The Jayhawks need consistent play from Tyshawn Taylor if they want to advance in March
The beauty of March Madness is that every season, there are upsets. Sometimes, these upsets come from teams that have flown under the radar for the entire college basketball season. Other times, these upsets come at the mercy of highly ranked teams who have disguised themselves as being more talented than they really are.
This season, there are plenty of Top 25 teams who are putting on their best costumes to help disguise the flaws they have. For the casual fan, there are a few easy ways to differentiate a pretender from a contender. Strong guard play, superb shooting, and a very efficient, consistent big man are all traits of teams who tend to travel smoothly through "Bracketville".
As it stands of this week, here are 10 Top 25 teams who look like they are ready to crumble in NCAA Tournament play.
In the Badgers five losses this season, there have been a few consistent themes. Star guard Jordan Taylor has been plagued by turnover problems. In a few of those games, he had his share of offensive highlights, but high turnovers have helped doom Wisconsin.
A lack of a consistent post player is another problem for this team. In their losses, they have been dominated by bigger, more talented post players. Against North Carolina, John Henson grabbed 17 rebounds. In their 63-60 overtime loss to Michigan State, Spartan star Draymond Green powered his way to 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Also, keep close attention to their guards being outplayed and out-rebounded. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 17 points and grabbed 10 boards in Michigan's victory, and in their surprising 72-65 loss to Iowa, 6'5" shooting guard Matt Gatens scored only six points but grabbed an impressive 12 rebounds.
Coming into the 2011-2012 season, Louisville star Peyton Siva was being touted as a preseason first-team All-Big East selection, as well as receiving some preseason All-American votes. However, his play has been rather disappointing this season.
He is playing like an average Big East player this year, averaging 7.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. If they want to advance in March, they need the 6'0" Seattle native to step his game up in a big way.
The loss of 6'7" junior Rakeem Buckles to a torn ACL two weeks ago is a crushing blow to a team who needs rebounding help in a big way. The fact that their main post options are a sophomore and a freshman have me weary of this Cardinal team.
Although three of the Michigan's five losses this season have come at the hands of ranked opponents, their are underlying issues that should have Wolverines fans worried.
Through these losses, one thing is clear. This team is going to live and die by the play of Tim Hardaway Jr. In three of the five losses, he failed to score in double figures. Against Duke and Virginia, he was able to score 19 points in each contest, but shot a combined 13-33 from the field.
John Beilein's teams are always a gutsy team to pick in March, specifically because their style of play shy's away from using traditional powerful post players. That could spell doom for Michigan.
Simply put, I don't think that the Cavaliers are contenders. Their resume to this point isn't showing me any reason to believe they have any March magic up their sleeves.
Two of their three losses have been to underwhelming opponents in TCU and Virginia Tech. They have started the Atlantic Coast Conference season 2-2, and they will be lucky to end the conference season with less than six losses.
As soon as teams begin to take the Cavaliers as a threat and no longer let them sneak up on opponents, they will be exploited for what they really are. A marginal team that will struggle to make it through the ACC.
Head coach Tony Bennett deserves a ton of praise for turning this Virginia program around, but a lack of a true star will hold this squad back.
Guard play is what will hold back the Kansas State Wildcats this season. In past seasons, Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen started the K-State renaissance by carrying their respective teams to March success.
This season, they don't have a star equipped to handle such a task. Their star, 6'5" shooting guard/small forward Rodney McGruder, has struggled to play consistently. Though he has been playing much better as the season has gone on, the same can't be said for 6'3" sophomore Will Spradling.
He, along with the other Wildcat guards aren't playing at a quality level. Though this team is very good on the interior, rebounding at a high rate, guard play is going to keep this team from being a real threat in the NCAA tournament.
The Creighton Bluejays are having a banner season in 2011-2012. Their 18-2 record (8-1 in conference play) is a great way to start gaining steam on a national level, which they have. However, they need to prove that they are more than a "one trick pony", which is Doug McDermott.
The 6'8" sophomore is dominating for Creighton, averaging 23.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game contest. However, what is more scary is that he still displayed big numbers in their two losses to Missouri State and St. Joseph's. That shows just how one-dimensional of a team they are.
Also, their most impressive win to date is an 85-83 victory over San Diego State. In the NCAA tournament, they are going to run into game plans keyed on specifically stopping their star player, and opposing teams will be littered with equally impressive bigs.
The Connecticut Huskies look like a classic case of a basketball team with too much talent on their hands. Post play is what has them sputtering at this point in the season. Superstar freshman Andre Drummond isn't dominating like he was supposed to, averaging a pedestrian 9.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
Alex Oriakhi, their workhorse center from last year's championship team, is getting fewer minutes this season in order to make room for Drummond and isn't happy about it.
The problems are continuing to mount for the Huskies. Roscoe Smith and DeAndre Daniels aren't living up to expectations, and freshman guard Ryan Boatright is sitting out with eligibility questions stemming from high school.
This team looks destined to fall apart by season's end.
The Georgetown Hoyas pass the eye test at this point in the season. Their only losses came to formidable opponents in Kansas, West Virginia and Cincinnati. What scares me about this team, however, is the play of their front line.
Their center, Henry Sims, has had below average rebounding numbers in all three of their losses. While Hollis Thompson and Otto Porter are having decent seasons on the rebounding end, their post play by committee strategy isn't going to get them far in the tournament.
Also, 6'2" senior Jason Clark will need to be an absolute star in order to carry Georgetown's marginal guard play.
There is no denying that Kansas is exceeding expectations so far this season. Once again, they are the kings of the Big 12 Conference. Thomas Robinson is looking like the 2012 National Player of the Year, averaging 17.8 points and 12.0 rebounds per game.
Guard play is the only thing holding this team from making a surge in March. As of late, Tyshawn Taylor is playing extremely well, and it's no coincidence that the Jayhawks have won their last 10 games. However, he has been so wildly inconsistent in his career, it's hard to believe that he won't falter when the games matter most.
The key to this team making significant strides in the tournament rests upon the shoulders of guards Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson, as well as Taylor. Two of these three haven't done much until this season. That might not bode well for them in tournament play.
The North Carolina Tar Heels are feeling the pressure of becoming another absolutely loaded Chapel Hill team who couldn't get it done in March.
The loss of starting shooting guard Dexter Strickland to an ACL injury is a huge blow to the preseason No. 1 team in America. Their 90-57 blowout loss to Florida State before that injury even occurred gives fans an even more uneasy feeling about Carolina's tournament hopes.
Now, the pressure rests on the shoulders of Reggie Bullock and Stilman White. The 6'7" sophomore is capable of softening the blow for UNC, but it has yet to be seen how well he will fit into the starting lineup. The fact that 6'0" sophomore Stilman White is the only other option at point guard after Kendall Marshall has to have Tar Heel faithful sweating the rest of the season out.