Here are a couple trends that have caught my eye the last couple of seasons in college basketball. It’s worth noting that each one of these trends has led to immeasurable success for their respective teams.
The measure of a really good offensive team is their ability to value possessions and consistently convert those possessions into points at a high frequency. Consequently, teams that have been able to execute this all important aspect have seen immense success during the month of March. How much success you ask? Consider this, with the exception of the Connecticut Huskies two years ago, seven of the last eight tournament winners have finished in the Top 5 nationally in Points per Possession.
That bodes well for teams like Indiana, Gonzaga, Michigan, Saint Mary’s, Creighton, and Florida. Each one of those teams are currently ranked within the Top 5 in PPP this season (Florida & Creighton are currently tied). Will their offensive efficiency translate into a national title this season?
Currently the Indiana Hoosiers lead the nation in Points per Possession. Here is a charted look at their season progression:
The Combo Guard
There was a time when point guards primarily distributed, and shooting guards primarily scored. And although those characteristics still hold true today, the evolution of the combo guard has continued to surface within college basketball the last decade or so. The combo guard, or as I like to call it “versatility ability”, is someone who can facilitate the offense while being a threat to score at anytime (and vice versa). We’ve seen such guards carry their teams to titles the last couple of seasons. Two years ago, the Huskies Kemba Walker caught fire in the Big East Tournament. His played carried over into the NCAA Tournament, and the rest is history. The year before that, the Blue Devils Nolan Smith certainly fit the role of combo guard during his team’s march to the title.
Talent Trumps Experience
More than ever, underclassman continue to produce at the highest levels for their respective programs. The Kentucky Wildcats were pretty much an AAU team last season with freshman Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague. However, that did not deter them from outperforming the majority of the competition they faced. To have so many talented underclassman as the Wildcats did last season is certainly a rarity. However, we have seen at least one key contributing underclassman for the majority of previous tournament winners. In addition to the Wildcats trio, they include:
- UCONN (2011)- Jeremy Lamb (Freshman-Guard)
- North Carolina (2009)-Ed Davis (Freshman-Forward)
- Kansas (2008)- Darrell Arthur & Sherron Collins (Sophomore)
- Florida (2006)- Taurean Green, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Joakim Noah (All Sophomores)
- North Carolina (2005)- Marvin Williams (Freshman-Forward).
To give you an idea of how truly staggering the Wildcats freshman production was last season, take a look at this player impact chart:
As the college basketball season continues to unfold, it will be interesting to see if these trends translate into success come tournament time. In addition, there are likely to be new trends that surface this season for whichever team cuts down the nets. That is the beauty of college basketball.
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