weeks.  Not only that, but they are heating up, winning their last 11 regular season games going into the tournament.  How do they do it?  They win big, averaging a 14.1-point scoring margin.

Who should I watch out for?  The Jayhawks leading scorer and rebounder is senior and mainstay Perry Ellis (yep, like the moderately priced men’s clothing brand). Starters Wayne Selden, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham are also great scorers and they have backup from Kansas’s really deep bench. 

 

Kentucky

What are their strengths?  Kentucky is one of those dominant and illustrative basketball schools.  They lead all schools in total NCAA tournament appearances (54) and wins (120).  While they aren’t having the 40-0 record-setting season that they had last year, Kentucky still has one of the top 10 offenses in the country and they went undefeated at home for the 5th time under famed coach John Calipari.  The Wildcats are taking home a share of their 47th SEC regular season title. 

What are their weaknesses?  Kentucky is not great on the defensive boards.  Their opponents are able to get some of the most second chance points in the country.

Who should I watch out for?  The team’s 2 leading scorers are Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis, who is in the conversation for national player of the year and is close to breaking Kentucky’s assist record set by alum John Wall (now on the Washington Wizards).  While the team has a couple of other role players, including senior Alex Poythress, some think that Kentucky is too reliant on Murray and Ulis for scoring.

 

Louisiana State University (LSU)

LSU is not known for basketball.  But this year was supposed to be different because they recruited once in a decade player Ben Simmons.  People are left speculating why LSU is still so underwhelming with this future #1 NBA draft pick.  They point to a whole host of reasons, including poor coaching, lack of discipline on defense, and Simmons trying too hard to get other players in the game.  

Can you tell me a little more about this basketball phenom Ben Simmons?  Certainly! Simmons is an Australian native, who was the son of an Australian former professional basketball player Dave Simmons.  He was first noticed by American scouts when he came over to a California basketball camp in 2012.  Despite getting interest from all the top basketball programs (including Kentucky), Simmons committed to the Tigers early in his junior year of high school.  Why did he commit to a team that is really just OK at basketball?  Simmons’s godfather David Patrick is an assistant coach.  Simmons is most often compared to LeBron James for his size (Simmons is 6'10") and his all around ability.

 

Maryland

What’s up with Maryland?  Maryland is in a bit of a slump and it’s not great timing with March Madness less than 2 weeks away.  They lost 3 of their past 4 games and fell out of the top 10 rankings for the first time this season.  What’s the problem?  They are getting out rebounded by their opponents and are having trouble on defense. 

What’s the good news?  Maryland has impressive and accurate shooters that hit 56.6% from 2-point range (7th highest in the country).

Who should I watch out for? Sophomore Melo Trimble is the team’s leading scorer, but recently he’s been in a slump after returning from a hamstring injury.  He really needs to get his groove back because the rest of the team is counting on him.  He is the team’s major playmaker, dishing out the ball to teammates Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, and senior Rasheed Sulaimon (who transferred to Maryland after being dismissed by Duke).

 

Miami

What are their strengths?  Miami does not shy away from big moments.  They have a bunch of quality wins against ranked opponents, including against Virginia, Duke, and Louisville.

What are their weaknesses?  Inconsistency.  Miami also has a few embarrassing losses to unranked teams, including to Northeastern at home and to Clemson and North Carolina State on the road.  Some think that the problem is a lack of team chemistry, because 4 of their players are transfers from other schools, including leading scorers Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez.

Who should I watch out for?  The aforementioned senior Sheldon McClellan, who is one of the mostefficient scorers in the country.  He gets support from the team’s other leading scorers Angel Rodriguez and Davon Reed. Also, look out for the Hurricanes’ best defensive player Tonye Jekiri.

 

Michigan State

What are their strengths?  The Spartans started off the season with a 13-0 start and were ranked #1 in the nation for 4-straight weeks (the longest of any team this year).  They looked a little iffy when their best player Denzel Valentine was injured, but they’ve made that a distant memory by winning 10 of their last 11 regular season games. And boy do they look good.  They have a great offense and a bunch of quality wins, beating Kansas, Maryland, Louisville, Indiana, Wisconsin, Providence, and Florida.  It's not surprising, considering Tom Izzo one of the best tournament coaches in recent history.

What are their weaknesses?  Their second leading scorer Bryn Forbes can be really hot or really cold.  From 3-point range he hits 16% in Michigan State losses and 54.9% in wins.

Who should I watch out for?  Denzel Valentine, who is in the conversation for National Player of the Year.  He leads the team in scoring (19.6 pts/game), assists (7.2), and rebounding (7.6). Also, keep an eye out for Matt Costello who is impressive on the boards. 

