The average American sports fan is paying little if any, attention to college basketball in late November.
The teams ranked for the championship are battling on neutral courts. Plucky mid-mezzers are stunning perennial powerhouses. ESPN is airing the game day and night, especially around the Thanksgiving holiday these two weeks.
But people are not ready to pay attention. Too many games, the season is too long, only the tournament matters. There are many excuses, some better than others. March and its madness are miles away. College basketball and the Super Bowl must be dealt with before college basketball attracts the nation’s attention and earns its market share.
No worries. Look here each week for essential information around the game, what lies ahead and details on a mid-major team that could wreak havoc on the bracket in March, just as Morena State and Jay Morant did last season.
Duke is No. 1, but not dominant – the Blue Devils are undefeated with neutral court wins over Kansas and Georgetown. He topped the AP and USA Today elections. Duke measures in advanced metrics, as well as second in Pomeroy and first in Sagarin. The Blue Devils spent 144 weeks at No. 1 rank under coach Mike Krazyvski, setting a 218–34 record as the top-ranked team.
These Blue Devils are ranked 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency, a measure of their possession output, although they are expected to sputter at that end during the stretch. Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett move to the NBA for a long time, and Duke is not notably overtaken by the arc (33.3 percent) or 2-point shots (49.1 percent).
Defense defines these devils. They force turnovers (26.9 percent of possessions), rebound, and restrict opponents to approximately 14 3-point attempts per game. This adds up to the country’s second-most efficient defense.
The scoring usually is down – the new 3-point line – 17 inches deeper than its predecessor – has created a FIBA arc and a bucket shortage. Division, I averaged an adjusted offensive efficiency of 98.6 points per 100 possessions compared to last season. The number usually increases as the season opens.
Players find a rhythm, and teams work as a unit, and coaches uncover individual strengths and move away from weaknesses. Nevertheless, we are bound to have the “worst” crime since at least 2002. Anyone who has seen Virginia this season finds it easy to believe this statement.
The defending national champions are undefeated through six games and so far have produced only 48 points in their two wins. The Cavaliers can’t shoot (23.7 percent on 3s). Again, no one can shoot against them (36.9 defensive effective field goal percentage).
Give Me Liberty – Walk around this season to dive deep into the stomach of a seed conference Cinderellas, avoiding the fact that cash is guaranteed in any office pool or online bracket competition. On the other hand, Liberty will not surprise any team or man.
The Flames made their presence in the NCAA Tournament last season as 12 seed when they defeated Mississippi State in the first round and were intimidated by state rival Virginia Tech in the 32 series, before eventually falling by 10 points. The flames returned three starts, including the dangerous inside-out Tandab Hombeels and Scotty James.
Coach Richie McKay has an offensive rating of 102 or more for the top eight players in the rotation. And because McKay spent eight seasons in Virginia working with Tony Bennett, which does not come easily to opponents. The first eight – all victims – with only 51.9 per game.