Scouting for Your NCAA Bracket

Before you buy a new appliance, it is good to do some research. What is the difference between plasma and LED? What is the long-term savings on something energy efficient? What sort of warranty does it have? Next week you will be filling out your NCAA Tournament bracket. This week is the time to do some homework. While watching conference tournaments from all over the country, ask these questions to get an idea of whether a team is viable in the big dance.

Go-to Guy

Over the last five years teams that have won the national title have featured Kemba Walker, Anthony Davis, Russ Smith, Shabazz Napier, and Jahlil Okafor. At some point during the tournament, you are going to need a big basket and having a go-to player makes that ask a lot easier. Davidson rode Steph Curry to the Elite Eight, and Carmelo Anthony won Syracuse the championship. When you watch this week’s games, see if there is a player capable of determining the outcome.

Momentum

You don’t have to win your conference tournament in order to cut down the nets in Houston, but teams that limp into the postseason rarely win. Even more than wins and losses, is the team playing well down the stretch? Teams that are going good have confidence, a set rotation, and have shown improvement during the course of the season. Last year Duke had won 12 of 13 entering the NCAA Tournament.

Health

Every year there is a team or two that has a guy who “will be ready for the NCAA Tournament.” Last year it was Virginia’s Justin Anderson. He wasn’t right after suffering a broken finger late in the season, and the second seeded Cavs lost to Michigan State in the round of 32.

If players aren’t able to “test” out their injury during the league tournament, the chance of them performing well when the bright lights are on aren’t great. Even guys who are playing, but their production has declined down the stretch – looking at you Melo Trimble – ask whether there might be something fishy taking place.

Coaches

With the exception of Kevin Ollie leading UConn to the title in 2014, and maybe question marks around Tubby Smith, Jim Harrick, and Nolan Richardson, essentially every title since the mid 60s has been won by a Hall of Fame coach. From John Wooden to Larry Brown, Dean Smith, Tom Izzo, Coach K, and Jim Calhoun, there are very few instances of anybody outside of the best of the best winning it all. Before you fill out the bracket, make sure you have a blue blood at the end.

(Photo credit: Jerome Carpenter (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/])