By William Ezekowitz
March is complicated. What follows is an attempt to make 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 can be because of bad luck, rather than bad process. So without further ado, here are statistical facts about the NCAA Tournament, mostly based around potential match-ups.
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 got injured 10 games ago, Xavier has been giving up more threes and opponents are shooting better on them. With a 3PA/FGA of 40.8, compared to the D1 average of 36.4, Maryland is heavily reliant on the three-ball.
3. Baylor’s opponents have an assist rate of 58.2, second highest in the field. SMU’s assist rate of 62.5 is 6th highest in the field and 10th in the country.
4. Creighton attempts a larger proportion of its initial field goals in transition than any other team in the field, at 34.2%. Their opponent, Rhode Island, allows opponents to shoot just 20.1% of their attempts in transition, the 4th lowest mark in the field.
5. Rhode Island also allows opponents to get just 21.3 percent of their points from threes. The Bluejays tend to rely on the three, getting 32.0% of their points from beyond the arc. The D1 average is 30.4.
6. Saint Mary’s is ranked 14th on KenPom and VCU is ranked 52nd; the site gives the Gaels a 71% chance of winning their game.
7. West Virginia relies on forcing turnovers, but of possible Round of 32 matchups, 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, and the combined score was 165-164, Jayhawks.
9. But Nevada could be a good matchup with Iowa State, as the Wolfpack are an above average offensive and defensive rebounding team, while the Cyclones, who only play one player 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 is 326th in the country in defensive rebounding rate.
11. Led by Reggie Lynch, Minnesota has a block rate of 16.2, third best in the country. Middle Tennessee, though, is 5th best in the country at avoiding blocks, getting just 5.8 percent of its shots blocked.
12. The three most experienced teams in the field are Iowa State, East Tennessee State, and Arkansas.
13. Despite playing the 87th hardest schedule in the country (i.e. above average), SMU has lost just one game since November 2016.
14. Kentucky gets into transition often and shoots 50% of its transition shots at the rim. Both Dayton and Wichita State defend transition well, though, with the Flyers allowing the 6th fewest transition attempts in the nation to their opponents (with just 37% of those at the rim).
15. Villanova relies on the three point shot, with a 44.1 3PA/FGA that is 25th highest in the country. Florida and Duke have the 32nd and 7th lowest opponent 3PA/FGA marks in the country.
16. Oklahoma State and Michigan rank 1st and 5th in offensive efficiency respectively. Projected second round opponent Louisville is 6th in defensive efficiency, though.
17. Oklahoma State has also played the toughest schedule in the nation, per KenPom.
18. Besides 2014 UCONN, the national champion has been in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency since 2002. The teams who fit this category are: Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Wichita State, Kentucky, St. Mary’s, and Oregon.
19. Wisconsin seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes have played in 14 NCAA Tournament games already.
20. Attempting nearly equal amounts of twos as threes, Vanderbilt is the most prolific three point shooting team in the field. Northwestern has an average three-point defense.
21. Vermont and Princeton both have not lost in 2017.
22. Iona’s Jordan Washington is second in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes, at 9.0. But Oregon’s 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 allow opponents to get well above the D1 average of their proportion of points from threes.
25. Florida State was 7-8 in road and neutral games.
26. Arizona has actually fallen 6 spots from 15 to 21 on KenPom since star player Allonzo Trier returned from his 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 this past weekend.
28. Creighton’s offense has fallen from 7th best in the country 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% of its shots in transition, 20th most in the country. Michigan’s opponents shoot in transition just 21.3% of the time though, tied for 63rd least in the country.
30. East Tennessee State turns opponents over at the 19th highest rate in the country. Florida has only played two opponents in the top 50 in turnovers forced, South Carolina and St. Bonaventure (the Gators turned it over on 23.3% of possessions in those games, well above the D1 average of 18.6%).
31. UNC-Wilmington attempts 31.0% of its shots in transition, 25th most in the country. Virginia is 53rd in the country at 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% from the free throw line and has made his last 22 attempts.
