I started thinking of this last night while watching Syracuse melt down in what was one of the ugliest college basketball games I’ve ever seen. The problems that were obvious Syracuse had (terrible defensive rebounding and lack of a true point guard most notably) came back and bit them in the ass last night. On top of that Tyler Lydon doesn’t seem to know he’s good and/or refuses to take over games while the 2-3 zone is average at best. A ton of credit to UConn though. When the Huskies got down 11 in the second half it looked over. Hell, I wasn’t sure both teams would combine for 11 points the rest of the game at that point. Good Rodney Purvis showed up though and the Huskies won by taking advantage of that lack of defensive rebounding. Despite Syracuse fans telling me about how tall its frontcourt is as we headed into the season, they rank 297th in the country as a defensive rebounding team.
So with no real great games on the schedule (outside of Duke/Florida and Texas/Michigan) we’ll take a look at each top-25 team and what flaws they have. Now, this is not necessarily a call for alarm – hell in Villanova’s case, the flaws are pretty similar to last year and that turned out to be a decent season. Do you see a different flaw? Let me know @barstoolreags
For the sake of ranking, I’m using my top-25 I blogged yesterday.
– The biggest issue is frontcourt depth, more importantly the Omari Spelleman sized hole in the rotation. Last year one of the biggest advantages was the play of Daniel Ochefu, especially defensively and on the glass. This year it’s a little different. Villanova still isn’t a great offensive rebounding team and surprisingly don’t get to the line a ton, just as they did or rather didn’t do last year.
- Two absolutely glaring problems for Kansas. First, they are just about the worst free throw shooting team in the country at 59%. That’s unbelievably bad, especially when you consider they play Mason and Graham at the same time. That will absolutely bite them in the ass during the season. Second is they give up way too many open looks from three. After that it’s the play of Carlton Bragg, who was expected to break out this year. He’s now lost his starting spot and continues to look lost on the floor.
- The Bruins are excellent on the offensive side of the ball, except for getting to the free throw line. It’s a little surprising to see that when you see the likes of Welsh, Leaf and Anigbogu underneath, but they only get to the line on 30% of field goal attempts. Defensively? They are still a mess, especially Lonzo Ball. I love Ball as a player and think he’s a legit NPOY candidate. However, we saw against Kentucky he can’t stop other point guards. He was getting abused by De’Aaron Fox on screen and rolls or iso plays.
- This is expected to be the most complete team and in fact they already are according to the numbers. But, I want to see what happens when everyone is back healthy. People will lose minutes and there will be a couple games where they have to get used to playing together. That’s honestly the biggest flaw of this team right now is the lack of time on the court together.
– It’s somewhat repetitive when it comes to Kentucky, but outside shooting is its biggest flaw. Malik Monk can get hot and hit 7 3’s in a game, but he’s a streaky shooter. Derek Willis has been awful this year and he was expected to help stretch the floor. On top of that the halfcourt offense as a whole is pretty ugly. This team wants to run and looks like the best team in the country when they can do that, but this isn’t a typical Calipari-coached team. Bam isn’t completely polished in the post and there’s no real halfcourt offense, I expect that to change once we get in SEC play, but there will always be questions about this offense when it has to play in a slower tempo game.
- Probably the most impressive team so far this season, Baylor – like Duke – doesn’t show too many flaws. The biggest one is outside shooting. Outside of Manu Lecomte, they don’t have a guy who you trust to shoot from three. Only 25% of their points come from behind the line and the two guys who have taken the 3rd and 4th most 3’s on the season are shooting 29 and 28 percent respectively.
- This is quietly one of the most balanced and deep teams in the country. They have a chance to head into conference play with 7 top-100 KenPom wins, which is saying something. So what’s not to love about this team? Similar to Villanova, they don’t get to the free throw line. I want to see Nigel Williams-Goss start drawing more fouls as he’s only been to the line 25 times this season.
- The Tar Heels looked like a clear top-5 team just a week ago before Indiana about ran them out of the gym. They have plenty of strengths, including post play on the offensive side. But, defensively? There’s no rim protection. How do they compete against more athletic teams that they’ll see? Yes, overall this is a quality defense, but they don’t have that guy that they can count on to save them at the rim. This is what will likely hurt them against the Kentucky and Duke’s on the schedule.
– The problem with Creighton goes along with its strength. They want to run and play a fast game. The flaw? You’re not getting to the free throw line and you’re not getting offensive rebounds. They have a legit 7-footer in Justin Patton, who could own the offensive glass, but they play so fast it doesn’t give him a chance to get in position. Again, the strength of this team is scoring and that’s what happens when you have a backcourt of Mo Watson, Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas.
- St. Mary’s
- Usually you would say competition or a lack there of for a team like St. Mary’s but they’ve played three top-100 teams already. What I don’t like about St. Mary’s? The slow tempo. They are next to last in adjusted tempo and take about 20 seconds per possession. This was my same problem with Wisconsin teams before Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky got there. It allows weaker teams to hang around because a couple of missed shots and you’re only up 2-3 at half. While someone like Jon Rothstein tweeted out they are only giving up 60ppg, it’s a misleading number because of that tempo. Looking at just PPG is one of the dumbest things you can do. St. Mary’s is actually 61st in the country defensively and a large reason of that is they don’t force turnovers.
