March Madness: 6 Games That Could Be Decided by Rebounding
In a 40-minute game, just about anything can happen.
With just about 70 possessions up for grabs for each team, a few extra chances -- and limiting second chances -- could make all the difference in a March Madness game.
Which glass-cleaning teams should you keep an eye on when building your brackets? And which squads are vulnerable to offensive rebounds?
Let's break down five opening-round matchups that could be decided on the glass.
Middle Tennessee (12) versus Minnesota (5)
This game -- by our nERD metric -- is going to be one of the tightest in the Round of 64. Our algorithms see Minnesota Golden Gophers winning it 51.6% of the time over the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. But rebounding might be what gives the Blue Raiders the edge.
They rank 33rd in the nation in rebounding rate (53.8%), per Sports Reference, and Minnesota ranks 151st at 50.8%. Among the 68 tournament teams, Middle Tennessee sits 16th, and the Golden Gophers are down at 46th.
Minnesota boasts the 9th-best defense by adjusted defensive rating, but the Gophers allow offensive rebounds on 30% of their possessions, 18th-worst in the field. Middle Tennessee is just 128th nationally in offensive rebounding rate, but if they can clean the glass and get second-chance points, that could be the deciding factor in a razor-thin game.
Xavier (11) versus Maryland (6)
The Xavier Musketeers rank 7th in the nation in total rebounding rate (54.8%), and they are 26th in offensive rebounding rate (35.1%). By contrast, the Maryland Terrapins are 165th in total rebounding rate (50.5%) and 103rd on the offensive glass (31.4%).
Xavier is the 8th-best team in the field of 68 at limiting opponent offensive rebounds (25.0%), and Maryland ranks 61st, allowing opponents to gather 31.8% of offensive rebound chances.
Our algorithms still see the Terps winning it 55.7% of the time, but if Xavier hits the boards like they have shown throughout the season, then perhaps their once-promising year will feature at least one tournament win after all.
Nevada (12) versus Iowa State (5)
Nevada sits just 30th in total rebounding rate (52.6%) in the field, but Iowa State (47.5%) is 67th of the 68 teams in the tournament. The Cyclones are also the seventh-worst offensive rebounding team in the tournament in terms of offensive rebounding rate (26.0%). Nevada is 15th-best at preventing offensive rebounds (also 26.0%) in the field.
Only two teams turn it over less than Iowa State does (12.6% of possessions) in the field, thanks to Monte Morris at point guard, but Nevada (13.7%) ranks 10th. Extra possessions could come as a result of missed shots rather than turnovers in this one, and that favors the 12 seed.
Seton Hall (9) versus Arkansas (8)
Seton Hall's 54.6% total rebounding rate ranked 21st nationally this season, and their 35.3% offensive rebounding rate was 25th. Each rank 12th among tournament teams. Arkansas sits 26th in offensive rebounding rate in the field at 32.5% but just 53rd in total rebounding rate (50.3%).
The Pirates are 10th-best at denying offensive boards (25.4%), and Arkansas (33.2%) gives up offensive rebounds more frequently than any team in the field other than the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (34.6%) and the Texas Southern Tigers (34.4%). Both are 16 seeds. Seton Hall's Angel Delgado led the nation in offensive rebounds, in case you didn't know.
Rhode Island (11) versus Creighton (6)
Back to the 6-versus-11 seeds. The Rhode Island Rams ranked just 83rd in total rebounding rate this season (52.3%) and rank 34th in the field, but the Creighton Bluejays (49.3%) ranked 234th on the season and are 60th among the 68 championship contenders.
Rhode Island is 24th on the offensive glass (33.3%), and Creighton earns offensive boards at the 4th-lowest rate in the tournament (24.7%). Neither team is great at limiting offensive boards (28.6% for Rhode Island and 29.0% for Creighton), but Rhode Island's rebounding could seal this game.
Both teams have had lofty expectations for this season, but they'll have to end the other's run to fulfill those expectations. Our algorithms give Creighton an edge here with a 50.8% chance to win.
Marquette (10) versus South Carolina (7)
This isn't a 6-versus-11 tilt, but these 7-versus-10 games can be just as close. We project the South Carolina Gamecocks to advance 51.9% of the time over the Marquette Golden Eagles. Neither team excels on the glass, as South Carolina (50.7%) ranked 158th on the year in total rebounding rate and Marquette (49.7%) ranked 213th.
However, South Carolina is 21st in the field in offensive rebounding rate (33.5%), and Marquette (27.2%) sits 57th.
With such a close game anticipated between Marquette's stellar offense (eighth in adjusted offensive rating) and South Carolina's elite defense (third in adjusted defensive rating), the winner of the rebounding battle could come out on top.