As another season of college basketball rapidly approaches its end, the race for the national title is wide open. The 2018-19 season has been an exciting one full of buzzer beaters, rim rocking dunks, and stout defenses. While every team is capable of winning the Big Dance no team is perfect. Below I will highlight one major flaw for each contender.
Duke Blue Devils: Three Point Shooting
On paper the Blue Devils are favorites to win it all this year. With the sensational freshmen team of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones it is hard to find something this squad does not do very well. However despite all this talent Duke is downright abysmal from behind the arc. The Blue Devils are hitting the long ball at just hair under 31% which is tied for 315th among the worst in the nation. If Mike Krzyzewski wants to capture his first title since 2015 his young leaders will have to shoot much better from three down the stretch.
Tennessee Volunteers: Depth
The number one ranked Volunteers have looked every bit the part of a national title team. With veteran leadership and a brand of hard nosed basketball Tennessee will be a tough matchup in the Tournament. The biggest issue for the Volunteers is without a doubt depth. Tennessee has a very short bench as just six players see more than twenty minutes per game. When conference tournaments and The Big Dance roll around teams will need to be able to go eight and nine deep into their bench due to multiple games over a short span of days. If the Volunteers want to cut down the nets in Minneapolis the spring, bench players will need to start getting more minutes in Rocky Top.
Michigan Wolverines: Offensive Woes
It’s no secret that over the last two seasons John Beilein has shifted his teams philosophy from lethal three point shooting to a suffocating defense. Throughout the course of the season the Wolverines have failed to reach 70 points on ten separate occasion. This stat is beyond startling given that in the tournament there are very few poor offenses and the teams only get better the deeper you advance. In order to avoid an early exit in what is quickly looking like one of the best seasons in program history, Michigan must find a way to score at a much higher clip.
Gonzaga Bulldogs: Weak Conference Schedule
Although it is no fault of their own, playing in the WCC may come back to haunt the Zags. Early in the season Gonzaga made a statement by knocking off then number one Duke. While this was impressive in its own right Gonzaga won’t be seeing a proper challenge until the Tournament. Due to the fact they can cost their way through conference play Mark Few’s squad may find themselves getting complacent which could result in being upended early in the tournament by a much stronger team than a typical WCC foe.
Virginia Cavaliers: Tempo
Virginia is the second slowest team in the nation, trailed only by Siena, averaging a mere 63.3 possessions per game. While this can often times work due to their stingy defense if forced into a track meet Virginia is very susceptible to defeat. This is the exact blueprint UMBC used in last years stunning upset of Virginia. If Virginia wants to avoid the same fate that befell them last year they will need to dig deep and figure out how to pick up the pace of play.