Rushed Reactions: #5 Maryland 73, #13 Hawaii 60

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregionKenny Ocker is at the Spokane pods of the South and West regionals this week.

Three Key Takeaways.

Maryland Moves Into the Sweet Sixteen for the First Time Since 2003 (USA Today Images)

Maryland Moves Into the Sweet Sixteen for the First Time Since 2003 (USA Today Images)

  1. The run Maryland went on is the stuff of champions: The Terrapins trailed 41-39 midway through the second half before Diamond Stone finished off a lob. Jake Layman then slammed home a breakaway jam. And Melo Trimble pulled up on a fast break to hit the Terps’ first three-pointer after 15 misses. From that point on, the game was over. The 16-1 run took what had been a competitive game and turned it into a blowout – and Hawaii never got within 10 points again.
  2. The Terrapins are still very frustrating: That second-half run should never have been necessary. Two days after doing its best to squander a 17-point second-half lead to South Dakota State, Maryland sleepwalked through 30 minutes of Sunday afternoon’s affair. Until waking up for the second-half run, it seemed like another showing of squandered talent by coach Mark Turgeon’s squad. When you have NBA shoo-ins like Stone and Trimble and another player in Rasheed Sulaimon who will likely get a look, it’s inexplicable to keep lesser-talented teams in the game again and again. Why there’s not at least one ball screen – if not two, three or four more – set for Trimble on each play, the world may never know.
  3. It’s a real bummer Hawaii won’t be in the NCAA Tournament next year: The Rainbow Warriors worked hard, hustling to as many rebounds as they could get their hands on all weekend, and they play fun, energetic basketball. But first-year coach Eran Ganot inherited a postseason ban for next year and loses two scholarships for each of the next two seasons, thanks to improprieties under former coach Gib Arnold’s regime. But Hawaii will always have its upset win over #4 seed California on Friday, the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament win, and the first by a team currently in the Big West since 1990.

Star of the Game: Maryland sophomore point guard Melo Trimble. His three-pointer – the Terps’ only successful conversion in 18 tries – changed the game. His 24 points led all scorers. He made 13 of his 14 free throws. He grabbed eight rebounds. He had three assists.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Oklahoma 85, #10 VCU 81

Posted by Czech Smith on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Buddy Was Just Doing Buddy Things in Today's Second Half (USA Today Images)

Buddy Was Just Doing Buddy Things in Today’s Second Half (USA Today Images)

  1. Oklahoma is legit, even without Buddy Hield at his best. I mentioned Friday that the Sooners were going to have to play better as a team if they were going to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, and they certainly did that today. Hield’s uncharacteristic airballed three-pointer at the start (he would airball yet another later in the game) was a good indication that he was somewhat off his game. The rest of the Sooners stepped up for him in a big way to give the team a 13-point halftime buffer that allowed them to withstand VCU’s second half charge. In the first half alone, Oklahoma logged nine offensive reboundsa nd Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins combined for 22 points. Their first half performances were the reason that Oklahoma was able to survive Hield’s slow start
  2. Heild proved in the second half why he is likely going to win the Naismith award. Despite being visibly off his game in the first half, Heild came out of the blocks running in the second. His oversized presence forced VCU to blanket him early, which allowed the rest of his team to get open looks. Then, when they needed him most, his second half performance was stellar. At 11:02 remaining, the game was tied at 59-all. From that point forward, Hield put the Sooners on his back in scoring 21 out of Oklahoma’s last 26 points, including several dizzying moves that left the crowd shaking their heads in amazement.
  3. Hats off to VCU. The Rams overcame a horrific start to bring the game back to within reach in the second half, including taking a small lead at several points. Mo Alie-Cox had a great second half and finished with 10 points. Jequan Lewis had 22 and Melvin Johnson 23, but more importantly, Will Wade clearly has the program moving in the right direction after the departure of Shaka Smart last summer. 