 

University of North Carolina (UNC)

What are their strengths?  UNC has the most points per game in the ACC, thanks to leading scorers Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige.   Both are seniors so you can bet that they will be playing their hearts out all tournament long.  UNC also has a bunch of crazy tall players with Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks all in the 6’9” range.  All this height makes them incredible at rebounding and driving to the basket.

What are their weaknesses?  Unlike the general trend in basketball towards shooting 3-pointers, UNC has attempted some of the fewest 3-point shots in the ACC.  That’s probably a good thing, because UNC has the lowest 3-point percentage in the conference.  But didn’t you say they score the most points per game in the ACC?  Yes!  They score most of their points in the paint, taking advantage of all those tall ballers.

 

Oklahoma

What are their strengths?  The Sooners are known for their incredibly accurate shooting and ball movement.  They have the best 3-point percentage in the country at 44%.  This is thanks to their star senior Buddy Hield, who is expected to be the national player of the year.  Tell me more about Buddy.  He averages over 25 points a game and he is 48.8% from the 3-pt line.  For some perspective, NBA shooting phenom Steph Curry is currently averaging 45.4% from behind the arc.  Yeah, it’s nuts.

What are their weaknesses?  They just lost 3 straight games including 1 most recently to unranked Texas Tech.  Some people are wondering if the Sooners peaked too soon or if other teams are learning how to shut Buddy down. 

Who else should I keep an eye out for?  Look out for their other leading scorers Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard, as well as Ryan Spangler who is key to the team’s rebounding. 

 

Oregon

What are their strengths?  Oregon is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.  They are dominant at scoring in the paint and are great ball-handlers with some of the fewest turnovers in the Pac-12.  They also have the most steals and blocks in their conference.  More good news?  Oregon won all of its home games this season (18-0) and they had the nation’s 3rd hardest strength of schedule.

What are their weaknesses?  Hey are not great at defensive rebounding, so their opponents get a lot of second chance points.

Who should I watch out for? The team’s leading scorers are Dillon Brooks, Elgin Cook, and Tyler Dorsey. Also watch out for Chris Boucher, who is the team’s big man.  He leads the team in rebounding and has blocked the most shots in the Pac-12.

 

Purdue

What are their strengths?  Purdue’s bread and butter is getting the ball inside to their big man and leading scorer AJ Hammons.  He’s 7 ft tall and known for being dominant in the paint, dunking over his opponents and outrebounding his opponents.

What are their weaknesses?  The Boilermakers don’t really have any perimeter shooters, but they’re OK with that, focusing mostly on feeding the ball inside to Hammons.

Who should I watch out for?  On top of AJ Hammons, look out for Vince Edwards the team’s other leading scorer, Caleb Swanigan the team’s best rebounder, and Rapheal Davis the team’s best defensive player, winning Big 10 Defensive Player last year.

 

Syracuse

Who invited them to dance?  Syracuse had a middling 19-13 record for the regular season, so everyone was surprised when they were announced as a #10-seed in the tournament last week.  No one was happier than coach Jim Boeheim, who has been through a lot the past couple of years. 

What do you mean?  Syracuse was busted for a decade of rules violations, including impermissible benefits for athletes, academic misconduct, and drug policy missteps.  Syracuse paid the price by taking themselves out of the tournament last year and Coach Boeheim was sentenced to a 9-game suspension at the beginning of this year.

16’s never been sweeter.  This tournament run marks Coach Boeheim’s 16th time making it to the Sweet 16!  So far, the Orange’s overpowering 2-3 zone defense has already taken down #15 Middle Tennessee and #7 Dayton.  On Friday, watch out for the team’s seniors and leading scorers Michael Gbinije and Trever Cooney, as they take on #11 Gonzaga!

 

Texas

What are their strengths?  They take care of the ball, averaging the fewest turnovers per game in the Big 12. 

Who should I watch out for?  Star point guard Isaiah Thomas is the team’s leading scorer.  He has a talent for getting inside and drawing the foul, taking the most free throws in the Big 12.  Also, watch out for the team’s other top scorer and rebounder Cameron Ridley.

What are their weaknesses?  Unfortunately, star Isaiah Thomas is also the team’s biggest question mark, because earlier this month he revealed that he has plantar fasciitis (i.e., he’s in a lot of heel pain).  Just last week, he was even spotted in a walking boot. This could be the second big injury problem for the team, since senior big man Cameron Ridley broke his foot in December.  Hopefully he heals in time for the tournament! 

