Selection Sunday will arrive soon. But we know you're looking beyond the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
You're checking on flights to Phoenix and searching for the last batch of hotel rooms in Arizona, while concocting the right excuse -- "My wife's uncle died, um, again" -- so you can miss work on the final weekend of March.
You're going to Glendale, Arizona, to watch your favorite squad in the Final Four!
Slow down. Because we have some bad news.
Your squad ain't going to the Final Four. Not happening.
So cancel the reservations and postseason plans. We're here to spoil them.
Here's why your team won't make the Final Four. (We looked only at this week's AP top 25, because, well, if you're outside that group you don't have any chance.)
1. Kansas Jayhawks
You know why we remember the dynamic athletes who carried their squads to national championships -- Kemba Walker, Shabazz Napier, Carmelo Anthony -- via captivating performances? Because they're so rare. Kansas relies on Frank Mason III, perhaps the favorite to win the Wooden Award, like the Oscars counted on PricewaterhouseCoopers prior to Sunday's show. Without Mason on the floor, Kansas makes just 48.3 percent of its free throws and commits turnovers on one-quarter of its possessions, per hooplens.com (entering the week). They're championship-level with Mason. Early exit if he stumbles.
2. Villanova Wildcats
Lightning rarely strikes twice in the one-and-done era. Sure, you can talk about the Florida Gators, who won back-to-back titles in 2006 and '07. But it makes more sense to discuss the eight consecutive programs that have won the national title since then and failed to reach the Final Four the following season. Nova's squad possesses the potential to defend its title. History suggests the Wildcats won't.
3. UCLA Bruins
Lonzo Ball and the UCLA Globetrotters -- I mean, Bruins -- have put on a show unlike any we've seen in recent years. But the soaring Bruins can't expect to reach the Final Four without a more consistent defensive effort. No team that finished outside the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency in the KenPom.com era, beginning in 2001-02, has won a national championship. North Carolina (2009) finished No. 21. And UCLA entered the week ranked 94th. That's an issue.
4. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Forget all the talk about the No. 1 seed (coach Mark Few's squad still deserves one). That's the wrong concern after Gonzaga's home loss to BYU on Saturday. The Cougars (1.05 points per possession) were more aggressive than they were effective. But the game also represented Gonzaga's first bout of real peril since a late-November, neutral-site win over Iowa State. A great boxer must spar with other contenders to stay fresh. And that's where Gonzaga's conference schedule becomes a problem. The ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East opponents that Gonzaga might see in the NCAA tournament have staged those battles each night for the last two months. They're in better fighting shape.
5. North Carolina Tar Heels
Yeah, this is a good North Carolina team that could secure a top seed. High ceiling, but the floor is lower than it was a year ago. Remember, this is the same team that lost at Georgia Tech by 12, even though the Yellow Jackets shot 3-for-11 from the 3-point line. The Tar Heels lost to Miami by 15. Five of their six losses, including Monday's 53-43 loss at Virginia, were by eight or more points. The Tar Heels bully teams inside, but on their worst days, their defense comes apart. Opponents score 1.17 points per possession in transition against UNC, according to Synergy Sports scouting data entering the week . Could happen again in March.
6. Oregon Ducks
In its Elite Eight loss to Oklahoma last year, Oregon star Dillon Brooks faced pressure every time he touched the ball. Oklahoma didn't exactly mask its plan to limit Brooks' touches and effectiveness. He finished 3-for-6 (0-for-2 on 3s) in a loss. When UCLA rebounded from a 19-point deficit to beat Oregon two weeks ago, Bruins coach Steve Alford told Lonzo Ball to shadow Brooks (7-for-17). The switch disrupted Oregon's offensive rhythm. Teams will do the same in the tourney since he's 12-for-31 in his team's losses this season.
7. Arizona Wildcats
Lauri Markkanen's acceleration into the NBA lottery conversation made sense after the 7-footer displayed a rare inside-outside touch. But the freshman has connected on just 5 of 26 3-point attempts in his last eight games. His funk is a great reminder of coach Sean Miller's complex task. Five of his top seven scorers are underclassmen. Yeah, some young teams have gone far. But many flop long before the Final Four.
8. Louisville Cardinals
Rick Pitino's team is like a python that squeezes opponents for 94 feet. And the Cardinals boast talented athletes such as Donovan Mitchell. They demonstrated their gifts in a 20-point win over Syracuse on Sunday. But that 0-for-5 stretch in the first half? That was Louisville's rickety offensive station wagon that misses a lot of free throws (66 percent from the charity stripe in ACC play) and encounters too many droughts. It's easy to imagine Pitino's team clanking its way to an early exit.
9. Kentucky Wildcats
Malik Monk (9-of-18) collected 33 points in Kentucky's 76-66 win over Florida on Saturday. He could lead Kentucky to a national title. But if the player who finished 4-for-14 in a 22-point loss in the first matchup against Florida shows up, how will Kentucky recover? Last year's Wildcats thought Jamal Murray could bail them out. And when he went 1-for-9 from the 3-point line in the second round against Indiana last season, Kentucky went home. Could happen again with Monk.
