The field of 64 is set; you like many people have filled out numerous brackets in a variety of pools and now it is time to start breaking down the various first round matchups, looking for edges and spotting those potential early round exits by favorites. Having the benefit of using the point spread helps in many cases and mustering up the courage on money line dogs is another way to make hard currency when betting college basketball. But what about the “home run” wager, picking the winner of the entire NCAA Tournament, which can offer a decent payout depending on the winner.
Even with the large field, most years, around 10 teams have legitimate chance of winning six games in a row. Long shots are great; however they don’t bring home the cash betting futures. In the last 13 years, only teams seeded 1, 2 or 3 have emerged as champions. Lute Olson’s 1997 Arizona Wildcats were the last team that was not among the top tier of teams as a four-seed. In the 1980’s, we had Danny Manning and the Miracles in 1988 as a sixth-seed and Jim Valvano’s incredible stretch in 1983 with North Carolina State.
Each year, the litany of ways to select a champion is trotted out. Among the various aspects that are all noteworthy are veteran players, point guard play and defensive shooting percentages. Each in their own right holds value and opens the window to opportunity.
A few years ago, I heard ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes doing a game late in the season and he was talking about what characteristics make up a NCAA champion. I happened to be taping that game and able to save the information and do the research.
Here is his list and what has occurred.
• 9 of 9 past champions had a 10 or more games winning streak
• 8 of 12 past champions won their conference tournament
• 20 of 22 past champions had NBA player 6’8 or taller
• 21 of 22 past champions had NBA a guard
It is important to understand what each of these points mean. First, if a team has a long winning streak of 10 or more, to whatever degree, they must be a good team. This season, 24 teams that made the field of 65, have won this many games in a row. Some teams could schedule their way into this many wins consecutively; however in reviewing this list, you see this consists primarily of college basketball squads that ruled there conferences.
Number of consecutive wins: (Note- Four teams has two such streaks)
20 – Butler
17 – Murray State, Texas, Utah State
16 – UTEP
15- New Mexico (12), No. Iowa, Siena, BYU
14- Kansas (13), Purdue (10)
12- Syracuse (11)
11- Morgan State, No. Texas, Oakland U. Sam Houston St., Villanova, West Virginia
10- Temple, Vanderbilt, Kansas State
The most notable absence from this list is No. 1 seed Duke. If one believes in the power of the numbers, than the Blue Devils are a non-factor, missing the top criteria.
From this point, we move to conference tournament champions. This is where we can start really eliminating teams. Let’s be honest, its obvious Wofford, Morgan State, No.Texas, Oakland and Sam Houston State have no shot at winning six games in a row against this field, thus we can eliminate that group from the field.
That leaves us with six teams that met the first and second variable that would at least in theory have chance to win the championship. Those teams would be West Virginia, No. Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Temple and Butler.
The next areas are somewhat subjective, however I watch a ton of college basketball (yes I have a life and wife) and went through a number of websites that discuss players with professional potential that are likely to be drafted in the NBA.
Starting with West Virginia, DeSean Butler has been in many discussions for national player of the year and looks the part of NBA player; nonetheless he is listed at 6’7, falling literally just short of this criterion. 6’9 Devin Banks might blossom in the years ahead, but has not yet been given such prominence. The Mountaineers have good college guards, yet nothing that appears to be pro material.
Northern Iowa has two players that might be better suited to play in the D-League or overseas in C Jordan Eglasedar and F Adam Koch. The Panthers have smallish guards that shoot the ball well from the perimeter and handle the rock, yet they lack the size or quickness to be next level players.
Bill Self is one of the best recruiters in the country and does he have talent. Cole Aldrich is sure-fire first round selection whenever he comes out and the Morris brothers (Marcus and Markieff) are 6’8 or 6’9 and getting better on regular basis. Sherron Collins is border-line to be NBA guard at 5’11, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be on NBA roster and be a like former Jayhawks guard Jacque Vaughn. The more likely candidate from the Kansas backcourt to draw a salary playing pro ball is freshman Xavier Henry.
You don’t have to have a “Basketball Jones” diploma to see John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson will all probably be playing for one of the 30 NBA teams next season, since most presume they are all coming out. Another year or two and 6’10 Daniel Orton will be joining his Kentucky teammates, along with possibly a couple more off of John Calipari’s squad.
Butler has the longest winning streak in college hoops and is battled tested. Are they really good enough to win a NCAA Tournament, most likely not, but that hasn’t stopped NBA scouts from getting a closer look at sophomore Gordon Hayward. Also, guard Shelvin Mack has a number of positive qualities and like Hayward is just second year player who as of yet does not have a ceiling on his talent.
Temple has a pair of dandy guards in Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez. Brooks is a senior and his name doesn’t show up in any draft-nik websites I went through. Fernandez is a good looking player, but seems to be more in the discovery stage in terms of his ability. 6’9 Levoy Allen’s stock is on the rise, but similar to Fernandez, is still moving up the charts for NBA prospects, not on them.
While this might be more boring than oatmeal, Kansas and Kentucky are the two teams that meet all four quadrants of this study. While it is more fun to pick the right team from out of the pack, choosing the right winner is more important. Hope this helps you make a greater evaluation as to what teams could be the NCAA national basketball champions. Good Luck.