 

Texas A&M

What are their strengths?  The Aggies are heating up just in time for the tournament and they will take home a share of the SEC regular season title for the first time in 30 years.

What are their weaknesses?  The team is not good from the foul line, averaging just 66.2%, which places them as some of the worst free throwers in the country.  And it’s made a big difference because many of their games have been decided by 3 points or less.

Who should I watch out for?  The team is full of role players:  Jalen Jones and Danuel House are the team’s leading scorers. The team’s big man Tyler Davis is dominant in the paint and leads the SEC in offensive rebounding percentage. Alex Caruso averages over 2 steals/game, leading the conference. 


Utah

What are their strengths?  Sophomore big man Jakob Poeltl is the team’s star.  The 7’0” Austrian is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder.  He also boasts the highest field goal percentage (66%) in the Pac-12.  Other reasons to like Poeltl?   He’s been working on his game.  Last year he was only shooting 44% from the free throw line, but this year he’s averaging 67.8%, which has really helped to make their team a contender this season.

What are their weaknesses?  Unfortunately, Poeltl’s kind of all they have.  The team’s built around him, and they need more players to step up.  One teammate that has been helping out is Jordan Loveridge who is one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference.

 

Villanova

What are their strengths?  They are super-well coached by smart-dressing Jay Wright, who has been with ‘Nova for 15 years. He focuses on getting guys open through consistent ball movement and pick-and-rollsIt pays off!  This year’s team is well rounded, shooting 57% from 2-point range (ranking 4th in the country) and sporting a top-5 defense.

What are their weaknesses?  They are weak from 3-pt range.  Their 3-pt percentage is only 32.6% (ranked 263rd nationally), but they attempt the most 3-point shots in the Big East.  Probably not the best idea.  On top of that, Villanova is known for letting its fans down in the tournament.  The past 2 years they didn’t even make it to the Sweet Sixteen, even though they were ranked as #2 and #1 seeds.  And they haven't made it to the second weekend of the tournament in 7 years.

Who should I watch out for?  Literally everyone on the floor.  Villanova has a really deep bench and the players all work to get each other involved.  If you must ask… Their best shooter is Josh Hart, but also be on the look out for veteran seniors Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono.

 

Virginia

What are their strengths?  UVA is known for having one of the best defenses in the country year after year.  At the beginning of this season, fans were a little worried because the team wasn’t quite living up to the hype.  But now it looks like they’ve righted the ship because the defense is back up to #9 in the country.

What are their weaknesses?  UVA truly believes that there is no place like home.  So far they have won 100% of their home games, but only 45.5% on the road.  That does not bode well for March Madness.

Who should I watch out for?  The team’s leading scorer and best defensive rebounder is Malcolm Brogdon. He gets backup from London Perrantes, who has been hitting 52.5% from 3-pt range.  Also watch out for their fearless leader coach Tony Bennett (yep that’s his real name), who comes from a successful coaching family.

 

West Virginia University (WVU)

What are their strengths?  WVU is known for their full court press defense (psst—that means WVU aggressively guards the opposing team even when they are inbounding the ball, rather than allowing them to come up half the court.  Check out an example here).  All the effort really pays off because they have the most steals per game (10.4) in the country.  WVU also has the highest offensive rebounding percentage (41.5%), thanks to forward Devin Williams who has 12 double-doubles this season (that doesn’t mean Williams has been stuffing his face at McDonald’s.  It means he’s hit double digits in 2 of the key basketball stats, in this case, >10 points and >10 rebounds).

What are their weaknesses?  They really struggle making free throws, averaging only 66% from the foul line.

Who should I keep an eye out for?  On top of Devin Williams, check out the other star rebounder Jonathan Holton who was reinstated after a 4-game suspension. Esa Williams is one of the team’s top scorers, along with Jaysean Paige and Daxter Miles, who are now both recovering from injuries.

 

Xavier

What are their strengths?  Great-coaching has served the Musketeers well in the Tournament year after year.  They have made it to the Sweet Sixteen, 3 of the past 6 years with Coach Chris Mack at the helm.What else are they good at?  They dominate the boards, out-rebounding their opponents.

What are their weaknesses? They have been running a 1-3-1 zone defense since last year.  It’s usually pretty effective but has had moments of inconsistency, so the Musketeers have been trying out more man-to-man defense throughout the season.

Who should I watch out for?  Trevon Bluiett is the team’s leading scorer, supported by Myles Davis and 5x Big East freshman of the week Edmond Sumner.  Jalen Reynolds and James Farr lead the team in rebounding.