With March Madness about to hit college basketball fandom, let’s take a detailed look at the four likely one seeds heading into the tournament.
25-4, 13-3 in the Big East
Ashton Gibbs: The poing guard is averaging 16.3 points per game, shooting 46 percent from behind the three-point line.
Brad Wanamaker: This playmaker is averaging 12.3 points per game and is a confident playmaker.
Gary McGhee: He only averages about seven points per game, but his 6’11” frame is a large physical presence which deters opposing guards from coming into the lane.
Strengths: Playing in the Big East means that they have to face the nation’s elite teams, sometimes more than once. They’ve faced UConn, Georgetown, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Villanova, St. John’s and Louisville. All of these teams were ranked in the top 25 when Pitt played them. Not only have they played all of these teams, but they’ve won. They sit atop the Big East Standings, a half-game above the No. 7 team in the nation, Notre Dame. Wanamaker is also a Big East Player of the Year candidate and has great leadership qualities, especially in the last minutes of the game.
Weaknesses: They’ve had trouble winning close games in recent months. However, their losses to Notre Dame, St. John’s and Louisville have been by a combined nine points.
Duke Blue Devils
26-3, 12-2 in the ACC
Kyle Singler: The senior forward averages 17.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. He is a great ball handler for a big man and is a dangerous three-point shooter.
Nolan Smith: The probable ACC Player of the Year averages 21.3 points and five rebounds as the point guard.
Strengths: Duke is a great three point shooting team with Seth Curry shooting 42 percent from behind the arc, but any of the guards and Singler are capable of going on a hot streak. They also have almost the exact same starting lineup that they had when they hoisted the trophy less than a year ago. This year, however, they are scoring more points, have fewer loses and are shooting the same percentage from three-point range.
Weaknesses: They trend to rely on the three-point shot too much and are vulnerable to cold streaks. Duke is also not a good offensive rebounding team without the seven-foot presence of Brian Zoubek.
Brigham Young Cougars
27-2, 13-1 in the Mountain West
Jimmer Fredette: He’s the potential Player of the Year and leading scorer in the nation, averaging 27.3 points and 4.3 assists per game.
Jackson Emery: He’s the second leading scorer on the team with 12.6 points per game.
Strengths: Jimmer Fredette is an immovable force in college basketball. Even though teams double and triple-team him, BYU has other good players in the supporting cast that don’t get as much recognition and can score points.
Weaknesses: They are not a very deep team and scoring options are extremely hard to come by with Jimmer on the bench. Also, BYU’s third leading scorer and best center was just suspended indefinitely for the remainder of the season because of academic dishonesty.
27-2, 12-2 in the Big 12
Marcus Morris: He is a 6’9″ athletic freak who is averaging 17.3 points and seven rebounds a game.
Markieff Morris: Marcus’ twin brother is 6’10” and plays power forward. He averages 13.6 points per game and 8.4 rebounds.
Strengths: Kansas has the dynamic duo of the two Morris twins and great point guard leadership from junior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Brady Morningstar is also a phenomenal three-point shooter at 42 percent. Freshman Josh Selby is one of the best first-year players in the nation and adds to the Jayhawks’ outstanding depth. This team has great balance.
Weaknesses: Kansas is a finesse team. Their weaknesses were exposed when they lost to Texas earlier in the year and Tristan Thompson pushed bodies around. Even though Tyshawn Taylor is a good leader, he is inconsistent at the point and lacks a good jump shot. Also, the Morris twins are always battling foul trouble, so if teams can attack them early and cause them to miss minutes, the Jayhawks are very exposed.
The Ohio State Buckeyes
28-2, 15-2 in the Big 10
Jared Sullinger: He’s a 6’9″ forward who is considered by most to be the best freshman in the nation with averages of 17.1 points and almost 10 rebounds per game.
Jon Diebler: He’s a sharp-shooting two-guard who averages 12 points per game and shoots around 50 percent from behind the arc.
David Lighty: One of the few players left from the Greg Oden era, Lighty is a great senior who leads by example with 12 points per game.
Strengths: They have a great inside-out game with Sullinger drawing a lot of attention and then kicking the ball out to Diebler or Aaron Craft. If the three-point shot isn’t there then Sullinger can easily use his big body and nimble post moves to score on command. Ohio State can score from almost anywhere on the court and will be hard to defend in the month of March.
Weaknesses: It is hard to find weaknesses for the number one team in the nation. One critique though comes from their loss to Purdue. Their inability to play team defense against E’Twaun Moore as he went off on the Buckeyes for 38 points shows a potential shortcoming. Ohio State could be susceptible to the heroics of a superstar. Luckily for them, however, they will not have to face Jimmer Fredette until the Elite Eight at the earliest.