8 Things to Know About Day 4 of the NCAA Tournament
Three days of the NCAA Tournament have come and gone, but there's still another day in the Big Dance's opening weekend.
We've seen some big schools fall (including Michigan State, an uber popular pick to win it all), some old mid-majors make another push, and plenty of gutsy performances that are sure to be replayed for years to come.
But which numbers should you know about the eight matchups on Sunday?
Let's break down each game.
1. Villanova shoots three-pointers at the third-highest rate in the NCAA Tournament.
And Iowa allows them at the 11th-highest rate of the 68 teams in this year’s field.
Because three-point percentage against is pretty random, the best way to avoid getting beaten by the deep ball is to prevent attempts in the first place.
Nova’s Three-Point Attempt Rate of 43.8% (meaning nearly 44% of their field goal attempts are from behind the arc) could be problematic for Iowa’s defense, which owns a rate of 38.7% against.
Then again, Villanova’s three-point percentage of 34.4% ranks just 50th in the field of 68. If they go cold at their usual volume, we could be seeing Iowa advance after a first-round scare from Temple.
Based on nERD, which indicates by how many points we'd expect a team to defeat an average squad on a neutral floor, we see this as a 3.19-point difference based on the teams’ efficiencies.
2. Per 100 possessions, Notre Dame scores 115.3 points.
And Stephen F. Austin scores 115.5. Both are top-nine marks in the field.
The big difference?
On defense, Stephen F. Austin allows 90.4 points per 100 possessions, second-best in the field.
Notre Dame allows 107.5, worst in the field.
The big(ger) difference, of course, is schedule. How does that impact things? Well, Notre Dame’s schedule was 20th-toughest, and Stephen F. Austin's was 59th.
When adjusting for opponent, Notre Dame’s Offensive Rating of 117.9 ranked 11th in the nation. Stephen F. Austin’s 110.0 ranked 69th. Defensively, however, Stephen F. Austin still boasted the 11th-best defense (93.8 points per 100 possessions), and Notre Dame’s 103.2 ranked 166th.
Both teams are capable, and we’ll see how schedule strength impacts things.
3. Virginia Commonwealth ranks fifth in Steal Rate among tournament teams.
You know where Oklahoma ranks in opponent Steal Rate? Seventh. As in seventh-worst. Or seventh-most willing to give up steals.
The Rams are sixth in opponent Turnover Rate, but the Sooners aren’t quite as bad with the unforced errors, ranking 17th-worst in Turnover Rate.
Still, the penchant for giving up steals on Oklahoma’s end and the ability for the Rams to earn swipes could be key.
Based on nERD, the Sooners are about 5.4 points better than the Rams, but turnovers could close that gap pretty quickly.
4. Middle Tennessee shot 38.6% from three-point range this season.
That ranks 10th among tournament teams. They shot 11-of-19 (57.9%) from three against Michigan State. That likely won’t repeat such a high percentage against Syracuse, but as we all know, Syracuse’s 2-3 zone is susceptible to the three-point shot.
Syracuse's Three-Point Attempt Rate against of 40.3% is fourth-worst among tournament teams.
Middle Tennessee doesn’t get to the line at a high rate (.223 free throws per field goal attempt, sixth-lowest in the field), so expect them to live or die by the three ball against the Orange.
5. Hawaii earns foul shots at the second-highest rate in the NCAA Tournament.
Only West Virginia (46.1) had a higher Free Throw Rate than Hawaii (45.7%), and Hawaii’s 0.311 free throws per field goal attempt ranks fourth in the entire field.
Conversely, Maryland’s Free Throw Rate against (26.9%) ranks ninth in the field. Their .188 free throws per field goal attempt against ranks 10th in the field.
However, Hawaii’s free throw percentage of 68.1% ranks 47th, and Maryland’s 75.9% is fourth. The Terps only head to the line on 37.2% of their possessions, though, 39th among the 68 squads.
Of course, Hawaii gives up attempts on 38.3% of opponent possessions, 11th-highest.
This one could be decided at the line.
6. Northern Iowa is the worst offensive rebounding team in the tournament.
Northern Iowa needed a half-court buzzer beater to advance over Texas, denying the world a Texas/Texas A&M rematch, but cashing in on second-chance opportunities could be what ends their Cinderella run.
They nabbed just three offensive rebounds against Texas, which is par for the course. Their Offensive Rebound Rate of 17.9% is by far the worst mark of tournament teams -- Holy Cross’ somehow-much-better 23.6% is second-worst.
That could make for tough sledding against the Aggies’ defense, which ranks in the 91st percentile, per our metrics, and is the 10th-best in the nation when adjusting for schedule strength.
7. Xavier plays at the sixth-fastest Pace in the field.
Wisconsin plays at the third-slowest Pace in the field.
So, whoever controls the tempo could come out on top.
Sure, that might sound obvious, but a slow pace means fewer possessions, and that means more variance.
Wisconsin’s offense ranks in just the 70th percentile, and their defense is in the 76th.
Xavier is in the 91st percentile on offense and in the 87th on defense.
If the Musketeers ramp up the tempo, their big advantage (5.4 points, per nERD) in overall efficiency should end the Badgers’ run and successful season under new coach Greg Gard.
8. Oregon and St. Joseph’s is the fourth-closest game, per nERD.
Despite owning a 1 seed, our metrics aren’t high on the Ducks, and the gap of 4.81 points between them and St. Joe’s is far from a landslide.
That’s especially true if St. Joe’s avoids fouling. Their opponent Free Throw Rate of 24.5% is 4th-best in the field, and Oregon’s Free Throw Rate of 40.7% ranks 16th in the field as part of the 6th-best schedule-adjusted offense in the nation.
St. Joseph’s ranks just 104th in adjusted Defensive Rating, but avoiding giving up freebies to the Ducks could help them knock out the first -- and weakest, per our numbers -- 1 seed of the tourney.