Pretend you know stuff: NCAA hoops FAQ

Expect to see a lot of defense, rebounding and flailing about in the NCAA tournament. Randy Sartin/USA TODAY Sports

College basketball conference tournaments have started. It’s time for casual college basketball fans to get informed about the season because one week from now we’ll all be filling out our NCAA tournament brackets and pretending we know stuff.

Don’t wait until Selection Sunday to become an expert! You can begin wowing your friends and co-workers with knowledge immediately thanks to this handy FAQ guide on the college basketball season.

Is Kentucky going to win the national championship again this year?

Ha! No. No way. Wow. You really haven’t paid attention at all, huh? Kentucky is actually pretty bad this season. They’ve hit double-digits in the loss column and lost to Tennessee by 30 and to Georgia by 10.

On the other hand, they beat ranked Ole Miss and just knocked off Florida. So who knows -- if they make it to the NCAA tournament, maybe they’ll win the whole thing. That’s how it feels for every team this year. Except maybe 20-loss Liberty University, which just won the Big South tournament. It realistically can probably make it only to the Final Four.

Who is a dark horse I should keep my eye on?

All of the teams are dark horses. You know how athletes always like to say that “no one believes in us,” even though hundreds of thousands of fans do believe in them -- and prove it via big-money wagers, tattoos and intelligent message board posts? This year in college basketball you could legitimately make the case that no one believes in any team. Nor should they.

No matter who wins the national title, it will be surprising because that team will have looked pretty bad at points during the season.

Who knows, we may even see a No. 16 seed finally upset a No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament. Why? Because most every team in the tournament, even the top-seeded teams, will deserve about a No. 9 seed. Building a seeded bracket from this year’s crop of teams will be like trying to find the best cuts of meat from the bedside bucket of a guy who got food poisoning at a steakhouse.

Duke, North Carolina and Kansas are probably still good, though, right?

Eh. North Carolina isn’t ranked and lost twice to Duke this season. It’ll still make the tournament, though. Kansas is ranked in the top 10 and is so good that head coach Bill Self last month called his club the “worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor” in the history of the program. Duke is fairly good, though, and got a big boost to its NCAA title hopes on Saturday when Lehigh got eliminated from the Patriot League tournament.

What about mid-majors? Who should I keep my eye on?

Gonzaga, VCU, Butler, Creighton, Saint Mary’s and Bucknell will all be tough.

So the same mid-majors as always. Why don’t they just form a basketball power conference?

Basketball power conference. Good one. The NCAA doesn’t really do basketball conferences anymore.

Oh, right. I forget: Does the Big East still exist?

Yes! In fact, this week is its last conference tournament at Madison Square Garden under the current "classic" conference construction. The Catholic 7/new Big East will continue to play its tournament there, however, making Madison Square Garden the mecca of faith-based basketball.

Is that a Knicks joke?


If the Big East is falling apart, and North Carolina and Kentucky are down, where should I look for good basketball?

The Big Ten?

Ah, come on. I like offense. Who has the best offense in the country?

Ooof. Tough break. You know how in football different offenses come along -- the spread, the Wildcat, the pistol, etc. -- and become all the rage? Well, it’s the same in college basketball right now, only the hot new offense is no offense at all. The most innovative teams hurl the ball at the rim and hope a tall person can get a rebound and then place the ball inside the hoop.

Northwestern State of the Southland Conference leads the nation in scoring at 82.4 points per game and Indiana -- out of the B1G! -- is third at 80.8 points per game. But the average college basketball game this season is similar to when your gym teacher rolled out the giant inflatable ball for crab soccer day: There’s just a bunch of people flailing around wildly and any scoring seems to be completely by accident. It looks as though there is little skill involved and you just hope no one gets hurt. Oh, and in this analogy, your gym class’ smelly kid is the SEC.

Defense then. Who plays good defense?

Florida, Pitt, Wisconsin and Georgetown all play good defense. Other teams just rely on the rim to block shots. And the rim has been doing a very good job of it. In fact, the rim might get taken No. 1 overall in the NBA draft.

You seem to be saying there’s a lot of bad basketball this season. So who is the worst team in the country?

Grambling State plays in the SWAC, a conference with only three teams with winning records, yet it went 0-27 on the season. That’s pretty bad. Outside of Grambling State, I’d say the worst team in the country is the No. 1-ranked team. It always loses.

It can’t really be this bad. There have to be some positive stories. What team has made the best turnaround this season?

Last year’s Grambling State was Towson. The Tigers set the Division I record for consecutive losses and finished the season 1-31. This year they’re in second place in the highly competitive CAA.

Wow! Amazing! They could really do some damage in the NCAA tournament and be this year’s Cinderella, huh?

Oh, definitely. If the program wasn’t banned from the postseason for poor Academic Progress Scores.

Ah, jeez. This sounds horrible. Should I even bother watching the postseason?

What the ... Of course you should! The first four days of the NCAA tournament remain the best days on the sports calendar, regardless of the season. This year’s tournament will be the most exciting ever, too!

What? Why?

Because it won’t just be game-winning shots that are exciting. Any made shot will be unexpected and exciting.