Star of the Game. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma. Hield struggled mightily in the first half, but the senior NPOY candidate absolutely took the game over when Oklahoma needed him most in the second half. He had 29 points in the second stanza on his way to 33 for the game. His maturity and ability to make such a mid-game correction are what gives the Sooners a shot to make a very deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Quotable:

  • “Yeah coach drew up some really good plays and my guards executed really, really well. They got me the ball in spots they knew were really good for me.” – Khadeem Lattin, on being a factor early in the game
  • “Scoring 29 points, I didn’t know I had that, but I just knew I was scoring the ball a lot. Just glad that we got the win. – Buddy Hield, on his second half performance.
  • Our teammates did a great job. I thought Isaiah getting down, driving and kicking in the paint, Jordan making plays, Khadeem catching lobs, everybody did what they needed to do to get open and get easy shots and good shots for us. – Hield, on the teamwork and balance of the starting lineup.

Sights & Sounds.

  • At one point in the second half, Buddy Hield’s mother left her seat to pray and it apparently worked. 
  • The raucous performance by the VCU pep band will be missed, especially the disrobing Superman act. You don’t want to go to war…. with the Raaaammmss….

What’s Next? The Sooners will advance to Friday’s Sweet Sixteen to play the winner of the #3 Texas A&M and #11 Northern Iowa game tonight.

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Northern Iowa 75, #6 Texas 72

Posted by Czech Smith on March 19th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

One of the Most Dramatic Moments in NCAA Tournament History

One of the Most Dramatic Moments in NCAA Tournament History

  1. Northern Iowa spread the floor against Texas in the first half – and Texas mirrored the strategy to start the second. The Panthers kept five men on the perimeter for most of the first half. That forced the Longhorns to vacate the paint and respect the three-point line, which opened up the lane for the Panthers’ quick cutting guards. Wes Washpun, the Panthers leading scorer, only had four in the first half while Jeremy Morgan had 12 including a pair of threes. Texas came out of the locker room with a clear strategy to play the Panthers’ own game, and it worked as they quickly narrowed the gap. The Longhorns erased an eight-point halftime deficit in the first six minutes of the second half, which led to a back-and-forth battle of attrition from there on out.
  2. Texas had to stray from its inside game to combat Northern Iowa’s quickness. The Big 12 defensive player of the year, Prince Ibeh, played a total of four minutes in the first half. This was a direct result of Northern Iowa’s strategy of spreading the floor and forcing Texas to play a smaller lineup. When Texas turned it around on Northern Iowa, they were able to keep Ibeh in the game which allowed him to make a difference on defense.
  3. Miracle from half-court. Both teams shot horrifically down the stretch, with Northern Iowa ending the game 2-of-10 from the field and Texas 2-of-12 during the same stretch. Isaiah Taylor redeemed himself with a fabulous drive and finish to tie the game with 2.7 seconds left, but one of those pair of makes for Northern Iowa was a desperation half-court bank shot by Paul Jesperson to win the game at the buzzer. It will go down as one of the iconic moments in NCAA Tournament history.

Star of the Game. Paul Jesperson, Northern Iowa. Jesperson ended with 14 points and was a solid 4-of-7 from behind the arc, but all that really mattered was his spectacular half-court buzzer-beater.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 Notre Dame 70, #11 Michigan 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Notre Dame Used a Great Second Half Performance to Come Back and Win (USA Today Images)

Notre Dame Used a Great Second Half Performance to Come Back and Win (USA Today Images)

  1. Notre Dame locked down on defense when it had to. Defense has never been the Fighting Irish’s calling card under Mike Brey but they came up with stops when it mattered most tonight. Notre Dame, ranked 172nd nationally in defensive efficiency, held Michigan to 22 points in 20 minutes after halftime after surrendering 41 in the first half. Michigan attempted 20 more shots than Notre Dame but made the same number of field goals (25). It was an impressive display in a pressure-cooker environment by a team not accustomed to that style of play.
  2. VJ Beachem couldn’t miss. Literally. The Notre Dame junior went 7-of-7 from the floor, including a number of huge shots in the critical final minutes of the game. Notre Dame ran its offense so well in the second half and Beachem was the primary beneficiary. He put together simply an outstanding performance on a national stage.
  3. Michigan’s crucial final possession was botched. Trailing by three with under 20 seconds remaining, Michigan was forced into a poor possession where Zak Irvin attempted to bail the Wolverines out with a deep three. Notre Dame defended it well but the rule change where coaches can no longer call live-ball timeouts played a factor here. John Beilein clearly saw that possession falling apart in real time, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Irvin missed and Notre Dame secured the rebound, and effectively, the game.

