Settle In With 68 NCAA Tournament Facts

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on March 16th, 2017

March is complicated. What follows is an attempt to make some sense of the madness and to give you solid statistical grounding in order to justify your decisions. That way, when your bracket is ruined, it will be because of bad luck rather than bad process. Here are 68 important statistical facts about the NCAA Tournament, mostly based around potential match-ups. Data has been gathered from, hooplens, hoop-math and

The First Four Whetted Our Appetite — Now It’s Time to Get Serious (USA Today Images)

  1. Even though Maryland is the #6 seed against Xavier, the Musketeers have a better KenPom ranking and are favored to win the game.
  2. However, since point guard Edmond Sumner was injured 10 games ago, Xavier has been giving up more threes at a higher percentage. With a 3PA/FGA of 40.8, compared to the Division I average of 36.4, Maryland is heavily reliant on the three-ball.
  3. Baylor’s opponents have an assist rate of 58.2 percent, second highest in the field. SMU’s assist rate of 62.5 percent ranks sixth in the field and 10th nationally.
  4. Creighton attempts a larger proportion (34.2%) of its initial field goals in transition than any other team in the field. The Bluejays’ opponent, Rhode Island, allows opponents to shoot just 20.1 percent of their attempts in transition, the fourth lowest mark in the field.
  5. Rhode Island also allows opponents to earn just 21.3 percent of their points from three-pointers. The Bluejays tend to rely on the three, getting 32.0 percent of their points from beyond the arc.
  6. Saint Mary’s is ranked 14th on KenPom and VCU is ranked 50th, resulting in the site giving the Gaels a 71 percent chance of winning their game.
  7. West Virginia relies on forcing turnovers, but possible Second Round opponent Notre Dame has the lowest turnover rate in the country and Princeton has the 11th-lowest.
  8. Kansas and Iowa State played each other twice this season. Each team won once on the other’s home floor, and the combined score of the two games was 165-164 in favor of the Jayhawks.
  9. But Nevada could be a good match-up with Iowa State, as the Wolfpack are an above average rebounding team, while the Cyclones — with only one regular standing above 6’5” — are below average in both categories.
  10. Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado averages 4.9 offensive rebounds per game, leading the nation. Arkansas ranks 326th nationally in defensive rebounding rate.
  11. Led by Reggie Lynch, Minnesota has a block rate of 16.2 percent, third-best nationally. Middle Tennessee, though, ranks fifth in the country in avoiding blocks, at 5.8 percent.
  12. The three most experienced teams in the field are Iowa State, East Tennessee State and Arkansas.
  13. Despite playing the 87th toughest schedule in college basketball (i.e., above average), SMU has lost just one game since November.
  14. Kentucky gets into transition often and shoots 50 percent of its transition shots at the rim. Both Dayton and Wichita State defend transition well, though, with the Flyers allowing the sixth-fewest transition attempts in the nation (with just 37% of those at the rim).
  15. Villanova relies heavily on the three-point shot, with a 44.1 3PA/FGA that ranks 25th-highest in college basketball. Florida and Duke have the 32nd and seventh lowest opponent 3PA/FGA marks in the country.
  16. Oklahoma State and Michigan rank first and fifth in offensive efficiency, respectively. Projected Second Round opponent Louisville is sixth in defensive efficiency, however.
  17. Oklahoma State has also played the toughest schedule in the nation, per KenPom.
  18. Besides 2014 Connecticut, the National Champion has ranked among the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency since 2002. The teams that fit this category this year are Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Wichita State, Kentucky, St. Mary’s and Oregon.
  19. Wisconsin seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes have already played in 14 NCAA Tournament games in their careers.
  20. Attempting nearly equal amounts of twos and threes, Vanderbilt is the most prolific three-point shooting team in the field. Northwestern has an average three-point defense.
  21. Neither Vermont nor Princeton have lost in 2017.