10. West Virginia Mountaineers
Yes, the Mountaineers entered the week leading the nation with a 29.3 percent defensive turnover rate. But losses to Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma (home), a near-loss to Texas Tech again (double overtime) and another should-have-lost outing at TCU on Saturday (questionable foul preceded game-winning free throw) didn't make anyone feel comfortable about WVU making a run to Glendale. In a tight game, who will hit big shots for the Mountaineers in March?
11. Baylor Bears
Fine. The November/December version of Baylor knocked off Louisville, Xavier, Oregon, Michigan State and VCU. But does anyone believe a Baylor squad that entered Monday's matchup against West Virginia after losing five of eight -- mimicking the late-season collapses of 2012, 2013 and last season -- will reach the Final Four? You think they're going to Glendale?
12. Florida Gators
Mike White is a serious contender for SEC Coach of the Year. Florida is one of America's top defensive teams. But Kevarrius Hayes drew four fouls as he tried to stop Kentucky's Bam Adebayo (18 points, 15 rebounds) on Saturday. With 6-foot-10 forward John Egbunu (1.5 BPG) sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, Florida may lack the interior depth to deal with the talented big men in the later rounds of the NCAA tournament.
13. Butler Bulldogs
Any squad that sweeps Villanova should not be dismissed from the Final Four conversation. But this barely top-50 defense surrendered 76 points in a loss to St. John's and 85 in a loss to Georgetown, a team surpassed only by DePaul as the Big East's worst offense, per KenPom.com. Butler's inconsistency is a problem.
14. SMU Mustangs
More people should talk about Semi Ojeleye and SMU. The Mustangs have won 25 games. But that record was amassed against a strength of schedule ranked 78th by the BPI in a conference ranked seventh. They've won just two games (Cincinnati, Houston) against opponents ranked in the top-40 of the BPI. Can they handle elite teams for three weeks in the NCAA tournament?
15. Florida State Seminoles
16. Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers have Caleb Swanigan, the nation's best big man. And they've made 41 percent of their 3-point attempts. But they squander possessions. They've committed turnovers on 18.5 percent of their possessions in Big Ten play. Swanigan committed 24 turnovers in Purdue's six losses. That's a major challenge in the NCAA tournament.
17. Duke Blue Devils
Does anyone know which Blue Devils will be available for the NCAA tournament? For three months, we've said, "Wait until Duke gets healthy." During a seven-game winning streak, we witnessed Duke's potential. And then, Grayson Allen missed Saturday's loss at Miami with an ankle injury. Sure, Duke at full strength is dangerous. But what are the chances the Blue Devils will get healthy, stay healthy and get hot in the NCAA tournament? Hasn't happened yet. Why then?
18. Cincinnati Bearcats
Well, the Bearcats scored 49 points in a Sunday loss to Central Florida. They scored just 51 in a loss to SMU. You can't count on Cincy and Kyle Washington (3-for-15 against UCF) to generate an offensive burst over a four-game stretch and reach the Final Four.
19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Is Notre Dame one of the most exciting and intriguing teams in America? Sure. But the Fighting Irish struggle to protect the rim and surrender an abundance of second-chance opportunities, a poor formula for a Final Four run.
20. Saint Mary's Gaels
21. Wichita State Shockers
The Shockers are stomping the Missouri Valley Conference in their attempt to woo the selection committee. In nonconference matchups against Michigan State, Louisville and Oklahoma State, however, they were outmatched. Markis McDuffie is a good player, but the Shockers don't have Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet to lead them past the best teams in the country and return to the Final Four.
22. Wisconsin Badgers
In the final minutes of Wisconsin's loss at Michigan State on Sunday, the Badgers kicked it out to Bronson Koenig and prayed he'd pull off another miracle. That's a problematic strategy for a team that's lost four of five and connected on just 33.3 percent of its 3-pointers in Big Ten play this season. Admit it -- you're not even sure these Badgers will win their first game in the NCAA tournament.
23. Virginia Cavaliers
You can't trust this team after halftime. Syracuse's come-from-behind win over Virginia on Feb. 4 represented a string of second-half collapses for coach Tony Bennett's team, which had lost six of nine games before Monday's win over North Carolina. Can't get to the Final Four if you struggle to sustain an effort for 40 minutes.
24. Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones, winners of five in a row, look good at the right time, and they have a road win over potential No. 1 overall seed Kansas. But every-shot-is-a-good-shot Deonte Burton is always lingering, waiting to sabotage undersized-but-efficient Deonte Burton (14.1 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.8 SPG, 39 percent on 3s in Big 12 play). Can they lead Iowa State to the Final Four?
25. Miami Hurricanes
Jim Larranaga is a veteran coach. Bruce Brown (25 points in Saturday's win over Duke) is a young star. But the Hurricanes have committed turnovers on nearly one-fifth of their possessions in league play. That sloppy ballhandling could send this talented team home early in the NCAA tournament.
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