NCAA Tournament Predictions: Teams That Are Hard to Assess
by Trevor Whenham - 3/10/2011
There are some teams that are really easy to figure out heading into the NCAA Tournament -- they are either very strong teams that have the chance to go a long, long way, or they are badly outclassed teams that don’t need to book their hotel rooms for long. These five teams unfortunately fit into neither group. These are the ‘tweeners’ -- teams that have the potential to go really deep if everything goes their way, but which have enough questions surrounding them to make their success far from a certainty. In short, these five teams make my head hurt, and they are going to make my head hurt until the last possible second I have to fill out my bracket -- and perhaps long after that.
Villanova - What the heck is wrong with the Wildcats? Early in the season -- when they were opening up to a 16-1 record -- they looked as good as almost any team in the country. Then the bottom fell out of their game, and they fell deep into the tank.
They lost 10 of their last 15 games, including their last five. They capped that with a thoroughly humiliating loss to a terrible South Florida team at the Big East Tournament.
They did enough early on to make the tournament field, but with the lack of success -- including seven losses in eight games against ranked teams over that stretch – it’s incredibly hard to have any faith in this squad right now.
On one hand they are an obviously talented team, and they have coaching that knows how to perform very well in the tournament. They are clearly in a deep, deep funk, though, and it’s hard to believe that they can snap out of it in time.
The Villanova we saw for the first half of the season could go deep, but can that team be summoned again?
BYU - The problem here is obvious and well publicized -- Brandon Davies broke the school’s honor code and is no longer with the team. He was the third leading scorer and the top rebounder, so his inside presence will be missed by the team.
The immediate impact on the team was huge -- they lost badly at home to a New Mexico team they should have beaten with ease. They showed a bit more stability after that, though. That’s good news for them, but harder for us -- now we have to figure out what the loss of Davies means to this team physically and especially emotionally in the tournament.
If this team was at their best they could potentially win it all, so assessing the impact is no easy task.
Duke - Early in the season I was certain that Duke was the best team in the country, and that it wasn’t even close. Kyrie Irving was exceeding his massive expectations, and the team was cruising. But then the team lost Irving, and they started looking mortal.
A bad loss to Florida State was followed soon after by a destruction at the hands of St. John’s. In the end they managed to not even win the ACC -- the weakest major conference in the country this year. The team has the talent to repeat as champions, but those pieces haven’t been firing at full throttle.
Ca they get it together when the stakes are high? Your guess is as good as mine.
St. John’s - Steve Lavin’s squad gives me a headache. They have some huge wins against ranked teams, so they clearly can rise up and put together a huge game -- something that is very important in the tournament, obviously.
Unfortunately, they are also the team that found a way to lose to a really lousy Seton Hall team early in March. Lavin’s teams have always had struggles with focus, and this one is no exception. They could win it all, or they could go home after getting blown out in the first round. Or maybe they’ll do something in between. I just don’t know.
UCLA - Lavin’s old team s almost as bad as his new one. The Bruins have shown some real signs of life this year, and may be the best team in the Pac-10. They have been so incredibly bad since Kevin Love moved to the pros, though, that it is hard to know whether they can be trusted.
Ben Howland has gone from looking like a genius to looking like he can’t coach to maybe looking kind of genius-like again over the last few years. Howland can obviously get a team ready for March, but is this team a typical Howland squad or an illusion? And is the Pac-10 as bad as it seemed early in the year, or as good as it has looked recently?
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