HSAC’s 68 Facts: March Madness 2018

By Daniel Blumenthal and Brendan Connolly

As March Madness approaches, HSAC is back (with brand new authors) to provide some last-minute statistical nuggets that could help you fill out your bracket.

Overall:

1.) Besides UCONN in 2014, the national champion has been in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency since 2002. The teams who fit the criteria this year are: Villanova, Virginia, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.
2.) Teams that outperform their preseason ranking often underperform in the tournament. Virginia, Michigan, Texas Tech, and Tennessee were all unranked in the preseason AP poll.
3.) Montana, Charleston, South Dakota State, and Houston were all undefeated at home this season.
4.) Pencil in UNC, Duke, Kentucky, Florida or Kansas for your Final Four. At least one of those teams has made the semifinals in 29 of the last 30 years.
5.) Syracuse, Duke, and Kentucky are the tallest teams in the field. In addition, they are 3 of the 4 least experienced tournament teams, joined by Alabama.
6.) Since 2011, only one team has made the Final Four with an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking below 50 (2013 Michigan, 66). Xavier (59th), Arizona (70th), and Wichita State (107th) might not make it to San Antonio.
7.) Despite not being named #1 seeds, Cincinnati and Duke are each top-4 KenPom-ranked teams. The last 15 times this has happened, the teams advanced to at least the Elite 8.
8.) According to Sports Reference, only two teams in the field of 68 (Purdue and Michigan State) rank in the top 10 for 3-point field goal percentage. The is tied with 2003 for the fewest number of teams in the last 25 tournaments.
9.) South Dakota State, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Houston, and Kentucky all rank in the top 15 for home court point differential. It could be interesting to see how these teams fare when they play at a neutral site.

South:

10.) Three of the top five teams in adjusted defense (Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee) are in the South bracket.
11.) Many people know that Virginia has an elite defense. However, their offense is underrated, as the Cavaliers rank 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency.
12.) UMBC had the highest luck rating of any team in the country, but they weren’t so lucky with their matchup in the bracket. UMBC will face the #1 overall seed Virginia on Friday.
13.) Marcus Foster, who averages 20 points per game, transferred to Creighton from Kansas State. However, Kansas State will have to deal with more than just their old friend Foster, as his backcourt mate Khyri Thomas has one of the top true shooting percentages in the tournament.
14.) Over the last 5 tournaments, teams that are seeded 12th or worse and have a KenPom ranking better than 50 have gone 5-1. This year, Davidson is ranked 43rd.
15.) Davidson and Kentucky play very different styles of basketball, as 48.2% of Davidson’s field goal attempts came from behind the arc, compared to only 26.2% for Kentucky. These squads rank first and last among tournament teams in this category.
16.) In 1999, Arizona was upset in the first round as a #4 seed. However, in 1997, they won the national championship – as a #4 seed.
17.) The Buffalo Bulls like to get their shots up in a hurry. They hold the ball for just 14.7 seconds per offensive possession, the fifth-fastest team in the country.
18.) Loyola Chicago is making its first March Madness appearance since 1985 on the back of a stingy defense. The Ramblers held opponents to just 62.2 points per game, the fifth-lowest average in Division I.
19.) Many people are predicting that Loyola Chicago could upset Miami. However, if there is anyone who knows about 11-seeds pulling off upsets, it would be Miami coach Jim Larranaga. He led 11th-seeded George Mason all the way to the Final Four in 2006.
20.) Wright State is a very well-rounded team, with six different players contributing 9 or more points per game.
21.) Nevada vs. Texas is a matchup of experience vs. youth. The Wolfpack are one of the five most experienced tournament teams, while the Longhorns are one of the five least experienced.
22.) The four players who have used 16 percent or more of Nevada’s possessions all stand at exactly 6’7”.
23.) Georgia State is largely a one-man-show. The Panthers are led by sophomore D’Marcus Simonds, who has used 35.7% of their possessions, the fourth-highest rate in the country.

West:

24.) North Carolina Central is ranked as the 309th best team in Division I according to KenPom. They are the lowest ranked team to make the tournament dating back to 2002.
25.) Similarly, Xavier (14) is the lowest KenPom-ranked #1 seed since Washington was also ranked 14 in 2005.
26.) Texas Southern started the season 0-13 and didn’t win their first game until New Year’s Day, but they still made the tournament.
27.) Florida State is one of the tallest teams in the country, which could pose a problem for their first round opponent, Missouri. Missouri saw 12.1% of its shots blocked this year, the second-worst rate of all tournament teams.
28.) Missouri will also be missing their second leading scorer and rebounder in Jordan Barnett, as he was suspended by the NCAA for the first round of the tournament. The Tigers could be in trouble, as they will have to rely on freshman Michael Porter Jr. who is playing in just his second game since returning from back surgery.
29.) This is Gonzaga coach Mark Few’s 19th straight appearance in March Madness. After losing in the final last year, could this finally be the year he and the Bulldogs win the championship?
30.) Ohio State could be on upset alert. The last time Buckeyes were a 5-seed, they were upset by 12th-seeded Utah State in overtime.
31.) South Dakota State is the #1 team in the country at avoiding turnovers. However, they also rarely force turnovers, ranking 347th in opponents’ turnover percentage.
32.) Some commentators argue that the key to pulling off an upset is shooting a lot of 3-pointers. One team that does this is UNC Greensboro, which generates 40% of its offense from beyond the arc. However, this trend may be overrated, as there doesn’t seem to be a strong relationship between shooting a lot of three-pointers and being a Cinderella team.
33.) Michigan is the #2 team in the nation at avoiding turnovers. However, they will have their work cut out for them against Montana, which forces turnovers on almost 20% of opponents’ possessions.
34.) San Diego State and Michigan were both surprise winners of their respective conference tournaments. However, this momentum doesn’t seem to boost their chances of doing well in the NCAA tournament.
35.) Don’t expect many points in the game between Texas A&M and Providence. These teams possess two of the top-35 adjusted defensive efficiencies in the country.
36.) Lipscomb is playing in its first NCAA tournament in school history. There are now 42 teams in Division I who have never been to March Madness.
37.) North Carolina (25-10) had the most losses of any #2 seed since 1985. However, they also played the nation’s hardest schedule.

