1 Misconception About Every AP Top 25 College Basketball Team

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 13, 2015

1 Misconception About Every AP Top 25 College Basketball Team

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    Over the course of the college basketball regular season, we inevitably create or overstate misconceptions about AP Top 25 teams.

    For example, Virginia ranks 191st in the nation in points per game, so the Cavaliers must have a pretty weak offense, right? Au contraire, mon frere. Virginia has one of the most efficient offenses in the country.

    Or how about that oft-mentioned supposition that Ohio State doesn't have any reliable big men? Well, by some metrics, Amir Williams has been the second-best player for the Buckeyes.

    And would you have guessed that Iowa State is less reliant on three-pointers than 87 other teams, including Florida and Northern Iowa?

    Well, believe it, because we've got the numbers to prove it.

    Is Kentucky really struggling? Will VCU's defense really fall apart without its star defender? Is Baylor really dominant in the paint? Or are these just assertions that evolved into "facts" by means of repetition and groupthink?

    It's impossible to pinpoint the origin of these misconceptions, but our goal is to nip them in the bud before it comes time to fill out your bracket and you're incapable of shaking the notion that Duke can't guard anyone or that Louisville and North Carolina can't make a three-pointer to save their lives.

    Read on as we aim to identify and debunk a major myth about each of the nation's best college hoops teams.

    Statistics on the following slides courtesy of ESPN.com, Sports-Reference.com and KenPom.com and are current through the start of play on Thursday, Feb. 12.

25. SMU Mustangs

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    Biggest Misconception: SMU only looks good because the rest of the AAC is so bad.

    To be sure, the Mustangs aren't nearly as good as we thought they would be 10 months ago. When every pundit was posting its "way too early 2014-15 top 25" rankings within minutes of the 2014 NCAA tournament ending, SMU was a staple in the No. 10-15 range, implying its status as a Final Four sleeper.

    And why not? The Mustangs had most of their key players returning and were supposed to be adding one of the best freshmen in the nation.

    But that didn't happen, as Emmanuel Mudiay went to play in China instead. Markus Kennedy was academically ineligible for the first semester. Keith Frazier is out for the rest of this year for academics. Justin Martin left in the middle of the season to pursue a professional career.

    By now, you've probably heard this information a dozen or more times and have come to the conclusion that the only reason SMU doesn't have a dozen losses is because the American Athletic Conference is awful.

    While the weak conference schedule doesn't hurt, that's far from the truth. Nic Moore has been outstanding in Larry Brown's backcourt. Prior to a lackluster, foul-filled game against Tulsa, Kennedy had been playing extremely well over the past month. And Yanick Moreira has really blossomed into a guy who can shoulder the load in the paint for up to 30 minutes per night.

    Pepper in the contributions from Ryan Manuel, Ben Moore, Sterling Brown and Ben Emelogu, and this is a team that could do some serious damage in any conference.

24. Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Biggest Misconception: Arkansas can only play well at home.

    This is a misconception that I've been guilty of propagating for the past few months and years.

    As Yahoo's Pat Forde has noted on numerous occasions, "Homecourt Mike Anderson" has had a lot of trouble winning on the road. And when the Razorbacks were blown out at Iowa State and lost in overtime at Clemson in back-to-back games in December, that narrative was rewriting itself with fervor.

    Then again, Iowa State under Fred Hoiberg has been one of the best home-court teams over the past several years, so there's certainly no shame in succumbing to Hilton Magic. And Clemson just came within inches of winning a home game against Notre Dame on Tuesday night, making the Fighting Irish just the latest team to struggle mightily in Littlejohn Coliseum.

    Close losses at Tennessee and Florida? These things happen in conference play.

    But instead of focusing on the four road losses, let's take note of Arkansas' road wins. The Razorbacks won at both SMU and Georgiatwo teams who are otherwise a combined 24-1 at home this season. They also just scored 101 at Auburn on Tuesday night, becoming the first team to reach triple digits in SEC play this season.

    Yes, they sometimes struggle on the road. Who doesn't, though?

23. Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Biggest Misconception: Ohio State has no interior presence.

    D'Angelo Russell is this team's heart and soul. There's no denying that.

    But would you believe that Amir Williams is second to Russell in win shares per 40 minutes? Or that both he and Trey McDonald were averaging better than 10 points and 10 rebounds per 40 minutes before Wednesday night's win over Penn State?

