What could keep each legitimate National Championship contender from winning the National Championship
We are at a point in the season where there are now a few teams that I look at as National Championship contenders. While there will be 68 teams that will have a chance to win the National Championship, I think there are only about a few teams that I look at as National Championship contenders. While a few teams might move up and emerge as title contenders, I think these teams listed below are ones that I could see winning the title. For this, I will name the team, list their weakness, and explain it a little bit.
Duke: Cam Reddish’s inconsistency
Duke has been sensational so far this year behind the freshmen class led by Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett who have both exceeded expectations. While those two are great, Tre Jones has been really good from a leadership standpoint running the point and their other role players are decent, the real issue has been with Cam Reddish. Reddish has been good at times but in other instances, he has struggled. He has had great games, he 22 against Kentucky, and hit seven threes while scoring 25 against Army, however, he’s also had three games where he had 5 or fewer points. If he can be more consistent and be a consistent 3rd scorer on this team they have a chance to do special things but if not, Duke could get picked off in March.
Virginia: Slow pace
Virginia is maybe the most complete team in the sport, as they are one of the best defensive teams and have been good on the offensive end as well, that being said they do play at the slowest pace in the sport. When you play at a slower pace and have fewer possessions you are more susceptible to an upset because you do have fewer possessions to make up for a deficit that could happen in the tournament. They probably won’t lose to UMBC or anything like that in the upcoming NCAA Tournament but when getting to bigger games late in March and into April they could get picked off.
Michigan: Zavier Simpson’s inability to shoot
The Wolverines are a really good team on the defensive end, which is headed by Zavier Simpson who is a great on-ball defender. The issue is not on the defensive end but on the offensive end for Simpson, who shoots 26 percent from beyond the arc. When looking at Michigan’s closest game when they only won 62-60 at Northwestern, Northwestern helped off of Simpson and dared him to shoot threes and he shot and missed all five of them. If teams start to help off of him and dare him to shoot, that could be a reason the Wolverines could fall in March.
Tennessee: Not elite guards
Tennessee is really good on both ends of the ball and they have a toughness that is great to have and it can lead them to a National Championship. Their two best players are Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield, who are both forwards. The phrase that goes around is that guards win in March and Tennessee doesn’t have a true pack of elite guards. The trio of Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden, and Lamonte Turner are all good but not elite guards. Their toughness and the play of Williams and Schofield can win them a National Championship but their lack of great guards could keep them from the ultimate goal.
Gonzaga: Josh Perkins being inconsistent
The Bulldogs have all the pieces you could want with great forwards Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie, an elite shooter in Zach Norvell Jr, and good other role players but the real issue to Josh Perkins. Perkins is a decent player, as he can score the ball at a decent rate and is a good passer but he’s had times where he has been not great. For example in their game against Tennessee, he scored 0 points, which is unacceptable. He’s a solid player and Gonzaga is a legitimate Championship contender but Perkins’ inconsistency is something that could keep them from winning a title.
Michigan State: Lack of a superstar
The Spartans are a really solid team and they have been that so far this season, which is why they still have a legitimate chance to win the National Championship. The Spartans have a solid trio leading them with Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, and Nick Ward but none of those players are likely First or Second team All-Americans. Teams ahead of them could potentially out talent the Spartans and win a game over the Spartans in the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas: Lack of three-point shooting
Kansas has multiple issues right now, one being that they are without their great interior player Udoka Azubuike for the season with an injury. The main issue I see with this Kansas team is that they aren’t great at shooting the three. The Jayhawks on the season are shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc, which isn’t good. Also with the Jayhawks now being forced to play a small ball lineup and the Jayhawks will be forced to shoot three-point shots. If they can shoot them at a better percentage they’ll have a chance to win the title but if they have an off game, it will probably lead to a loss.
Texas Tech: Only one consistent scorer
Texas Tech is one of the best teams in the country on the defensive side of the ball, which is something that makes them a title contender. The Red Raiders have a great scorer in Jarrett Culver, who is great on both ends on the ball, while averaging 19 points per game. Culver is great, however, they don’t really have a second option that can take over games. Players have stepped up at times, however, if Culver has an off game the Red Raiders can lose to anyone.
Virginia Tech: Bench issues
Virginia Tech is a solid team, with two great scorers in Nickiel Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson and they have a good big in Kerry Blackshear Jr. The main problem for them is that they only play seven players due to likely redshirts of Chris Clarke and Landers Nolley, due to suspensions or suspected fake ACT scores. This team still could get the matchups that could win them six games in March, however, the lack of depth could lose them a game.
Nevada: Falling behind early in games
Nevada tends to fall behind in games early on which happened in their most recent loss to New Mexico. While this can lead to some dramatic comebacks, which has happened in the past when they came back against Texas and Cincinnati in last years tournament, they also are susceptible to falling behind and losing games like what happened in recent games against New Mexico and last year against Loyola-Chicago.
North Carolina: No pure point guard
North Carolina is a really good team, as they can score the ball at a high clip, rebound, and defend at a high level, which is what you need to do to win the NCAA Tournament. The problem I see with this team is the play of Coby White. White is a really good scorer, is really quick and when shooting the ball at a high rate he can fill it up, however, he’s not a true point guard. He averages 3.9 assists, which is good but he also turns the ball over 2.9 points per game. White can cut down on those and other players like Seventh Woods could play better but I think that could be what keeps them from winning the title.
Kentucky: No elite players
The Wildcats have a solid team but they don’t have a player that stands out as an elite go-to player. Keldon Johnson, Reid Travis, PJ Washington, and Tyler Herro are all good on the offensive end, Ashton Hagans is a lockdown defender but none of those players stand out as being an All-American. The Wildcats can still win the title but most teams that have won it all in March have had at least one great player and right now Kentucky doesn’t have any likely All-Americans.