Star of the Game: VJ Beachem, Notre Dame. As mentioned above, Beachem had an outstanding game. His shot-making ability down the stretch was the difference.

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Rushed Reactions: #2 Xavier 71, #15 Weber State 53

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Xavier head coach Chris Mack urges his Musketeers on in Friday night's win over Weber State. (Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

Xavier head coach Chris Mack urges his Musketeers on during Friday night’s win over Weber State. (Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer)

  1. It Felt Like Weber State Was Good Enough to Hang With Xavier: The Wildcats were frequently in the game with the Musketeers tonight. They knocked a 15-point lead down to seven or eight points in both halves. They matched Xavier bucket for bucket to start the second half. These are very important ingredients to pulling off a monumental upset. Weber State had to be in the game or in control of the game to make it happen. At the very least, it competed successfully. Only at the very end of the game did Xavier pull away.
  2. It Never Felt Like Weber State Was Going to Beat Xavier: As I said, the Wildcats matched the Musketeers shot for shot for much of the game, which also means they weren’t able to get stops and get out of their own way. Xavier controlled the boards (+16 advantage), but the Wildcats missed critical free throws (5-of-11) and got killed in the paint by (42-30 Xavier advantage). The upset was possible but ultimately incomplete.
  3. Xavier’s Primed To Take Michigan State’s Vacated Spot as Potential Title Contender: I’m not saying the Musketeers have successfully claimed Michigan State’s throne as one of the top teams left in this Tournament, but their chances got a lot better tonight. So did Oklahoma’s. And Oregon’s. And a host of other clubs. An early exit from the Big East Tournament appears to be just that regarding the Musketeers and not indicative of a hangover effect.

Star of the Game: This honor goes to Musketeers’ big man James Farr. The senior went for 16 points and 15 rebounds (seven offensive rebounds!) while also showing us he can dunk and drop a skyhook with the best of them. He also had two blocked shots. All in a day’s work for the… Farr of the Game.

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Rushed Reactions: #14 Stephen F. Austin 70, #3 West Virginia 56

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

SFA Celebrates a Huge NCAA Tournament Win (USA Today Images)

SFA Celebrates a Huge NCAA Tournament Win (USA Today Images)

  1. West Virginia was exposed. The Mountaineers have made a living all season by forcing turnovers. Tonight, West Virginia really struggled to turn Stephen F. Austin over, as the Lumberjacks did an outstanding job protecting the basketball. The Mountaineers created only seven SFA turnovers and more damningly, were outscored 29 to 4 in points off turnovers. West Virginia dominated on the backboards, but the 25-point deficit in the points off turnovers category proved insurmountable. It didn’t help that West Virginia lost its composure midway through the second half, which allowed the Lumberjacks to hammer the final nail in the coffin. It was rare this season, but Bob Huggins’ team is average at best when it can’t turn the opponent over. The Mountaineers just do not score the ball consistently enough in the halfcourt to overcome a lack of transition opportunities.
  2. Why was Stephen F. Austin a #14 seed? Did the Lumberjacks look like one of the worst teams in the field to you? Not a chance. Score one for KenPom, who had Stephen F. Austin rated 33rd in his metrics, which should translate to a 9-seed. Thomas Walkup could play significant minutes for almost any high major team in the country, and Brad Underwood sure can coach. He should be a hot name on the coaching market, especially with two Big 12 jobs opening up recently. Any potential seeding injustice doesn’t matter now, however — the third-seeded Mountaineers are heading home.
  3. Stephen F. Austin’s weaknesses were offset by West Virginia’s weaknesses. Coming into the game, the Lumberjacks were averaging 12 turnovers per game and had middling free throw rates. In this matchup against West Virginia, none of this was a big deal. The Mountaineers put their opponents on the free throw line more often than anyone during the regular season, while also turning the ball over at a high rat — both traits played right into the hands of the Lumberjacks. It always comes down to matchups in this tournament, and this was a good one for Underwood’s team, who exploited West Virginia’s weaknesses in cooking up the upset.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Texas A&M 92, #14 Green Bay 65