    The Buckeyes don't have an outstanding singular post player like a Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns, but the combined force of Williams, McDonald and Anthony Lee sharing the load at center has accounted for 37.3 minutes, 12.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

    For sake of comparison, Louisville's Montrezl Harrell has averaged 33.0 minutes, 15.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

    Throw in Jae'Sean Tate tallying at least 10 points and five rebounds in five of his last nine games, and Ohio State has a much better frontcourt than the rest of the world wants you to believe.

21. (tie) Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Biggest Misconception: Oklahoma State is too short-handed and undersized to thrive.

    You won't find anyone saying things like that now that the Cowboys have won three straight games against ranked opponents, but that was the narrative prior to the start of February.

    Between Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Brian Williams, Kamari Murphy and Stevie Clark, Oklahoma State lost five of its seven leading scorers from last season. Even after adding LSU transfer Anthony Hickey and JUCO transfer Jeff Newberry, this was supposed to be a team with significantly more questions than answers.

    What's more, Travis Ford's starting lineup consists of a pair of 5'11" guards, a 6'2" guard masquerading as a small forward, a 6'7" power forward who played in the 2011 McDonald's All-American Game and a 6'8" center who tore his Achilles last December.

    But there's simply a chemistry—and defensive intensity—that wasn't there in 2013-14, and it has enabled the Cowboys to consistently perform well against rosters that are arguably much more talented.

21. (tie) West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Biggest Misconception: West Virginia has Top 25 talent.

    After losing to West Virginia in an ugly 65-59, 77-possession game in late January, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said to reporters, "It's just bad basketball, but they're what, 17-3? I'd be happy too. It's just their style."

    Weber less frustratedly reiterated that sentiment in the lead-up to Wednesday night's rematch with the Mountaineers, telling Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle, "It is really hard to simulate in practice. You can tell the guys about it and watch film, but until you go against it, it's 40 minutes of chaos."

    Even WVU head coach Bob Huggins admits that his team isn't exactly gifted at the most basic aspect of basketball, saying after the 19-point loss to Oklahoma, per The Daily Athenaeum's Ryan Petrovich, "We don’t make shots, but we know that. We generally don't shoot it this bad, but we're not good shooters so we've got to make up for it."

    What the Mountaineers lack in ability to throw the ball into the hoop, they make up for with an unbelievable amount of hustle, defensive pressure and offensive rebounding.

    Teams with strong big men and guards who can deal with full-court pressure can typically handle the Mountaineers with ease, but the 40 minutes of chaos strategy isn't much different from the HAVOC mantra that Shaka Smart has been preaching at VCU for the past several years. It's very difficult to prepare for and could cause serious problems for even the nation's most talented teams.

20. VCU Rams

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    Biggest Misconception: VCU's defense will fall apart without Briante Weber.

    Briante Weber is one of the most irreplaceable players in the entire country. He was first in the nation in steal percentage in each of his four seasonsthough, by season's end, he will not have played enough of his team's minutes to officially qualify for this year's status as the best pilferer.

    But in VCU's first game without Weber, the Rams recorded 10 steals and forced 18 turnovers against George Mason. They weren't nearly as successful in the loss to St. Bonaventure (five steals, nine turnovers), but the Bonnies have been surprisingly stingy in the turnover department this season. Even if Weber had been on the court, VCU might have struggled to fluster them.

    At the end of the day, though, VCU's defense has always been a team effort.

    Weber benefited most frequently from that defense with 304 steals over his first three seasons, but the Rams had a total of 1,192 steals during that stretch. He had 78 steals this year, but there are nine other players on the team with at least 10 steals.

    VCU's defense will obviously suffer a bit of a drop without Weber, but it's not like the Rams are going to stop forcing turnovers or start giving up 80 points per game.

19. Maryland Terrapins

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    Biggest Misconception: Maryland is finally healthy.

    Dez Wells has started and played at least 25 minutes in every game since Dec. 30, but he has yet to put together consecutive games in which he looked like the version of Wells that we remember from the past two seasons.

    Similarly, Evan Smotrycz has played at least 17 minutes in 15 straight games, but he barely even resembles the guy we saw last year at Maryland or three years ago at Michigan.

    The common thread is that both of those players missed some time due to injury. Smotrycz suffered a bad ankle injury before the season, and Wells fractured his wrist five games into the year. And though they've been back on the court for quite some time, we're forever waiting for them to fully return.

    We're not sure whether they're physically, mentally or simply statistically at less than 100 percent, but it's partially to blame for Maryland's recent struggles and partially reason to remain optimistic that we still haven't seen this team at its peak.

