One-Dimensional College Basketball Teams That Will Struggle in March
Things tend to tighten up in March.
Every possession counts. Teams know opponents' tendencies and pull out all the stops they can to stop them. So it's good to have options.
If a team doesn't have options, well, it can still win. But it's a heck of a lot harder.
This is a list of one-dimensional teams that are on course for postseason play—in some cases, deep postseason play—but whose one-dimensional natures may pose problems.
Am I saying they're bad teams? No. Given these are teams destined for the postseason, that wouldn't make sense. They're merely one-dimensional, to their potential detriment.
Got it? Great. Let's get it on.
All statistics are accurate as of February 5 and courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.
North Florida Ospreys
Live by the sword, die by the sword.
It's what one-dimensional teams do. No other tournament-level team this season embodies that like North Florida.
If the Ospreys take care of business down the stretch and win the Atlantic Sun Conference, they could be this year's Eastern Washington: a sexy pick for a big early upset.
Because when they get hot, it's hard to stop them. But for as hard as it is to stop, it's just as easy to predict. They shoot threes. A lot of freaking threes.
According to NCAA data, they lead the nation in three-pointers made both in total and per game, are second in three-point attempts and sixth in three-point shooting percentage. They are jacking, and then they are jacking some more.
It's a winning strategy, and behind guards Dallas Moore and Beau Beech (16 combined three-point attempts per game), it's working. Will it work against national powers? Put it this way: The national powers will see it coming.
Duke Blue Devils
Thanks to Amile Jefferson's injury-related subtraction from an already thin front court, this season's Blue Devils are one-dimensional.
That one dimension? Grayson Allen.
Sure, other players contribute too, most notably the superfrosh Brandon Ingram. But the scoring load is largely on the 6'5" sophomore. He leads Duke with 20.6 points per game—more than three points per game more than Ingram and eight points per game more than the third-leading scorer.
No other player is taking more than 12 shots per game. He leads the team in assists. His 42 percent three-point percentage is half a point higher than second place. Only Ingram and Marshall Plumlee have more rebounds.
As Allen goes, so go the Devils. Given their 16-6 record, it's not going so well, and it may get worse when the calendar flips.
West Virginia Mountaineers
The West Virginia Mountaineers are making huge waves with their press defense. They currently sit first in the nation with a mind-bending 10.6 steals and 19.4 forced turnovers per game (according to NCAA stats) and sixth in KenPom's adjusted defense efficiency ratings.
It's a great approach for coach Bob Huggins, who saw an athletic but weak-shooting team and played the best hand he had. The 18-4, Big 12-lead-sharing Mounties may have him in the running for coach of the year.
As they say, though, pressing teams don't like to be pressed. And WVU uses its defense to generate a ton of easy offense. What happens when an opponent breaks their pressure and forces them to hit jump shots? It could be ugly, in the bad sense, for the Mountaineers.
Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer are good. Very good.
After them, there's a drop-off.
Wiltjer and Sabonis are one-two in scoring for Gonzaga, pouring in 39 points—that's nearly 50 percent—of the team's scoring in an average game. What's more, they're combining to take 44 percent of the team's shots and grab 43 percent of the team's rebounds. Only one other player (Eric McClellan) hits the 10-point mark in scoring average.
Gonzaga is a good team. Yes, the Bulldogs have five losses, but each was very close. With apologies to Saint Mary's, they're still probably most peoples' favorites to take another West Coast Conference title.
Still, with the two forwards carrying this much of the load, if the guards and supporting cast can't step up, it might be easy to silence the Bulldogs when the weather turns warm.
All right, all right. Just relax.
I know Oklahoma is No. 1. Buddy Hield has the inside track for player of the year honors. The Sooners share the Big 12 lead. Lon Kruger has my vote as the nation's best coach this season.
They can make a strong run in March. It's more probable than possible at this point.
And yet, for the level at which they are operating right now, they are a fairly one-dimensional club.
If you know college basketball, you know the dimension. Oklahoma leads the nation in three-point percentage with an absolutely insane 46.2 percent, according to NCAA stats, and is only one of four teams to make 11 or more threes per game on average.
Hield gets all the press, but four Sooners—Hield, Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins and Ryan Spangler—shoot threes regularly and make more than 35 percent of them. Hield and Woodard both make more than 50 percent of their attempts beyond the arc, despite combining to take 13 of them each contest.
This is impressive. It's hard to believe a team can make almost half its threes as a group. That's insane!
And yet, it's a glaringly prominent dimension for Oklahoma. How would they handle a tough zone? They might have problems if they don't have a plan B. After all, no matter how great a team is in the regular season, the postseason is where plan A's go to die.
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