As we near the end of the regular season in college basketball, these are interesting times. There are several really good teams, but none that have emerged as truly dominant - at least not against other elite teams. It's reasonably easy to make a case for any of the current Top 10 - or at least any but Baylor for me, because I just don't believe in them - to win it all. Every one has plenty of strengths and things going for them. They each also have weaknesses, though. The premise today is simple - we're going to look at the weakness that concerns me most about each of the top ten squads:
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1. Gonzaga: They just haven't been tested. They are winning impressively, and you certainly can't say that their record is just a result of a weak schedule. The schedule has been weak, though - when St. Mary's is your toughest opponent, you aren't tops in strength of schedule. So until we see them play against top-level teams we can't really know if they are up to it - and that won't happen until the second week of the NCAA Tournament at the soonest. It takes far more of a leap of faith to assess this team, then, than it has in recent years. That has always been the case with top mid-major teams coming out of conference play, but the difference is that at +500 BetOnline has Gonzaga as the favorite to cut down the sets this year.
2. Villanova: Wear and tear. This team proved they can win last year, but to ask them to do two straight deep runs - with largely the same core - is tough. They only have one guy on the roster likely to play in the NBA, so they work hard for their wins and don't just rely on a talent gap. They lost an ugly one to Butler last time out, and you could read a lot into that loss if you chose to.
3. Kansas: They are top heavy. Frank Mason III is exceptional and could be the Wooden winner this year. Josh Jackson is a freak who will be a terror in the NBA. And then it drops off from there. Those guys are asked to do a whole lot for this team, and they do it well. The deeper they get, though, and the more the pressure intensifies, the more vulnerable the team comes to a bad day, or especially an injury.
4. Arizona: Their pace. The Wildcats are the slowest team in the Pac-12 in terms of possessions by a fair margin and seventh slowest amongst all major conference teams. Once tournament time rolls around they are going to run into some teams that play faster and have the talent and the coaching to try and dictate the pace. I am not at all convinced that Arizona plays slow by choice - it's more because it's what they have to do it to win. If they are forced out of their box then it will be a big test for them.
5. UCLA: Age. This team will go as far as Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf take it, and they are both true freshmen. The team as a whole is very young. That's less of a concern than it used to be, and Bryce Alford is a senior who is a stabilizing factor, but we have seen wildly-talented young teams fall short in crunch time because they just hadn't seen what they were facing before.
6. Oregon: Travelling. This team has won 42 straight games at home - the longest streak in the country. Away from home, though, they are just 5-3 this year. Needless to say, you don't get to play home games in March very often, so this team needs to learn to be at their best when they aren't sleeping in their own beds or they'll be able to stay at home for a long while.
7. Louisville: Offense. This is a team that relies heavily on their defense - only Virginia is more efficient defensively in the nation. They are scoring better lately, but the issue has been for this team for much of the year that if the other team can score they struggle to win because they can't really keep up. There are plenty of teams that can score in the tournament, so the Cardinals need to keep this trend of recent offensive improvement going.
8. North Carolina: Their path. Their last two games have been against Virginia and Louisville, and they face a brutal closing stretch with Pitt, at Virginia and Duke. And then the ACC Tournament isn't going to be easy by any means. This is a team that likes to bang inside and gets more of their points in the paint than almost anyone. They have been in postseason mode for a while already and will need to be in it a lot longer. I worry about their ability to hold up - both physically and mentally.
9. Baylor: Stamina. This team has lost four of their last seven games, and two of the four haven't been pretty. Like Louisville, they are a squad that relies heavily on their defensive prowess because they aren't going to overwhelm anyone offensively. Defense is mentally and physically tough to play, and there are obvious signs that it could be getting to them lately. If they don't shake off this current funk then they could have serious issues.
10. Duke: Injuries. The Blue Devils are playing great right now and are a threat to be ranked lower than they should be in the tournament - a nightmare for teams in their bracket ranked above them. Earlier in the year, though, they weren't nearly as good, and a big reason for that was that they were really banged up. They have gotten past that mostly for now, but they have shown that they are a team that needs to be complete to be strong.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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