18. Butler Bulldogs

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    Biggest Misconception: Butler is still a mid-major team.

    Admit it.

    You still view Butler as the Cinderella team that unexpectedly made it to back-to-back national championship games a few years ago. If someone asks you to name the best teams currently in the Horizon League, Butler is still one of the first names that springs to mind.

    It's OK. It happens to the best of us. Conference realignment isn't easy on anyone.

    But the fact of the matter is that the Bulldogs are the second-best team in the Big East and could be headed for the highest tournament seed in school history. (Anything higher than a No. 5 seed would accomplish that feat.)

    Here's some food for thought: Entering play on Wednesday, Butler ranked 17th in RPI and 19th on KenPom.com, and Iowa State was ranked 16th in RPI and 20th on KenPom.com. If you don't view the Bulldogs and Cyclones on the same level, it's time to recognize and accept that little brother is all grown up.

17. Oklahoma Sooners

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    Biggest Misconception: Oklahoma's offense is better than its defense.

    The Sooners have a very efficient offense. They have scored at least 75 points 12 different times this season, including the 94 points they dropped on Iowa State Monday night.

    But their adjusted offensive efficiency only ranks 38th in the country, while their adjusted defensive efficiency checks in at No. 5.

    Between Ryan Spangler and TaShawn Thomas, Oklahoma has done a wonderful job of defending in the paint without fouling. And between Buddy Hield, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins on the perimeter, the Sooners have been able to convert turnovers into fast-break opportunities on a fairly regular basis.

    They certainly aren't flawless on defenseOklahoma has given up at least 83 points in regulation in three of its 12 conference gamesbut there's a misconception out there that this is simply a fast-paced team that focuses more on outscoring its opponents than defending them.

16. Baylor Bears

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    Biggest Misconception: Baylor is dominant in the paint.

    Because we're all just living in Rico Gathers' world, you might be tempted to believe that Baylor is an unstoppable force in the paint.

    In actuality, the Bears (46.1 percent) are below the national average in two-point field-goal percentage and have more of their shots blocked (10.3 percent) than an average team. They're above average in both of those categories on defense, but not nearly as close to the top of those leaderboards as you may think.

    Now, they are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, and that many second chances will inevitably correct a lot of wrongs. But they wouldn't need to grab that many offensive rebounds if they could just convert on those first chances.

    For as much time as he spends around the rim, Gathers (43.8 field-goal percentage) has a lot of trouble putting the ball in the hoop. Johnathan Motley (43.7 two-point percentage) hasn't been any better.

    It should be interesting to see what happens if and when the Bears run into a good defensive rebounding team in the tournament. They have yet to face a team that currently ranks in the top 50 in defensive rebounding percentage, and they lost to the team that ranks 51st (Illinois).

15. Wichita State Shockers

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    Biggest Misconception: Wichita State is almost as good as it has been in recent years.

    Even Wichita State's biggest naysayers from last season would have to agree that the Shockers were one of the best teams in the country. Maybe you didn't believe they deserved a No. 1 seed, but you at least understood the argument and viewed them as no worse than a No. 2 seed.

    That isn't even remotely the case this year.

    The Shockers are 1-3 vs. RPI Top 50 teams, and that may very well drop to 0-3 if Tulsa (RPI: 45) stumbles to the finish line against a very difficult schedule. They only have three reliable scorers (Ron Baker, Darius Carter and Fred VanVleet) and only one other player (Tekele Cotton) who is a threat to score in double figures on any given night.

    Cleanthony Early was a massive loss from last year's team, and no longer having Chadrack Lufile, Kadeem Coleby and Nick Wiggins has really taken its toll on Carter, who had averaged 7.2 points and 2.2 rebounds over the five games prior to Wednesday night's win over Indiana State.

    Kudos to Wichita State for remaining highly ranked by not suffering any unforgivable losses, but the Shockers have done nothing to suggest they belong in the Sweet 16 this year.

14. Iowa State Cyclones

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    Biggest Misconception: Iowa State is heavily reliant on three-pointers.

    There are two reasons for this misconception, and the first is that it was absolutely true in years past.

    In 2012-13, the Cyclones attempted 43.8 percent of their field goals from three-point range and scored 37.4 percent of their points from beyond the arc. In both categories, they ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

    This year, however, those numbers are 37.5 percent and 29.5 percent, respectivelyneither of which ranks in the top 85 nationally.