East:

38.) In 2015, Villanova was the #1 seed in the East. They played their first two games in Pittsburgh, where they lost to 8th-seeded North Carolina State in the second round. This year, Villanova is the #1 seed in the East and will play their first weekend games in Pittsburgh.
39.) Radford is the smallest team in the field with an average height of 6’ 2.8”. Generally, smaller teams play at a faster pace, but that it is not true for the Highlanders, who rank 345th in the country in adjusted tempo.
40.) Virginia Tech was one of two teams to beat Virginia this season. At one point in that game, the Hokies had a 1.3% chance of winning, but they battled back to win in overtime.
41.) When Wichita State and Gregg Marshall play Marshall University, it will be the first time in tournament history that the name of one school is also the last name of the opposing coach. (Via Darren Rovell)
42.) Marshall is the only team in the tournament with multiple players who average 20 or more points per game. They are led by the two-headed-monster of Jon Elmore (22.8 PPG) and C.J. Burks (20.5 PPG).
43.) Wichita State ranks 107th in the nation in adjusted defense – a serious drop-off from previous years. The Shockers were in the top-20 each of the five years before this.
44.) For those who believe in momentum, Murray State has raced out to 13 straight wins, while Alabama has lost 6 of its last 8.
45.) West Virginia is well-known for its swarming defense that forces turnovers on almost a quarter of opponents’ possessions. In addition, the Mountaineers crash the glass well, ranking 4th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage.
46.) Florida’s KeVaughn Allen is the only player in the tournament to make 90% or more of his free throws.
47.) Be prepared to see a lot of movement on the bench in the game between Texas Tech and Stephen F. Austin. These teams devote the second- and third-most minutes to bench players of all tournament teams.
48.) Texas Tech has won 7 straight games against Stephen F. Austin.
49.) St. Bonaventure ended the regular season with 12 straight wins, including a triple-overtime victory over Davidson.
50.) This is Arkansas coach Mike Anderson’s 9th appearance in March Madness. Meanwhile, Butler coach Lavall Jordan has never made the Big Dance before. However, this disparity may be overrated, as experienced coaches may not be able to will their teams to victory more often in the tournament than in the regular season.
51.) Butler has the highest KenPom rating of any team with a double-digit seed this year.
52.) Purdue beat possible Round of 32 opponent Butler by 15 earlier this season. However, Butler won each of the five meetings between the two sides before that.
53.) Cal State Fullerton manufactures 24.6% of its offense at the free throw line, the most of any tournament team, but Purdue is not a good matchup for the Titans. The Boilermakers are the best team in the tournament at preventing teams from reaching the free throw line.

Midwest:

54.) Syracuse has three players (Tyus Battle, Frank Howard, and Oshae Brissett) who average 38 or more minutes per game. Only three other players in the country averaged that many minutes this season.
55.) A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed, but this could be the year history is made, as Penn is the strongest 16-seed ever.
56.) Penn’s 1-12 record gives them the lowest winning percentage of any team that has played 10 tournament games since 1985 (when the field expanded to 64 teams).
57.) Kansas was one of 15 teams this year to make 40% or more of its three-pointers. However, both their first round opponent, Penn, and possible second round opponent North Carolina State ranked in the top-15 in three-point defense.
58.) Current Harvard coach Tommy Amaker led Seton Hall to its last Sweet Sixteen in 2000. The Pirates will have to beat North Carolina State and #1 Kansas to get there again.
59.) Oklahoma’s Trae Young leads the country in points (27.4) and assists (8.8) per game. However, he and the Sooners could be in trouble against Rhode Island, which forces the 3rd-most turnovers of any team in the tournament.
60.) Clemson’s 2nd-leading scorer and rebounder, Donte Grantham is out for the year with a torn ACL. After starting the year 16-3, Clemson has gone 7-6 since losing Grantham.
61.) Clemson’s recent struggles could bode well for Jemerrio Jones, the nation’s leading rebounder, and the rest of the New Mexico State Aggies.
62.) Charleston has the #1 continuity rating in the country, with 86.2% of their minutes coming from the same sources as last year.
63.) Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore blocked 15.89% of opponents’ two-point shots while he was playing. However, he will not participate in the tournament due to a gruesome leg injury.
64.) Even dating back to his time at Pittsburgh, current TCU coach Jamie Dixon has always led an elite offense. Dixon’s teams have ranked in the top-50 in adjusted offensive efficiency for the last 15 years, and this year’s TCU squad is eighth in the country.
65.) For seven years in a row, one and only one First Four team has made it past the round of 64. That team could be Arizona State, as the Sun Devils are a well-rounded team with 4 players averaging 10 points or more.
66.) Never count out the Bucknell Bison. At one point in their game against Colgate, they had a 0.3% chance of winning, but they still pulled out the victory.
67.) Michigan State’s Nick Ward and Bucknell’s Zach Thomas are the only two players in the tournament who draw at least 8 fouls per 40 minutes played. Their teams will do battle Friday night.
68.) The last time Iona won a tournament game was the 1979-1980 season when they were led by legendary coach Jim Valvano.

Thanks to kenpom.com, sports-reference.com/cbb, and ncaa.com for being such valuable resources for many of these statistics.

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