Posted by Czech Smith on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Danuel House was a man amongst boys Friday evening. (USA TODAY Sports)

Danuel House was a man amongst boys Friday evening. (USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Texas A&M was dominant inside and has a deep bench. The Aggies recorded 46 points in the paint and dominated the boards throughout. A&M’s bench can play – they had 44 points, and with 10 minutes left in the game 10 different players had scored while the game was still not put away.
  2. This was not a game of experience going in. Texas A&M had one total player with tournament experience going in and Green Bay hasn’t been to the tournament in 20 years. The good news for A&M is they played like a seasoned team throughout. They’ll be able to rely on their newly acquired experience with confidence in their next contest.
  3. A&M did a great job of controlling tempo. The Phoenix started fast and furious and had some fortunate breaks go their way early in the game. They hung in for most of the first half, but A&M was able to slow them down quickly. Green Bay began to falter when forced to slow down and play A&M’s game. It led to a 37.5% performance from the field for Green Bay and showed A&M is strong defensively.

Star of the Game. Danuel House, Texas A&M. House was steady all game and showed he’s solid all-around. He finished with a game-high 20 points, going 8-of-12 from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the line. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rushed Reactions: #13 Hawaii 77, #4 California 66

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregionKenny Ocker is covering the Spokane pods of the South and West regionals this week.

Three Key Takeaways:

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The Magic of March Goes to Hawaii (USA Today Images)

  1. Cal really, really missed its starting backcourt: The Golden Bears came to Spokane knowing it would be without its lone senior and leading scorer, point guard Tyrone Wallace, who broke his hand in practice earlier this week. They didn’t account for shooting guard Jabari Bird also being unexpectedly sidelined by back spasms just before the opening tip. And then backup-point-guard-cum-starter Sam Singer and superfreshman Jaylen Brown picked up three fouls apiece in the first half and magnified that problem. Brown ended up fouling out with about eight minutes left in the second half and the Bears still in the game, but they were never able to close it out without him on the court. He finished with a mere four points. Singer had 12 points before fouling out. Cal only had six assists in the game.
  2. REF SHOW! Speaking of all those fouls… there were 25 in the first half, which didn’t let the game generate any sort of flow. Singer and Brown had three apiece in the first half. Four of Hawaii’s starters had two fouls by that point. And then the Rainbows’ star center, Stefan Jankovic, picked up his fourth foul less than four minutes into the second half. All told, the game ended with 49 fouls, including disqualifications of Brown and Singer for Cal, and four Hawaii players finishing with four fouls. The tight officiating made it difficult to watch what should have otherwise been an entertaining #13 over #4 upset.
  3. Hawaii ignored Cal’s vaunted interior defense: The Bears came into Friday’s game with the nation’s best two-point field goal defense, according to KenPom, giving up a mere 40.9 percent shooting inside the three-point arc. Hawaii did not care. The Warriors made 24-of-38 shots inside the arc (63%), including 6-of-8 inside shooting from guards Quincy Smith and Roderick Bobbitt and 5-of-7 inside shooting from center Stefan Jankovic.

Star of the Game: Hawaii guard Quincy Smith: The slashing senior wing got to the basket at will all game against Cal, hanging up 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 in the second half.

