Award winning cooks may have different personalities, experience and skills that set them apart from each other but they all bear a uniting common thread, a set of tools that lets them do their job. Whether a baker is making a cake, a cook is flipping a burger, or a chef is sauteing shrimp, they all need a kitchen with the right equipment to get the job done. Similarly NCAA teams who have their one shinning moment at the end of March make take different shapes and sizes but boil down to teams made of the same stuff. To help you fill out your bracket we’ve put on our Tar Heel Blue apron and written down our must have ingredients list to cook up this years NCAA Champion.
2 Cups Good Defense
People have been saying defense wins championships for years for a reason…right? Turns out the age old adage holds water when looking at previous tournament winners. Over the last five years 11 of the last 20 Final Four teams and 4 of the last 5 NCAA champions have finished the season in the top 50 in opponent field goal percentage (the lone exception being Duke in 2015).
This years defensive dynamos? Purdue, Gonzaga, Duke, Virginia, Michigan State and Cincinnati
1 Cup Winning Streak
Also commonly known as the “team of destiny”, the team that’s on a roll is the college that ended the season on an absolute tear. Bonus points for A) winning the conference championship and B) winning 4 or more games in 4+ Days. The last three years each NCAA runner up won their conference tournament and over the last four years six conference champions made a Final Four.
This years hot teams? Michigan (9 straight wins), Virginia (8 wins in a row), Cincinnati (7 wins in a row)
3 Tablespoons Experience
They say experience is the best teacher. Even with the one and done culture of college basketball, the sport still sees its fair share of seniors, especially late in the tournament. Each of the last five championship teams have had at least one major senior contributor on their roster.
Seniors to be on the lookout for this year: Jaylen Adams (St. Bonnaventure), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Joel Berry II (North Carolina) and Grayson Allen (Duke)
A Dash of Late Game Shot Making
College basketball, and especially the NCAA tournament frequently comes down to one shot for all the glory (see here for all the buzzer beats just this year). Even after all the practices and games a season can come down to a single do-or-die possession and it matters who has the ball in his hands.
Who do you not want to have the ball late against your team? Collin Sexton from Alabama scored 40 points this year in a game where his team played 3 on 5 due to multiple ejections, Oklahoma’s Trae Young leads the nation in both points and assists, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III has been the freshman sensation you wish your team had, and Kansas senior Devonte’ Graham had been the steady hand at the helm of an inconsistent team all year long.
The Final Product
A lot of factors go into a deep tourney run but several teams look like they have the right stuff. Watch out for Duke, North Carolina, Purdue and Virginia