  22. Iona’s Jordan Washington ranks second in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, at 9.0 per game. But Oregon center Jordan Bell generally stays out of foul trouble.
  23. UCLA ranks 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency. The last team ranked below 60th to make the Final Four was VCU in 2011.
  24. Wisconsin and Villanova both allow opponents to launch it from deep, as each gives up well above the Division I average of their proportion of points from threes.
  25. Florida State was 7-8 in road and neutral games this season.
  26. Arizona has actually fallen six spots from #15 to #20 in KenPom’s rankings since sophomore star Allonzo Trier returned from suspension.
  27. Rhode Island is 10-8 when E.C. Matthews delivers an offensive rating below his average of 106.7 and 14-1 when he delivers above that average. Matthews is playing well lately—he won the Atlantic 10 Tournament MVP Award last weekend.
  28. Creighton’s offense has fallen from seventh nationally to 32nd without point guard Mo Watson, and they are 4-8 against KenPom top 100 competition since his injury.
  29. Oklahoma State attempts 32.1 percent of its shots in transition, 20th most in the country. Michigan’s opponents shoot in transition just 21.3 percent of the time, though, tied for 63rd-leasat in the country.
  30. East Tennessee State turns opponents over at the 19th highest rate in the country. Florida has only played two opponents among the top 50 in turnovers forced, South Carolina and St. Bonaventure, where the Gators turned it over on 23.3 percent of possessions (well above the Division I average of 18.6 percent).
  31. UNC-Wilmington attempts 31.0 percent of its shots in transition, 25th most in the country. Virginia ranks 53rd in college basketball in keeping opponents out of transition and plays at the slowest pace in the country.
  32. Oklahoma State’s Phil Forte III is shooting 95.1 percent from the free throw line and has made his last 22 attempts.
  33. At 59.5 percent, UCLA is on pace to have the best effective field goal percentage in the sport since Florida in 2008.
  34. North Carolina’s 42.0 percent offensive rebounding rate is 1.9 points better than Wagner. Since 2002, only Minnesota in 2013 and Old Dominion in 2010 have separated themselves by such a wide margin.
  35. North Carolina is only 9-6 when its offensive rebounding rate dips below 40 percent. Likely Second Round opponent Seton Hall’s defensive rebounding rate is 35th in the country; the only other team in their region with a top 50 rate is Wichita State, which ranks seventh.
  36. Kansas’ thin frontcourt was not at full strength in two of its losses, as Josh Jackson missed the defeat to TCU and Carlton Bragg missed the defeat to Iowa State.
  37. The two chinks in Louisville’s sixth rated defense are its defensive rebounding rate (152nd) and its opponent free throw rate (269th). Kansas ranks 34th in offensive rebounding rate and 139th in free throw rate; Oregon is 75th and 208th.
  38. SMU allows opponents to shoot threes 45.4 percent of the time, seventh highest in the country. Luckily for them, neither USC nor Baylor shoots threes especially often or well. Possible Sweet Sixteen opponent Duke does, though.
  39. Villanova and Virginia already played each other once this season, with the Wildcats winning by a single bucket at home. Given their home court advantage, though, this game was essentially even.
  40. Middle Tennessee State is ranked 46th in KenPom. In the last four years, teams seeded #12 or above and ranked below 50th in KenPom have gone 6-1 in the First Round.
  41. Further helping the odds of a Middle Tennessee upset is that Minnesota is the lowest ranked #5 seed at 33rd.
  42. Michigan’s offense gets the headlines, but its defense has risen from 149th to 69th in efficiency since February 4.
  43. Michigan State is one of four teams in the country with offensive and defensive turnover rates above 300th nationally, giving the Spartans easily the worst proportion of turnover rates in the tournament.
  44. Virginia’s offense has fallen from 13th on January 26th to 37th today.
  45. Texas Southern plays four players under six feet tall, and has played 108 possessions this season with three on the court at the same time.
