There are many factors that play into a team making a run to a national championship.
While execution on the court is critical, chemistry is a major component to any team’s success. Because of many roster changes and some off-court issues, there are a few contenders who could face potential challenges in regard to chemistry.
It will take leadership in the locker room and hard work by the coaching staff of each of these teams to avoid potential pitfalls that could derail any hopes for a championship.
Here are the five contenders with the biggest potential for chemistry problems.
Kansas has one of the most talented teams, and possibly the best player in the country, but the Jayhawks still have to replace all five starters from last season’s squad.
It’s a unique dynamic for Bill Self, and his team could experience some growing pains through a very difficult nonconference schedule. Kansas will need to use these big games as opportunities to mature and gain valuable experience for postseason play, even though it might result in a few tough losses along the way.
The young Jayhawks will also have to face the media circus and hype that will surround Andrew Wiggins all season. By all accounts, Wiggins is a humble superstar who stays away from the spotlight, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be a spotlight on him and the rest of the Kansas team all season.
However, if Bill Self can keep his team focused through all the distractions, the players have plenty of talent to bring another national championship back to Lawrence.
It’s never easy for a team to repeat as a national champion, but Louisville has a team capable of pulling it off this season.
The Cardinals have experience and depth, and Rick Pitino may be the best coach in college basketball at getting the most out of his teams.
However, Louisville must replace senior leader Peyton Siva from last season’s squad and handle the bull's-eye that comes with being the defending champion. Along with those challenges, the Cardinals will be without forward Chane Behanan for a portion of the year, as he was suspended indefinitely by Pitino in the offseason.
Behanan will be a crucial player this season, and Louisville can’t afford for him to have off-court issues.
It’s usually not a good sign when a coach suspends three players prior to the first game of the season, and that’s exactly what Billy Donovan did last week when he suspended Scottie Wilbekin, Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith.
It’s common to see guys suspended because of bizarre NCAA rules about playing in offseason exhibition games, but Florida’s three players were suspended due to violations of team rules, which is a bigger cause for concern.
If the Gators want to compete for an SEC championship and emerge as a potential Final Four team, they need these impact players to make better decisions, particularly Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin has been suspended multiple times during his career, and the team sorely misses him when he’s not on the court.
Until Florida can get a consistent lineup on the floor, the Gators will have a tough time creating good chemistry.
When a team’s best player has a likely suspension looming over him, it creates a problem for developing continuity with your lineup.
P.J. Hairston hasn’t been officially suspended for his legal problems from the offseason, but he sat out North Carolina’s first official game because of concerns over his eligibility.
With Hairston on the floor and integrated into the rotation, the Tar Heels can compete for an ACC championship. If he’s forced to miss a significant amount of time, it will force Roy Williams to use other options and play guys out of position, which could be trouble considering North Carolina’s challenging schedule.
For a team that underachieved last season, chemistry and communication will be huge factors for the Heels getting things turned around this year.
Part of the risk in John Calipari’s approach of using so many young players every year is the fact that they might not blend together well as a unit.
There’s also the challenge of not having as much veteran leadership that can step up and lead the young freshmen through their transition period. It was one of the reasons Kentucky struggled mightily last season.
The Wildcats may have the greatest recruiting class of all time, but these young stars will have to adapt to new roles and adjust to no longer being the primary scoring option for the team.
In addition to getting them to accept roles, Calipari must also make sure his players stay focused on winning as a team and not get caught up in their draft status.
Kentucky has an unbelievable amount of talent. The key for the Cats will be whether or not all those talented players can learn to work together.