With Selection Sunday a few weeks away, I am looking at potential March Madness trap games for each of the top five teams in the AP Poll. For it to be considered a "trap game," the opponent has to be outside the most recent AP top ten.
Gonzaga and Baylor have been hands-down the two best teams in college basketball. While this is nit-picky, there is definitely a big reason behind this. Gonzaga is leading the country by scoring 93.1 points per game. According to KenPom, Tennessee is third in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. This is no accident, as they have shut down potential NCAA Tournament teams in Colorado, Missouri, and Kansas.
The key to stopping Gonzaga is shutting down the frontcourt duo of Corey Kispert and Drew Timme. Tennessee is a small team as they have recently been starting 6'6" Yves Pons at center. They are holding teams to just under thirty percent from three, which will play a big part in stopping 49% three-point shooter Corey Kispert Tennessee is a team that can beat you in so many ways. With the recent emergence of freshmen, Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer, and five other players averaging over 8.5 points per game, this team could give a Gonzaga team headaches.
Baylor: Texas Tech
Another very difficult choice, but Texas Tech has come the closest to beating Baylor this year. They play a tough, no-middle style of defense, which gives a lot of teams headaches. Baylor averages a mediocre 12.4 turnovers per game. Texas Tech forces 16.9 turnovers per game. With Baylor forcing 18.5 turnovers per game, this could get extremely sloppy.
For Texas Tech to pull off the upset, they would need to shut down Baylor's terrific trio of guards Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, and Davion Mitchell. As a team, Baylor is shooting almost 44% from behind the arc, and that will have to be Texas Tech's main focus point on defense. Mac McClung has been the main offensive contributor for Texas Tech and will need to play well for his team to win. They will also need contributions from Kyler Edwards, Kevin McCullar, and Marcus Santos-Silva. If all goes right, Texas Tech could pull an upset over one of the favorites.
One of the biggest surprises of the season has been Michigan's dominance in the Big Ten. At the top of both the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings, Michigan seems impossible to stop. The only knock on Michigan is their inability to force turnovers. Iowa is averaging only 9.4 turnovers per game while forcing 12 per game.
One of the most encouraging signs for Iowa has been Joe Wieskamp's emergence, which has taken a lot of pressure off of Wooden Award candidate center Luka Garza. Hunter Dickinson, the center for Michigan, will be tasked with guarding him for the game. The one problem with that is, Michigan has had a bit of trouble guarding centers that can shoot three-pointers. For Iowa to win this game, they are going to need to get their trio of Jordan Bohannon, Joe Wieskamp, and Luka Garza going, especially from behind the arc.
Ohio State: Florida State
Ohio State has been another surprise team to come out of the Big Ten. The 17-4 Buckeyes are surging right now and are on a six-game winning streak. They are a team that does virtually everything right on the offensive side of the ball. Florida State is a very deep, lengthy team that loves to play their full-court press, which could cause issues for Ohio State.
The main thing you need to do against Ohio State is to stop big man EJ Liddell. Florida State has the perfect counter for him in 6'8" 260-pound Raiquan Gray, who is drawing comparisons to Draymond Green. The smallest player in Florida State's rotation is 6'4" Rayquan Evans. This length, to go along with leading scorer MJ Walker. could be enough to stop Ohio State's guard tandem of Duane Washington Jr. and CJ Walker along with EJ Liddell.
Illinois: West Virginia
This would be a very intriguing matchup if both of these teams met in March. Illinois is shooting a very high 39% from three, but West Virginia is only allowing 31% of their opponents' three-pointers to hit. Illinois has won the turnover battle in only 10 of their 19 games. West Virginia is forcing 14 turnovers per game and committing 12. In this hypothetical game, whoever wins the turnover battle should have a good chance of winning the game.
Illinois has a dynamic duo of Wooden Award candidate guard Ayo Dosunmu and 7-foot 280-pound center Kofi Cockburn. West Virginia has a dynamic guard-center tandem as well in Miles McBride and Derek Culver. Both McBride and Culver have been hitting their stride lately and are making West Virginia look very dangerous. Derek Culver might be the only player in the tournament that can guard Kofi in the post. This matchup is screaming for an upset for Illinois
I hope you liked the article. Should I do a part 2 with the next 5 teams? Let me know in the comments!