  46. UNC Wilmington’s Devontae Cacok set the all-time field goal percentage record at 78.9 percent. He was 16-of-17 from the field in the recent SoCon Tournament.
  47. Kansas State ranks 31st in defensive efficiency. Cincinnati is 4-5 against teams in the top 50 in defensive efficiency and 25-0 against everyone else.
  48. Despite having the fourth highest assist rate in college basketball, Purdue suffers a steals allowed rate at 231st nationally. Iowa State boasts the 22nd highest steal rate in the country, while Vermont and Nevada are around the Division I average.
  49. Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss raised his 124.4 offensive rating to 132.2 in the Zags’ 10 games against top 100 competition.
  50. It’s a good year to be a #1 seed. The average KenPom ranking of the #8 and #9 seeds is 38th, while the average ranking of the #7s and #10s is 27th.
  51. Butler has given up 112.5 points per possession in its losses, well above its unadjusted average of 101.5. Of the Bulldogs’ possible opponents, only Middle Tennessee (and later North Carolina) have top 50 offenses.
  52. Kentucky has struggled to score in four of its five losses, averaging just 0.95 points per possession. Both Wichita State and Dayton have top 50 defenses.
  53. Kentucky and UCLA already played once this year, with the Bruins winning by five points in Rupp Arena.
  54. Can Louisville consistently make shots? The Cards have shot under 30 percent from three-point range 11 times and are 3-8 in those games; (Oklahoma State, by contrast, has only done that once).
  55. Villanova, an average rebounding team, has given up above the Division I average of offensive rebounds in its losses and close wins. Of possible opponents, SMU and Baylor both rank among the top 10 in offensive rebounding rate.
  56. The only players in the NCAA Tournament averaging more than 20 points per game are Luke Kennard (Duke), Malik Monk (Kentucky), Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina) and Keon Johnson (Winthrop).
  57. Winthrop’s Keon Johnson, in addition to being the Tournament’s highest incoming scorer at 22.5 PPG, is also its shortest player, at 5’7”.
  58. Notre Dame has given up above the Division I average of offensive rebounds to opponents 20 times this season and has gone 12-8 in those games (13-1 in all others). Princeton and Bucknell are both well below average in this category, but West Virginia ranks seventh nationally.
  59. It’s hard to find a flaw in Gonzaga’s 32-1 season, but the Zags struggled with turnovers in  two close games and their loss to BYU. West Virginia is the only team in their region with an elite turnover rate.
  60. In the previous three years, the highest rated #14 seed on KenPom has pulled off the upset. This year, that honor goes to New Mexico State, ranked 88th.
  61. In addition, New Mexico State has the 18th highest offensive rebounding rate in the country and the 10th highest free throw rate. Baylor ranks 62nd in the country at limiting opponents’ free throws, but is 200th in defensive rebounding rate.
  62. Florida State is the tallest team in the field, with Arizona a close second.
  63. Since forward Chris Clarke got injured, Virginia Tech has shot threes 45 percent of the time, which would rank 17th in the country over a full season. The Hokies shoot the ninth best percentage in the country from beyond the arc.
  64. Kentucky and UCLA play the two fastest tempos in the NCAA Tournament field.
  65. Virginia and St. Mary’s play the two slowest tempos in the NCAA Tournament field.
  66. South Carolina, Rhode Island and Oklahoma State are the most foul-prone teams in the field.
  67. Currently sitting at 79.9 percent from the free throw line, Notre Dame has a chance to become the first team to shoot above 80 percent from the line since Damian Lillard’s Weber State team in 2012.
  68. In case you had forgotten, a #16 seed has never beaten a #1 seed.
William Ezekowitz (27 Posts)

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One response to “Settle In With 68 NCAA Tournament Facts”

  1. Matt B says:

    For #18, that statistic refers to POST-tourney KenPom ranks. UConn in 2014 is still the only team to enter the tournament with an adjusted offensive efficiency outside the top 25, but Syracuse in 2003, UNC in 2009, and Duke in 2015 all entered the tourney with an adjusted defensive efficiency in the 30’s.

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