College basketball: Seven team trends to count on this season
Although personnel changes from season-to-season, forcing coaches to adapt schemes and strategy, certain stylistic characteristics remain constant regardless who is wearing the uniform.
For example, scoring inside against a John Calipari coached Kentucky squad will be difficult. The Wildcats have finished in the top 11 in the nation in 2-point field goal percentage allowed in six of Calipari’s seven seasons. With another deep cache of tall, long, athletic options in the frontcourt, expect Kentucky to match its past success.
MARCH MADNESS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
JOIN THE TEAM.
Come tipoff of the 2016-17 college basketball season, don’t expect the DNA of these teams to change much either.
Belmont will let 3-pointers fly
Coach Rick Byrd and the Bruins have been playing small, fast and chucking 3-pointers since the current Golden State Warriors were in grade school.
Making the nets sing fits fine in Music City. It has produced 20 wins in 10 of 11 seasons, seven NCAA tournament appearances and a near first-round upset of Duke in the 2009 NCAAs.
Last season, 50.4 percent of Belmont’s field goal attempts were 3-pointers (4th in the nation) and it returns all but one rotation player so fans will be counting by threes yet again.
Davidson will have an elite offense
The Wildcats burst onto the national scene in 2007 and 2008, thanks to a talented guard named Curry. To be expected, the program endured two middling years after Curry departed. Since, they’ve emerged as a consistent, efficient offensive juggernaut. Davidson stunned the A-10 conference by winning the 2015 regular season title in its first season as a member.
A year ago, Davidson recorded an adjusted offensive efficiency of 113.1 to finish top 40 in the nation for the fifth consecutive season.
The return of A-10 scoring leader Jack Gibbs and addition of versatile 6-11 forward Will Magarity should make the Wildcats cuts, screens and shooters difficult to defend once more.
Duke will take away the 3-point line
The 3-point shot can build momentum for an offense. It can ignite fans at home or silence fans on the road. The best way to limit an opponent’s 3-point production is to limit the amount of 3-point shots they attempt. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski subscribes to this theory. Each of his last 15 teams has been top 25 in the nation in percentage of 3-point attempts allowed, with 10 Duke teams ranking in the top 10.
Extending pressure beyond the arc has made the Blue Devils vulnerable inside (100th or worse in 2-pointers seven of last nine years) at times, but it’s a trade coach K is willing to make.
Temple will protect the basketball
The Owls have earned an NCAA tournament bid in seven of coach Fran Dunphy’s 10 seasons, winning 21 games or more on eight occasions. Strong ball control has been the cornerstone of Temple’s success.
It has ranked in the top 50 nationally in turnover rate in eight seasons and been particularly steady of late, finishing top five the last two seasons. Josh Brown, 10th in the nation in assist-turnover ratio (3.5) last season, returns to play point guard. He should help keep Temple’s turnovers to a minimum.
Villanova will make free throws
The Wildcats were an exciting, dynamic unit that played exquisite basketball down the stretch to win the second national championship in program history. Fouling them was a bad idea. ‘Nova hit 78.2 percent at the free throw line, which was 2nd in the nation. On their march to the title, the Wildcats became sharper, hitting 63 of 74 (85.1 percent) in the last four victories over Miami, Kansas, Oklahoma and UNC.
Villanova must replace gritty point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who shot 84 percent, but returns five rotation regulars who hit at least 75 percent of free throw attempts.
William & Mary will shoot a high percentage
Tribe coach Tony Shaver has led the program to three straight 20-win seasons, which had not happened in Williamsburg since 1951. The next goal is the first NCAA tournament bid in school history and the Tribe should again have the requisite shooters to contend for the Colonial Athletic Association’s automatic bid.
The Tribe spreads four sharpshooters around the perimeter and forces opponents to step out and defend. W&M has had an effective field goal percentage of 53.6 or better each of the last four seasons, finishing top 25 or better each year.
Watch out for Connor Burchfield, who shot 57 percent on 3-pointers and 68 percent on 2-pointers in limited action last season.
West Virginia will hammer the offensive glass
Coaches don’t come much tougher than Bob Huggins, leader of the Mountaineers. So, it makes sense his teams thrive under the backboards, where bodies clash, elbows fly and only the strong emerge with the ball. West Virginia has been especially tenacious on the offensive glass.
No team in the country hauled down more of their own misses (42 percent) than the Mountaineers did last season. It was the sixth time West Virginia has finished top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage in Huggins’ nine seasons. This squad should prove whether the elite rebounding is a product of personnel or the system. Leading rebounders Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton have departed.