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Syracuse 70, #7 Dayton 51

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 18th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways:

Syracuse's Malachi Richardson attempts a pass to teammate Trevor Cooney. (Credit: Syracuse.com)

Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson attempts a pass down low. (Credit: Syracuse.com)

  1. The Potential of Malachi Richardson Is Frightening: At 20 years old, you might not find many freshmen at that age nor will you find many more versatile wings than Richardson. The 6’6″ wing with a 7’0″ wingspan scored 10 points in a variety of ways — mostly drives and spot-up threes — within a span of five minutes early in the first half on his way to becoming the game’s leading scorer with 21 points. It’s easy to see why NBA scouts are digging his skills.
  2. Dayton’s Balanced Attack Was Thrown All Out Of Whack: The Flyers came into today’s game with four players averaging in double figures: Charles Cooke (15.7 PPG), Dyshawn Pierre (13.0 PPG), Scoochie Smith (11.7 PPG)) and Kendall Pollard (10.6 PPG). Today, these four combined for only 36 points. The worst stretch had by the Flyers is when they went on a more than five-minute scoring drought in the second half. I couldn’t tell what Archie Miller‘s sweating situation was since he wore his jacket throughout the game, but I can bet he wasn’t dry.
  3. Syracuse’s Patented Zone Was Effective: With the aforementioned scoring droughts for the Flyers, we couldn’t really determine just how effective the Orange’s zone was. The Flyers shot 29.6 percent from the floor in the second half when Trevor Cooney started connecting on three-pointers. Zone may be for cowards, some say, but if your team isn’t able to score against it, what does that say about the Flyers?

Quotables: “Anyone that said we don’t deserve to be in the Tournament doesn’t know about basketball.” – Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, on his team’s at-large bid

Sights and Sounds: With 7:38 to go in the game, Malachi Richardson was whistled for a foul. A Dayton fan behind the basket stood up and yelled at a ref, “Yes! Yes! You finally called a foul! I didn’t think you would but you did!”

What’s Next: The Orange will face the winner of the Michigan State-Middle Tennessee State game on Sunday. Time and television designation are to be determined.

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The Madness Begins: A Viewer’s Guide to Watching the First 12 Hours

Posted by Shane McNichol on March 17th, 2016

The first day of March Madness can be a hectic whirlwind of excitement, disappointment and drama. For many of us, it will involve multiple TVs, another screen to stream additional games, trips to a bar or party, and far less sleep than we’re used to. Like most things, this big day of days can move a little smoother with some planning. I’ve channelled my inner boy scout and prepped ahead for the excitement to come, laying out an opening day strategy for surviving and thriving in the Madness. (Note: all times eastern)

Everyone is Ready: Let's Tip the Madness Off (USA Today Images)

Everyone is Ready: Let’s Tip the Madness Off (USA Today Images)

  • 12:15 PM: Start, as everyone will, with Duke-UNC Wilmington (on CBS). If you’re stuck at work, take your lunch break right after noon and head somewhere with a TV. Enjoy as much as you can before you need head back to the office and “work” for the rest of the day. The rest of these plans will be more directed to those, like me, willing to sacrifice a vacation day or two to watch NCAA Tournament basketball. To my cubicle-bound friends, godspeed. Only answer e-mails that you absolutely need to. Utilize a second screen. When the clock his 5:01, sprint home.
  • 12:40 PM: If the Duke lead is in double figures at this point, switch over to TruTV- well, wait a second.
  • 12:41 PM: Take two minutes trying to figure out what channel TruTV is on.
  • 12:43 PM: Perfect. Now if the Duke lead is in double figures, switch over to TruTV for the start of Texas Tech and Butler. If UNCW is keeping it close or even leading, stick with that game until halftime. The Seahawks are feisty, but much more so if they stay within striking distance.
  • 1:30 PM: Make sure you’re on TNT at the bottom of the next hour. It’s Bill Raftery’s first game of the Tournament and you can’t miss him spouting “Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Colorado goes…MANTOMAN” to start the game. This moment is appointment TV.
  • 2:10 PM: The first game of the day will be drawing to a conclusion. Either a Duke rout or a possible upset. If the latter, no worries. The other two games are #8 vs. #9 match-ups. Both should be competitive.
  • 2:45 PM: Iowa State and Iona tipped off at 2:00 PM, and it could be the day’s most exciting game. The Cyclones scored the fewest percentage of points at the foul line in the nation and allowed the second fewest percentage of points on free throws. Iona’s free throw rates are below average as well, so expect up and down, non-stop action.

