NCAA Tournament: The 11 Best Performances From Opening Weekend
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament -- a single-elimination, win-or-go-home format -- logic doesn't always prevail.
Sometimes the will to win and the heart to get after that loose ball can be the difference between the favorite's win and the underdog's loss.
While we don't have any metrics that measure "hunger" or "heart," we do have one called nERD, which indicates how efficient a player is.
If you've followed the tournament on numberFire Live (hopefully you did), then you might have seen the Leaders tab, which shows the most impactful players in each game -- from a statistical standpoint.
In the Round of 64 and the Round of 32, 11 players earned a perfect 100 for their efficient contributions.
Who were they?
Round of 64
Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin topped the West Virginia Mountaineers in the tournament's opening round, and much of that is because of Walkup's standout performance. He shot 6 of 15 from the field but 19 of 20 from the charity stripe, culminating in 33 points to go along with 4 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and a block with just two turnovers in 37 minutes of action.
Josh Hagins, Arkansas-Little Rock
Another standout performance from a low seed, Hagins helped bust brackets all over the country by leading his squad to a win over Purdue. In all, he totaled 31 points on 10 of 20 from the field (3 of 7 from three-point range) and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. He chipped in six assists, seven rebounds, and five steals, too, to help the Trojans advance and generate one of the tournament's most apropos win probability graphs to date.
Daniel Ochefu, Villanova
Ochefu's impact wasn't necessarily because of his scoring, though he did notch 17 points. Rather, he was a cool 7 of 9 from the field and 3 of 4 from the free-throw line. He secured a double-double by hauling in 10 rebounds -- and also had 4 assists, 3 blocks, and a steal to keep Villanova's title dreams alive.
Mo Alie-Cox, Virginia Commonwealth
The Virginia Commonwealth Rams have become a tournament darling in recent years, but they actually were favored by our numbers going into their game against 7 seed Oregon State. They controlled the game most of the way, and Alie-Cox's efficient 20 points (on 7 of 8 from the field and 6 of 6 from the line) with 8 boards and 3 blocks was a big reason why the Rams met with the Oklahoma Sooners in the Round of 32.
Jake Layman, Maryland
The Maryland Terrapins beat the South Dakota State Jackrabbits by just five points, but their win was hardly in doubt from tip to buzzer. Layman's flawless 8 of 8 from the line in addition to 7 of 11 from the field (5 of 8 from three-point range) for 27 points earned him a spot on this list, despite his only other stats being 3 rebounds and a turnover.
Anthony Gill, Virginia
Virginia's 81-45 win over Hampton ultimately created a flat-line win probability graph, but that shouldn't take away from Gill's performance: 19 points on 8 of 13 from the field, 4 assists, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, and a 3-for-3 showing from the free-throw line and a 34.1% Usage Rate.
V.J. Beachem, Notre Dame
Now, this is a win probability graph worthy of March Madness. Beachem played 35 minutes for the Fighting Irish and didn't miss a shot while racking up 18 points: 7 of 7 from the field and 4 of 4 from deep. His six boards, one assist, and one block were just frosting on the cake that allowed Notre Dame to fend off the Wolverines and defeat Stephen F. Austin at the buzzer in the Round of 32.
Round of 32
Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Miami wasn't granted any favors by facing 11 seed Wichita State in the Round of 32, but the Hurricanes put an end to the Shockers' most recent attempt at busting brackets with a 65-57 win. Miami's guards in total outscored Wichita State 58-57, and Rodriguez's 28 points was key in that. He was 9 of 11 from the field, 3 of 4 from three-point range, and 7 of 8 at the line. Despite turning the ball over seven times, he used his 38.4% Usage Rate to tally 43% of Miami's points and to assist on another five baskets. He also swiped four steals and gathered two rebounds.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
After just seven first-half points, Hield helped put an end to VCU's Cinderella story and late-game surge. Hield scored 29 in the second half, going 11 of 20 overall, 6 of 14 from beyond the arc, and 8 of 10 from the line. He also had seven rebounds, an assist, and just one turnover despite a Usage Rate of 34.0% over 36 minutes.
Eric McClellan, Gonzaga
Gonzaga put away Utah pretty early in this contest, and some may point to Domantas Sabonis' line of 36 minutes, 8 of 12 from the field, 19 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block as the biggest reason why. However, Sabonis' performance graded out as a 93 on the scale of 100. McClellan's was a perfect 100.
McClellan was 7 of 10 from the field and 2 of 2 from the three-point line and from the foul line in 33 minutes. He secured 5 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a block in addition to a 22-point performance to get Gonzaga into the Sweet 16.
Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
Syracuse's luck down the stretch in the regular season was bad, but their fortunes in the NCAA Tournament have been reversed. After surging to beat the Dayton Flyers by 19 in round one, Syracuse avoided the Michigan State Spartans in the Round of 32, thanks to a historic upset by Middle Tennessee.
Gbinije made sure their good luck continued by posting 23 points on 10 of 14 from the field (3 of 7 from deep) with a handful of counting stats: 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block, and 3 steals. He wound up with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 82.1%, an Offensive Rating of 138, and a Defensive Rating of 86. That'll help anybody beat anybody.