33. At 59.5%, UCLA is on pace to have the best effective field goal percentage since Florida in 2008.
34. North Carolina’s 42.0 offensive rebounding rate is 1.9 points better than Wagner’s second place of 40.1. Since 2002, only Minnesota in 2013 and Old Dominion in 2010 have separated themselves by such a wide margin.
35. North Carolina is 9-6 when its offensive rebounding rate dips below 40%. 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, who is 7th.
36. Kansas’s thin frontcourt was not at full strength in two of its losses, as Josh Jackson missed the loss to TCU and Carlton Bragg missed the loss at Iowa State.
37. The two chinks in Louisville’s 6th rated defense are its defensive rebounding rate (152nd) and its opponent free throw rate (269th). Kansas is 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% of the time, 7th highest in the country, making them a prime candidate to be upset by a hot-shooting team that likes hoisting threes. Luckily for them, neither Providence, USC, nor Baylor shoots threes especially often or well. Possible Sweet Sixteen opponent Duke does, though.
39. Villanova and Virginia already played each other, with the Wildcats winning by 2 at home. Given their home court advantage, though, this game was essentially even.
40. Middle Tennessee State is ranked 48th 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 in the country, giving them easily the worst proportion of turnover rates in the tournament.
44. Virginia’s offense has fallen from 13th on January 26th to 39th today.
45. Texas Southern plays four players below six feet, and has played 108 possessions this season with three of them on the court at once.
46. UNC Wilmington’s Devontae Cacok has set the all-time field goal percentage record at 78.9%. He was 16-17 in the Southern Conference Tournament.
47. Kansas State is 27th in defensive efficiency. Cincinnati is 4-5 against teams in the top 50 in defensive efficiency and 25-0 against everyone else. Wake Forrest is 159th in defensive efficiency.
48. Despite having the 4th highest assist rate in the country, Purdue turns it over fairly often, with a steals allowed rate at 231st. Iowa State has the 22nd highest steal rate in the country, while Vermont and Nevada are around the D1 average.
49. Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss raised his 124.4 offensive rating to 132.2 in the Zags’ ten games against top 100 competition.
50. It’s a good year to be a one seed. The average KenPom ranking of the 8 and 9 seeds is 38, while the average ranking of the 7s and 10s is 27.
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 UNC) have top 50 offenses.
52. Kentucky has struggled to score in four of its five losses, averaging just 95.0 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 5 in Lexington.
54. Can Louisville consistently make shots? The Cards have shot under 30% from three point range eleven times this season and are 3-8 in those games; (Oklahoma State, by contrast, has only had that happen to them once).
55. Villanova, an average rebounding team, has given up above the D1 average of offensive rebounds often when they lose or win close. Of possible opponents, SMU and Baylor are both in the top ten in offensive rebounding rate.
56. The only players in the tournament averaging above 20 points per game are Luke Kennard (Duke), Malik Monk (Kentucky), Sindarius Thornwell (South Carolina), Keon Johnson (Winthrop) and Mike Daum (South Dakota State).
57. Winthrop’s Keon Johnson, in addition to being the tournament’s highest scoring guard, at 22.5 PPG, is also its shortest player, at 5’7”.
58. Notre Dame has given up above the D1 average of offensive rebounds to opponents 20 times this season, and has gone 12-8 in those games (and 13-1 in all others). Princeton and Bucknell are both well below average in this category, but West Virginia is 7th.
59. It’s hard to find a flaw in Gonzaga’s 32-1 season, but the Zags did struggle with turnovers in a couple games that stayed close (and their loss). 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 is 62nd in the country at limiting opponents’ free throws, but 200th in defensive rebounding rate.
62. Florida State is the tallest team in the field, with Arizona in a close second.
63. Since forward Chris Clarke got injured, Virginia Tech has shot threes on 45% of its shots, which would be 17th in the country. The Hokies shoot the 9th best percentage in the country from beyond the arc.
64. Kentucky and UCLA play the two fastest tempos in the Tournament field.
65. Virginia and St. Mary’s play the two slowest tempos in the 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% from the free throw line, Notre Dame has a chance to be the first team to shoot above 80% from the line since Damian Lillard’s Weber State team in 2012.
68. A 16 seed has never beaten a 1 seed.