– Yes, Hoosier fans I know who you beat this year. I also know who you lost to and that’s because of two problems. The first is how easy you turn the ball over. With no real point guard (I’m sorry but Josh Newkirk was a backup at Pitt for a reason), Indiana is one of the most turnover prone teams in the country. Second is how much they rely on the three. Again, it’s a strength, but we saw against UNC when they almost blew the game because they were stagnant on offense and just chucked up some terrible shots. They will have games like Ft. Wayne where they are cold and look a mess, then they will have games like Kansas. Out of the top teams in the country they may have the lowest floor because of that. Also, you know Tom Crean will lose them one game this year because he’ll do something incredibly Tom Crean-like.
– It’s been an identity crisis for Wisconsin on the offensive side of the ball. They started the year trying to make Nigel Hayes as a No. 1 option. He’s not. So what do they do with the offense? Personally, I think they need to abandon the swing offense with this team and run either a hi-lo with Hayes up top and Happ low or high ball screens. They need to keep the ball in Koenig’s hands and work through Happ. Hayes needs to be a playmaker in the sense of making passes and hitting open shots.
- Consistency, consinstency and consistency, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Louisville has had a couple games in a row where it looks unbelievable for the first half. Then Rick Pitino decides to fart around in the lockerroom and the Cardinals blow 22-point leads in the second half. That’s because this team is terrible offensively. They still rely on turnovers to get points and when teams take care of the ball, they have no idea who to run the offense for. This is where Donovan Mitchell needs to make a jump.
- After struggling defensively early in the season it looks like Xavier finally figured its shit out there. The 1-3-1 zone they were successful with last year ended up being a disaster this year (though they still run it about 15% of the time). Offensively? They struggle shooting the ball. Blueitt, Macura and Sumner (the three best players) are combining to shoot 29% from three. Once Myles Davis comes back that number should improve, but teams are just sagging off Xavier daring them to shoot from the outside.
– The Gators have quietly put together a nice start to the season with the only loss being by 5 to Gonzaga on a neutral court. What they aren’t good at though is rebounding the basketball. This was pretty shocking to see when you look at a guy like John Egbunu, but Florida often rolls out a lineup with three guys under 6’7” and simply aren’t good rebounders.
- West Virginia
- Louisville meet West Virginia. West Virginia meet Louisville. Who on this team can go get a bucket when they need one? This offense is predicated on getting steals and converting fast break points. They are an awful shooting team, they are an awful free throw shooting team. Not to mention Daxter Miles is a loose cannon and will probably cost them a game by either running his mouth or picking up an awful intentional foul.
Surprisingly Butler is undefeated and that includes wins over Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Arizona and Utah, with only one of those games coming at home. So what does Butler struggle with? Fouling. The Bulldogs love to hack guys and find themselves in foul trouble. They give up free throws on nearly 40% of field goal attempts.
- South Carolina
- The flaw for South Carolina is a little different than most on here. It’s the fact they just booted their leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell. Thronwell was averaging about 18 a game and is a 6’5” senior that could shoot the ball. Well, he’s no longer there and this team will fall to PJ Dozier now.
– Similar to South Carolina the loss of a player is the biggest flaw for Virginia. When they had to kick Austin Nichols off the team after 11 minutes they lost an interior presence. Nichols was expected to be an All-American type player and now there’s simply no one to dominate the post. Jack Salt isn’t that type of player. Now they need London Perrantes to become Monte Morris-like in the sense that he needs to be a scorer too. That’s not his game. He’s much better suited to set up the offense and be the No. 2 or 3 option.
- Notre Dame
– This isn’t nearly as bad as the Notre Dame teams the last couple of years, but defense will still hurt them. They like to play a fast game, which means defensively they will get beat just to outscore an opponent. This team is also very undersized only one guy over 6’8” in the rotation. The back-to-back games of Villanova and Purdue will tell us more about this team.
- The play of Kyle Washington has been unbelievable for the Bearcats as they don’t struggle as much on the offensive side of the ball as usual. But, where’s Troy Caupain? He should be the star of this team as he’s had the hype the last couple of years. He’s currently shooting 21% from three and turning it over on 16% of possessions. Cincinnati can’t win as the season goes on unless Caupain starts to play like the AAC POY he was expected to be.
- Iowa State
- Shockingly Iowa State isn’t a bad defensive team. That was always the knock against them the last couple of years. But they are defending the hell out of the ball this year. So, what’s the problem then? The Cyclones aren’t getting to the free throw line and when they do they aren’t making shots. For the season they get to the line on less than 25% of field goal attempts and only make 63% as a team. They shot a combined 18 free throws in their two losses to Gonzaga and Cincinnati.
- Ah, the Boilermakers – a surprisingly loud fanbase who is always upset I have them ranked so low. So why don’t I like your squad? First off they turn the ball over at a ridiculous rate. For a team that typically struggles on the offensive side of the ball, limiting the amount of possessions doesn’t help. Second, if Caleb Swanigan is having an off day who can bail them out? They don’t have a guard that can take over a game. Lastly is surprisingly on the defensive side of the ball where they are one of the worst shotblocking teams in the country despite starting a guy who is 7’2” next to Swanigan.
- The Trojans are currently undefeated and do have some nice wins but the biggest flaw is we’re not sure just how good these guys are. They haven’t played anyone ranked higher than No. 31 in KenPom and two of the top-100 games were at home. They don’t play another top-100 team until Oregon on December 30.
- They finally are healthy, which was something hindering them early in the season. Now that Dillon Brooks is back the offense should look smoother. When he was still injured the Ducks stood around too much on offense – especially against a zone – instead of attacking. Now that Brooks is there, the offense is more fluid and you see Dorsey getting into the lane.