There are a lot of different ways a team can win the NCAA Tournament. Different winners have had stars at different positions, different strengths and weaknesses, and have accomplished different things during the regular season. There are some things, though, that virtually all champions have in common – traits that help them succeed in a way that only one team can every year. Here are 10 traits that can help college basketball handicappers define the team that cuts down the nets at the beginning of every April:
Depth – The NCAA Tournament is brutal. Six games in three weeks – each tougher than the one before it – against teams that are as motivated and prepared as they will ever be. If a team doesn’t have a lot of depth – not just players that can play, but those that can play well – then they are not going to be able to stand up under the strain of the event. At the very least they need to have a viable option at every position to take the pressure off the starters for a while so they can get a breather, and more than that would be ideal.
At least one exceptional player – Winning the tournament is a team accomplishment – an incredible one – but there needs to be one player or more who can lead the way and do the impossible. If you think back to all the champions in the past there is one or two players that will come to mind that stand out above all the rest – those who rise up when the going gets especially tough. A winning college basketball team can’t be a collection of equals at this point.
Coaching – A winning team has to have an exceptional coach. That doesn’t mean that he has to have been there before, or have a gaudy record of success at different schools. It just means that his teams are consistently prepared, focused and intense, they bounce back well from setbacks, and they don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over.
Health – A team will not stand up until the end of they are nursing a collection of nagging injuries. No team is 100 percent healthy, but if key contributors are at well under full strength before things get started then the hoop team is going to be in real trouble.
Success against top teams – To win the NCAA Tournament you have to win six games, and at least four of them are going to be against very good teams that are playing with confidence. In order to win you have to have shown in the past that you can play top level competition and play well. Whether in non-conference play or during the conference schedule the teams need to handle steps up in class with grace. They don’t have to win all the games against top teams during the season, but they have to look like they belong in them and that they aren’t intimidated.
Resilience – The college basketball team that wins the tournament will have faced a whole lot of adversity along the way. They will just have been better than everyone else at dealing with it. These teams have almost always shown during the season that they can handle adversity effectively. Perhaps it was how they bounced back from a bad loss, or how they dealt with an injury or a suspension, or how they handled negative attention in the media. College basketball bettors need to look for this factor.
Strong scheduling – Teams that win the NCAA Tournament do so in part because they were prepared for the challenge. You can’t take a big step up in class at tournament time and be ready for it. teams that win the tournament have played tough schedules and have faced good teams throughout the year, so they know what to expect and what it takes to play good teams.
Consistency – To win the tournament you have to win six straight games. That means you have to play very well six times in a row. A college hoop team that has shown the inability to be consistent during the season, and has instead been manic in their play – great for a couple of games then incomprehensibly bad when they shouldn’t be – aren’t likely to be able to do what needs to be done now.
Free throw shooting – As smart basketball bettors know, free throws are absolutely crucial during the tournament – especially as games are wrapping up. If a team does not have the ability to shoot free throws consistently, or if they shoot worse when the pressure intensifies, then they are going to be in trouble. It isn’t good enough if they are a poor shooting team with a great shooter, either – you can’t usually determine who has to take the shots.
One outstanding element of game – Championship teams have to be well rounded, but they also have to have one thing that they do exceptionally well. In the last few rounds of the tournament every team is really good. What stands out, then, is when teams can do something so well that their opponents can’t effectively deal with it. It doesn’t have to be something big, but it has to be something striking. When engaged in your college basketball handicapping remeber that good enough just isn’t good enough here.