NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament Semifinal-Pittsburgh vs North Carolina

It's been 48 years since Indiana completed the last perfect season in college basketball in 1975-76. The Hoosiers, led by Bob Knight, were about as good as it gets. Of their 32 wins, 21 came by double digits. They beat the reigning FIBA World Championship-winning Soviet Union team by 16 in a preseason exhibition and followed that up by pounding reigning NCAA Tournament champion UCLA by 20 in the season opener. They won the NCAA title game vs. Michigan by 18.

The record may have been perfect, but the team wasn't. Just like every team, it had flaws. Unlike any other team since, though, those flaws never cost them a game.

Fast-forward to this year, and even though a top three of UConn, Houston and Purdue seems to have emerged, all three have their warts -- the things that can be exposed in any given game and send them home. It's the nature of the beast. Championships come down to which teams can hide or overcome their flaws best.

Clock is ticking for Brackets! Play for a Nissan Rogue and Final Four® trips by joining our Men's and Women's Challenges.

So, what fatal flaw could cost the top contenders for this year's title? And which teams, exactly, could take advantage of those weaknesses? Here's where you'll want to be extra mindful when picking those top seeds.

Note: All specific play type and per-possession numbers via Synergy Sports

UConn: No. 1 seed in East

Potential fatal flaw: 3-point defense

When a team goes 31-3, has the nation's best offense and top-dozen defense, terrific shooting, ample depth and championship experience up and down the roster and at head coach, it's hard to find a real "fatal flaw." I searched hard.

The Huskies, of course, aren't perfect. One thing that could be worrisome is 3-point defense. The Huskies allow 32% shooting from deep, 82nd in the country. That's still a really good number! But it's basically the only major category where they're not in the top 50. When looking at UConn's losses, Creighton hit 14 of 28 from deep, Seton Hall three of eight, and Kansas -- an awful shooting team -- nine of 14. Furthermore, UConn ranks in the fifth percentile defending spot-up possessions, but they are terrific at not allowing many of those opportunities

Every once in a while, you run into a hot team.  In a single-elimination tournament, that's scary. But that's the beauty of the tournament.

Teams that could take advantage:

  • Second round: (9) Florida Atlantic produced the 12th-best offensive shot quality in D-I, per, and shot 36% on 3-pointers.
  • Beyond: (3) Illinois has scored 704 points on spot-up possessions, 51st in Division I, and has an outstanding offense overall.

Get every pick, every play, every upset and fill out your bracket with our help! Visit SportsLine now to see which teams will make and break your bracket, and see who will cut down the nets, all from the model that beat over 92% of CBS Sports brackets players three of the last five years.

Houston: No. 1 seed in South

Potential fatal flaw: Shooting

Houston is exactly who it is seemingly every year. The Cougars have a great, experienced guard (or two, or three), play hellacious defense and crash the glass like their lives depend on it. Which, in the NCAA Tournament, it does.

This Houston team, though, can't shoot. Like really can't shoot. The Cougars' effective field goal percentage, which adjusts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2-pointers, is 49.7%. That's 229th in the nation. Houston still managed a top-20 offensive efficiency because they get so many extra opportunities, but even those putbacks haven't been as productive as they once were. At 1.114 points per putback possession, the Cougars ranked 174th in the nation.

No one will keep Kelvin Sampson's team off the offensive boards entirely. When there are so many misses, there are offensive rebounding opportunities. What teams need to do, rather, is limit second chances as well as possible and stand firm when the Cougars do get them. 

Teams that could take advantage:

  • Second round: (9) Texas A&M had the top rebounding rate both offensively (39.1%) and defensively (72.2%) in SEC play.
  • Beyond: (12) James Madison had the top rebounding rate in Sun Belt play (75.5%) and is excellent defending the pick and roll (eighth in the country in points per possession allowed), the Cougars' most oft-used play.

Purdue: No. 1 seed in Midwest

Potential fatal flaw: Off-ball defending

In 2019, one year after losing to a No. 16 seed, Virginia lost in the semifinals of its conference tournament, raising doubts about its March abilities. The Cavaliers then won it all.

In 2024, one year after losing to a No. 16 seed, Purdue lost in the semifinals of its conference tournament, raising doubts about its March abilities. Will the Boilermakers complete the redemption arc?

Purdue's offense is awesome: fourth in the country in efficiency. Throwing it into the post and letting Zach Edey work may be an anomaly among more modern-day attacks, but Edey is so efficient that he makes up for it and then some. Purdue also shoots 41% from 3-point range, second-best in the country. It's a ruthless inside-out attack.

But while the defense is very good, it isn't great. The Boilermakers force very few turnovers, and perimeter defense is a major worry, as they tend to lose cutters. They allowed 1.247 points per possession on these plays, tied for 288th nationally. Ohio State took full advantage when it upset the Boilermakers in late February.

Teams that could take advantage:

  • Second round: (8) Utah State scores 9.5 points per game on cuts, 42nd in Division I, and its turnover woes would be minimized against a team that doesn't press the issue.
  • Beyond: (5) Gonzaga scores 1.342 point per possession on cuts, 22nd in Division I, and in Graham Ike, the Bulldogs have a strong, experienced interior presence who can at least try to disrupt Edey.

West: North Carolina

Potential fatal flaw: Shooting and efficient shot selection

It may seem strange to give North Carolina a similar potential fatal flaw to Houston. The Tar Heels aren't nearly as bad shooting as the Cougars, but they're still not great: 145th nationally in effective field goal percentage. They're fine outside the arc -- 35% is solid if not spectacular -- but not great inside the arc at just 50% (174th in D-I). Furthermore, the Tar Heels take a lot of inefficient shots: they were 242nd in's rim & 3 rate.

So how does that translate to a potential fatal flaw? First, the Tar Heels want to be able to run and create easy and efficient looks, something RJ Davis has done very well this season. Second, they want to avoid good rebounding teams who can neutralize the Tar Heels' strength on the offensive glass (33% offensive rebounding rate in ACC play, best in the conference).

Teams that could take advantage:

  • Second round: (9) Michigan State allowed the fewest transition points in the country (220) and owns a top-10 defensive efficiency.
  • Beyond: (5) Saint Mary's allowed the third-fewest transition points in the country (241), plays at the nation's fifth-slowest pace and is an elite rebounding team (third in offensive rebounding rate, second in defensive rebounding rate).