    They're still shooting 35.8 percent as a team, though, and the second reason for the misconception is that they play at a fast pace and aren't afraid to let it fly when they're playing from behind.

    In its last three losses (at Texas Tech, at Kansas and at Oklahoma), Iowa State averaged 27.0 three-point attempts per game. Maintain that average over the course of the season and the Cyclones would rank sixth in the country in three-point attempts per game.

    Outside of those three games, they're only averaging 21.2 attempts per game.

13. Northern Iowa Panthers

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    Doug McSchooler/Associated Press

    Biggest Misconception: Seth Tuttle is a one-man show.

    Seth Tuttle is immensely talented. His per-game and per-40 minutes numbers don't adequately tell the story because of the pace at which he plays. Rather, let's compare his per-100 possessions to those of another well-respected big man playing in the Hawkeye State.

    • Tuttle: 37.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.4 blocks
    • Georges Niang: 28.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks

    Pretty ridiculous, right? To be that much better than a candidate for Big 12 Player of the Year, Tuttle has to be a legitimate candidate for the Wooden Award.

    But he's not the only talented player on Northern Iowa's roster.

    Four other regulars are shooting 41.0 percent or better from three-point range. Seven other players are averaging at least 5.0 points per game. Outside of Tuttle, the team is averaging just 7.9 turnovers per game.

    Compared to Tuttle, they're all role players, but they each play their role extremely well.

12. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Biggest Misconception: North Carolina's only outside shooter is Marcus Paige.

    Early in the year, this was 100 percent true. Through North Carolina's first 11 games, Marcus Paige made 25 of the team's 41 three-pointers.

    Since then, though, Nate Britt has made 14 three-pointers, shooting 45.2 percent from beyond the arc.

    He has been billed as the the backup point guard who allows Paige the freedom to play off the ball, but the tandem is rapidly evolving into a young Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier type of backcourt duo in which both players are fully capable of driving to the lane, draining triples or doling out assists.

    Don't forget about J.P. Tokoto, either. He doesn't attempt many three-pointers, but he's shooting 35.7 percent for the season, serving as just enough of a perimeter threat to keep defenses honest.

    As a result, the Tar Heels have the third-most efficient offense in ACC play, shooting 37.5 percent from three-point range as a team in conference games.

11. Utah Utes

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    Biggest Misconception: Utah isn't a serious title contender.

    Every year, there seem to be a couple of teams that earn No. 4 seeds or better only to be targeted as a major candidate for an upset before the bracket is even announced.

    It's as if the nation is saying, "Great job during the regular season, but now it's time to step aside and let the big boys play." And I get the feeling that Utah is going to be one of those teams this season.

    That would be a mistake.

    Delon Wright is a legitimate candidate for the Wooden Award, and he isn't a one-man show by any stretch of the imagination. With a healthy Jakob Poeltl, Utah has one of the most complete, well-rounded starting lineups in the country. The Utes have won 11 of their last 13 games by a margin of at least 13 points.

    Granted, they're 1-2 versus RPI Top 70 during that stretch. But in those two losses, they were uncharacteristically outrebounded to death by Arizona, and UCLA had a nearly flawless game with just six turnovers and 11 personal fouls. Those were merely outliers for an otherwise outstanding team.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Biggest Misconception: Notre Dame is a fast-paced team.

    The Fighting Irish are one of the few teams in the country that really looks comfortable running a half-court offense.

    They score extremely efficiently, and they aren't averse to fast-break opportunities when they present themselves, but this isn't nearly the run-and-gun type of team you might think it is based on the fact that they weren't held to fewer than 74 points until their 16th game of the season.

    As a matter of fact, Notre Dame ranks 237th in adjusted tempo this season, playing 1.2 fewer possessions per game than an average team.

    The Fighting Irish are simply so deadly with their pick-and-roll offense and three-point shooting that it doesn't take them anywhere near as many possessions to score 70 points as it does an average team.

    Ranking first in the nation in effective field-goal percentage and second in offensive turnover percentage will do that.

9. Louisville Cardinals

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    Biggest Misconception: Louisville doesn't have any shooters.

    Louisville actually has three shooters.

    There's a fine line between volume shooters and consistently accurate shooters, and Louisville's skew toward the former.

    Every now and then, we get to watch players like Eastern Washington's Tyler Harveya baby-faced man making 47.6 percent of the 9.1 three-pointers he attempts per game. But a large percentage of the players who attempt upwards of 7.0 three-pointers per game tend to make around 35 percent of them.

