While cinderellas and bracket busters are important, you also need to be wary of landmines that disguise themselves as top seeds. Here are a few top-seeded teams that you should consider avoiding when creating your March Madness brackets.
Auburn was running hot in the middle of the season, and despite relatively faltering late, Bruce Pearl’s Tigers still snatched up a solid seed. Any squad with two top-10 Player of the Year candidates is going to have a high ceiling. Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler are incredible talents, while Wendell Green and K.D. Johnson add scoring options in the backcourt.
Among the top seeds in the tournament, Auburn definetely has the most question marks. Away from The Jungle this season, Auburn has seriously struggled, falling to Florida, barely escaping Georgia, and losing to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament. Auburn might struggle on netural courts as well.
Another concern with the Tigers is their guard play. While Johnson and Green are talented, they aren’t able to carry this team by themselves. Time and time again this year, we have seen one of those two players try to take over and fail, punishing Auburn in the process. Will Pearl will be able to adjust his schemes and have a go-to play for Jabari Smith or Walker Kessler up his sleeve when it gets down to the nitty-gritty? This team has championship aspirations, but Auburn is also a candidate to be the first top-eight team to fall.
Oh man, what a talented and fun offense this Boilermakers team possesses. Jaden Ivey could be one of the most electric players to watch in the tournament, and with the combination of Ivey’s playmaking ability, Zach Edey’s size down low, sharpshooting wings, and impressive depth, Purdue can run any team out of the building.
Despite their lethal offense, however, we haven’t seen Purdue dominate many opponents. The Boilermakers’ 84-68 win over Illinois in February was impressive, but it was followed immediately by an 82-58 loss to Michigan in which they only averaged 0.94 points per possession.
Purdue has had some unlucky losses, with a couple of buzzer-beaters going against them. If a couple of bounces had gone their way, we’d be talking about Purdue as a clear 1 seed.
I’ve never trusted a team that is only offense, and Purdue is no exception. Their 102nd-ranked defense makes me doubt they can string together six straight wins. Still, there are about 20 teams in the championship tier, and Purdue is absolutely one of them. Ivey would have to go nuclear, and Purdue’s defense would seriously have to step up for the Boilermakers to cut down the nets in New Orleans.
While there was a lot of turnover from last year’s championship team, head coach Scott Drew has done a phenomenal job at bringing the newbies up to speed and having another successful campaign.
The Bears are vigilant on the glass and can spread any defense thin with the number of offensive weapons they possess. James Akinjo, Adam Flagler, and Matthew Mayer lead the ninth-ranked offense in the nation, shooting 67.8% near the hoop. Baylor transitions well and forces a high percentage of turnovers.
The uncertanties with this team are mostly about their injuries. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchuoa is done for the season, and it looks as if LJ Cryer is unlikely to return unless Baylor makes a deep tournament run. In the first Big 12 Tournament game we saw Baylor struggle, as the Bears fell to Oklahoma 72-67.
The loss of Cryer limits Baylor’s offensive abilities, and “Everyday Jon” was a rebounding machine, which is much needed for this team. The rest of the team will have to soak up the lost minutes, and with a quick turnaround, fatigue may show, especially in a second-round game.
The ceiling is still high for Drew and Co. This team still has the ingredients needed to cut down the nets in April. It’s just not clear whether this crew has fully adjusted to the losses of two playmakers, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see an early exit from this Bears team.
Duke Blue Devils
For a team as ridiculously talented as this Duke squad is, their underachievement this season is shocking. A team with this many five-star recruits, the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski should have been a 1 seed.
Instead, Duke ended up on the 2-line with some pretty tough losses – two in Quad II plus a Quad III loss as well. The Blue Devils had impressive wins against Kentucky and Gonzaga. Buut both of those wins were in November, and Duke seems to only have gotten worse since.
This team is incredibly young (343rd in the nation in age), and their nerves seemed to show in Coach K’s last game in Cameron Indoor. That high-stakes, high-intensity atmosphere will repeat itself in every tournament game. I am not confident this team can handle the pressure, especially after a down year for the ACC brought down their strength of schedule. If Duke can put it all together and continue to force turnovers, the sky’s the limit. The Blue Devils are the only ones who will hold themselves back in March.