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68 NCAA Tournament Facts Heading Into Madness…

Posted by William Ezekowitz on March 17th, 2016

Here’s a dirty little secret about March Madness. The difference between a bad bracket and a good bracket is skill, but the difference between a good bracket and a great bracket is luck. Anyone who has won their pool has gotten lucky. A lot of these games are basically coin flips or won by buzzer-beaters, and nobody can predict that kind of thing. You just have to hope enough of those breaks go in your favor. Where you can distance yourself from your competition, though, is in the 60-40 or 55-45 games. If you can figure out which team has a slight advantage and pick enough of those teams with those slight advantages, odds are something will break your way one of these years. That is the purpose of these 68 Facts, to help isolate some favorable and unfavorable matchups going into the NCAA Tournament. Hopefully they will help your bracket — or at least help you justify your bracket to yourself, which is debatably more important anyway. Let’s get to it.

March is Here (USA Today Images)

March is Here (USA Today Images)

  1. California is 18-0 at home and 5-10 on the road or at neutral sites.
  1. Providence’s Kris Dunn hasn’t looked like himself lately, scoring single-figures in three of his last six games, after having just two such outputs in his first 25 games.
  1. Kentucky has the lowest defensive assist percentage in the country. Indiana gets assists on an above-average proportion of its field goals.
  1. Of Dayton’s seven losses, five have come when one of the Flyers’ three best players, Charles Cooke, Dyshawn Pierre and Kendall Pollard, was not playing. All three are healthy and eligible for the NCAA Tournament.
  1. Cal State Bakersfield’s 25th-most efficient defense is anchored by the 16th-best steal rate in the nation. Oklahoma surrenders steals at a rate that is 300th-best in the country.
  1. Iowa had the nation’s fifth-best offense through 22 games. In the last nine games, accompanied with a record of 3-6, the Hawkeyes were at the D-I average.

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Preseason Unranked to Ranked: These Teams Underperform in the NCAAs

Posted by William Ezekowitz on March 16th, 2016

Preseason rankings. Irrelevant in professional sports, but weirdly important in college basketball. I have shown in the past that rankings released before a single game has been played overvalue previous year’s NCAA Tournament success, so they clearly aren’t perfect. The odd wrinkle is that they also are just as predictive as pre-tournament rankings in determining who will make the Final Four. Given that the First Round starts tomorrow, I decided to look more closely into just how important preseason rankings are by looking at whether teams that outperform their preseason expectations regress in the NCAA Tournament. To do this, I reviewed all of the teams since 2007 that were unranked in the preseason and were ranked in the polls just before the NCAA Tournament (i.e., teams that performed better than expected during the regular season). In order to gauge how a team should do in the Big Dance, I borrowed Neil Payne’s win expectation chart by seed listed in this very interesting article. I then tested whether the teams that fit my definition for outperforming expectations did better or worse relative to win expectations than the rest of the field.

Ron Morris Was Certainly On To Something

Kemba Walker and UConn were one of the few programs to buck statistical trends. (Getty)

Here are the results.

# of Teams Expected Wins Actual Wins
Over-Performers 90 125.7 98
Everyone else 344 425 461

 

The tested group of over-performers did in fact do worse in the NCAA Tournament than everyone else, and the difference is statistically significant. It should also be noted that an examination of the converse group — preseason ranked teams finishing the regular season unranked — produced no difference between win expectation by seed and actual wins. For some frame of reference, there are seven teams this year that have gone from unranked in the preseason to ranked now. That group is listed below. Read the rest of this entry »

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