    That's the camp in which Terry Rozier, Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear reside. Each has attempted at least 100 triples this season and is making 35.0 percent or fewer of them.

    It's not that they can't shoot. It's just that they're maddeningly inconsistent.

    Blackshear hit six of 11 earlier this season in a game against Cal State Northridge. Jones shot 48.5 percent from downtown in the month of January, but he's shooting 28.4 percent for the rest of the year. Rozier oscillates from red hot to ice cold on a game-by-game basis.

    Sadly, though, sometimes those cold spells all converge for one colossal brick storm and it's the 4-of-25 team effort against Duke that everyone seems to remember.

8. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Biggest Misconception: Kansas is a lock to win the Big 12 outright.

    That escalated quickly.

    For a solid three-plus months from early October through mid-January, the majority of people outside of Lawrence city limits were thinking this might finally be the year that Kansas doesn't win the Big 12.

    But right around the time the Jayhawks won by 13 at Texas, everyone suddenly gave up on those notions and started thinking about whether they could go for a 12th straight Big 12 title next year.

    Yes, Kansas is the overwhelming favorite to win the conference. The Jayhawks have a two-game lead on everyone else in the loss column.

    However, they still have some very difficult games on the horizon.

    They still play two games against West Virginia, which could be an absolute nightmare for a team that already has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1-1 and has shown on multiple occasions that it struggles with full-court pressure. They also have a road game against Oklahoma, a road game against in-state rival Kansas State and home games against Baylor and Texas.

    Do you really think it's a guarantee that they'll win at least five of those six games to avoid slipping back to the pack with four losses?

7. Arizona Wildcats

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    Biggest Misconception: Arizona's best 7-footer is Kaleb Tarczewski.

    As a rule of thumb, coaches don't put freshmen into the starting lineup ahead of upperclassmen who have started nearly every game for the past two-plus years, and they definitely don't stir the pot when they're winning 87 percent of their games.

    If Sean Miller wants to win a national championship, though, it's something he should at least consider, because Kaleb Tarczewski isn't nearly the player he was last year.

    Per 40 minutes, his points, rebounds, assists and blocks have all decreased by at least 10 percent, and his rate of fouls and turnovers has increased. Both his two-point and free-throw percentages have decreased. And the majority of those numbers have been even worse in conference play.

    If there weren't any other options, fine, stick with the lone 7-footer at center; but Miller has a great freshman in Dusan Ristic who deserves more playing time. Here's a comparison of their numbers per 100 possessions:

    • Tarczewski: 12.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 2.6 turnovers, 4.5 fouls
    • Ristic: 15.2 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 1.4 turnovers, 6.4 fouls

    The only negative part of the comparison is the fouls committed, but that only becomes an issue if Ristic starts playing at least three times as many minutes as he currently plays.

    Look, we're not suggesting that "Zeus" should be buried on the bench never to return. We're just questioning why he's playing 26.6 minutes per game while Ristic is only playing 8.7 on average.

6. Villanova Wildcats

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    Biggest Misconception: Villanova is overachieving.

    For many spectators, it's hard to shake the memory of last March. Villanova was upset by Seton Hall in the first round of the Big East tournament and knocked out in the second round of the NCAA tournament despite earning a No. 2 seed.

    Throw in the fact that Villanova was blown out twice by Creighton and once by Syracuse in three of its most high-profile games of the regular season, and many will assume until further notice that the Wildcats are a paper tiger once again.

    After all, they were blown out by 20 at Georgetown and already suffered another loss to Seton Hall this year.

    However, Jay Wright's squad is undeniably one of the most efficient teams in the country. Villanova, Kentucky and Virginia are the only teams in the country that currently rank in the top 12 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency.

    That's pretty good company to keep.

    If anything, the argument should be that this team is underachieving, because JayVaughn Pinkstona man many of us expected to seriously contend for Big East Player of the Year honorsis averaging just 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds and shooting 42.2 percent from the field. Last year, those numbers were 14.1, 6.1 and 52.1, respectively.

    If he ever comes back around, look out.

5. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Biggest Misconception: Wisconsin is boring to watch.

    Here's another misconception based on years of semi-truth.

    For most of Bo Ryan's tenure as the head coach of the Badgers, they have been painful to watch.

    They consistently play at one of the slowest tempos in the country, arguably because they weren't particularly skilled at putting the ball in the hoop and had a much better chance of frustrating their opponents to death than shooting them out of the gym.

    It felt like watching a race between the tortoise and the hare.

    But if you still think Wisconsin is boring to watch, then we pity your inability to appreciate beautiful basketball. You probably think the San Antonio Spurs of the past decade were boring, too.

    The Badgers still play at a snail's pace, but they have the most efficient offense in the nation thanks to a combination of incredible interior scoring options and their typically low turnover rate (12.4 percent).

4. Duke Blue Devils

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    Biggest Misconception: Duke has no perimeter defense.

    Read the reactions to Duke's losses to Miami and North Carolina State and you'd think Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones were standing along the perimeter with red capes, waving opposing guards into the lane like matadors.

    While it's true that Duke's perimeter defense is far from top notch, it's not nearly as bad as we were led to believe after those games.

    Really, Duke's biggest problem defensively has been three-point shooting, and there's only so much a team can do about that.

    North Carolina State and Miami shot a combined 55.6 percent from downtown, which blew everything else wide open. In recent scares against Georgia Tech and Florida State, the Yellow Jackets made an absurd 72.7 percent of their threes and the Seminoles shot 50 percent.

    What's funny is that you don't hear people talking about Duke's defense in those latter two games, though, because the Blue Devils did enough elsewhere to contain those opponents. Nor did you hear anyone praise Duke for holding Jerian Grant to seven points in the rematch against Notre Dame, completely debunking the theory that Duke is terrible against quality lead guards by stifling arguably the best one in the country.

    We looked for a reason for those "bad" losses, and many falsely assume that nothing has changed since then.

3. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Biggest Misconception: Gonzaga would have six or seven losses against a real schedule.

    Out of everything on the list, this is probably the most inaccurate and most discussed misconception.

    It's mid-February, which means hundreds of people are posting projected brackets and thousands of people are overreacting to them. Right now, Gonzaga is one of the primary teams under consideration for a No. 1 seed, and the longer the Bulldogs stay in contention for a spot on the top line, the more outlandish the comments from their detractors become.

    Nonbelievers see Gonzaga's 0-1 record against teams currently projected for a No. 6 seed or better and jump to the conclusion that this team would get annihilated in a power conference.

    What those people overlook, though, is that the one loss came on the road in overtime against Arizonaa team that otherwise has not won a home game by less than 14 points, despite playing six home games against power conference teams.

    The rest of the time, Gonzaga has been straight up destroying foes. Of Gonzaga's 24 wins, 21 have come by a margin of at least 11 points.

    Because the Zags haven't advanced beyond the Sweet 16 in more than a decade, many assume this isn't truly one of the best teams in the country.

    Those people are wrong.

2. Virginia Cavaliers

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    Biggest Misconception: Virginia isn't very good on offense.

    This might be a little bit truer with Justin Anderson out of action for the foreseeable future, but don't be fooled by Virginia's points per game (66.9).

    It's the points per possession (1.13) that really tell the story here.

    Virginia plays at just about the slowest pace in the entire country. The Cavaliers rank 342nd in average possession length on offense and 344th on defense. That puts them in rarefied air with American and Northern Iowa as the only teams that rank in the bottom 10 percent in both categoriesand they actually rank in the bottom three percent of each.

    As a result, they don't score very many points per game despite ranking 12th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency.

    While playing at that pace with one of the best defenses in recent history, 60 points on offense is the new 80.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Biggest Misconception: Kentucky is stumbling to the finish line.

    If you ever got good enough at Guitar Hero or Rock Band to full combo a songotherwise known as hitting 100 percent of the notes from start to finishthen you know full well that your focus is more laser-like than ever when you're roughly 70 percent of the way to perfection.

    But one of the biggest differences between your hunt for virtual stardom and Kentucky's quest for 40-0 is that your level of difficulty doesn't change. Whether you've missed zero notes or 50 of them, those remaining colored prompts will continue streaming down the screen at the same speed.

    For the Wildcats, though, the theoretical bounty on their heads just continues to increase with each passing gameespecially for bubble teams like Florida, Georgia and LSU that not only want to be the first to beat Kentucky but could also desperately use that marquee win for their tournament resume.

    John Calipari has been saying for way too many years that every game Kentucky plays is like the Super Bowl for its opponent, but that's especially true now that we're in mid-February and the Wildcats still haven't suffered a loss.

    They've already had significantly more close games in conference play than we were expecting, but they look as good as they have all seasonparticularly Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker.

    They're simply being tested with a higher difficulty level.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.


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