Water Cooler Talk: 80 Quick Facts About This Year's Big Dance
Feeling overwhelmed yet?
The NCAA Tournament is fun, engaging, entertaining -- it's a lot of awesome things. But for some, it might also be stressful. Learning about teams and cramming information into your head in order to fill out an optimal bracket in just a handful of days is not easy.
So, to help, I've compiled a list of facts to guide you through the noise. Whether you're at the water cooler with a bunch of coworkers or just in need of some more statistics to solidify your bracket choices, I've -- we've, at numberFire -- got you covered.
80 Facts to Know
1. The top team in college basketball according to nERD, which tells us the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average squad on a neutral court, is Gonzaga.
2. Gonzaga's 20.54 rating is 1.69 points better than the average 1 seed since 2000, and it's the 16th-highest nERD rating given to a team over this time.
3. Our numbers are giving Gonzaga a near 19% chance to win this year's title. Meanwhile, only 8% of the public according to ESPN's Who Picked Whom data has the Bulldogs as National Champs.
5. So are the West Virginia Mountaineers who, despite being a 4 seed, have the fifth-best nERD in all of college basketball.
6. Only four teams in the tournament have a better adjusted defensive rating than WVU, and they rank 19th in adjusted offensive rating, too.
7. The Mountaineers lost eight games this year, but all of their losses came by a single-digit point margin. And three were overtime defeats.
8. West Virginia could face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, so don't be surprised if the winner of that hypothetical game goes to the Final Four.
9. Also in their region -- the West -- is Arizona, the fifth-most popular Final Four team according to ESPN's Who Picked Whom data.
10. The Wildcats have gotten to at least the Sweet 16 in four of their last five NCAA Tournament appearances.
11. nERD, however, thinks they're overrated -- they have the 19th-best nERD rating in college hoops, which is by far the worst ranking among all 2 seeds.
12. If Arizona goes deep, they may have to take care of Saint Mary's.
13. The Gaels (Saint Mary's) are strong across the board, ranking 20th among tournament teams in adjusted net rating, 7th in total rebound percentage, 5th in effective field goal percentage, and 14th in effective field goal percentage against.
14. According to nERD, Saint Mary's is the 25th-best team in the tournament.
15. Just below them in the power rankings is Notre Dame, who's a 5 seed in the same West region.
17. Notre Dame has the best turnover rate in the tournament.
18. The most noteworthy team with a bad turnover rate? Michigan State, who has the second-worst rate among all tournament teams.
19. Sparty enters the dance as a 9 seed, but their 10.21 nERD is actually lower than what the standard 9 seed has seen over history.
20. Michigan State lost in the first round of the tournament last season as a 2 seed to Middle Tennessee.
21. Middle Tennessee is back in the tournament this year and, according to our numbers, have the highest chance of pulling off a 12-5 upset.
22. Since the calendar flipped to 2017, Middle Tennessee has lost one game.
23. They're not the best 12 seed in the tournament according to nERD, though. That goes to Nevada.
24. Nevada was 13th in the country in three-point percentage allowed this year, while Iowa State, their Round of 64 opponent, ranked 11th in three-point shooting percentage.
25. Iowa State also shoots a three on 39.5% of their shots, which is the 17th-highest rate in the NCAA Tournament.
27. Villanova ranks 2nd in adjusted offensive rating, 2nd in true shooting percentage, and 4th in effective field goal percentage.
28. Wisconsin, a potential second-round matchup for Villanova, ranks 7th in adjusted defensive rating, 18th in true shooting percentage against, and 20th in effective field goal percentage.
29. The Badgers, per nERD, are the 22nd-best team in college basketball.
30. That region -- the East -- is the best in the tourney according to our numbers.
31. The East's top four seeds have a nERD average of 18.09, while seeds 5 through 8 have an average of 15.02.
32. To put that into perspective, the average 1 seed has had a nERD of 18.84 since the turn of the century, the ordinary 2 seed's rating has been 16.10, and the standard 3 seed has come in at 14.48.
33. In other words, the 5 through 8 seeds in the East region average out to be better than a standard 3 seed, while the top four seeds average out to be better than the usual 2 seed.
34. In other words, Villanova got a tough draw.
35. In other words, so did Duke.
36. The Blue Devils are the 2 seed in the East, and they haven't lost a game by more than seven points since January 14th despite playing in the tough ACC.
38. Those are two very different teams: Marquette ranks eighth in adjusted offensive rating with the fourth-best true shooting percentage in the country, while South Carolina is third in adjusted defensive rating with the fifth-best effective field goal percentage against in the country.
40. SMU ranks 16th in nERD and 15th in adjusted net rating.
41. Virginia ranks 9th in nERD and 4th in adjusted net rating.
42. Virginia could hypothetically meet SMU in the Elite Eight, and if they do, prepare for a snoozefest: they both rank in the bottom four in possessions per game.
43. Virginia is actually the second-best 5 seed our numbers have seen since the year 2000.
44. The best 5 seed? Florida in 2000.
45. That year, Florida lost to Michigan State in the National Championship.
46. Florida's actually underrated this year, coming in with the sixth-best nERD in college hoops.
47. But they lost big man John Egbunu in February, which could hurt them in the tournament.
48. In January and February with Egbunu, Florida averaged +2.33 net rebounds per game. Without him, they're averaging -0.57 net rebounds per game.
49. They've still performed well, though, having lost just three games since his season-ending injury. Two of those games were to Vanderbilt, while one was to Kentucky.
50. Kentucky, as usual, is inexperienced but immensely talented, ranking third overall in nERD.
51. They've got both a top-15 offense and defense when adjusted for opponent, and among all tournament teams, have seen the most possessions per game.
52. One of the biggest matchups of the NCAA Tournament could occur in the second round if Kentucky meets Wichita State.
52. Despite being a 10 seed, Wichita State has the 10th-best nERD in college basketball.
53. Since 2000, the difference in nERD between Wichita State and the average 10 seed is the second-greatest delta we've seen from a team to their seed.
54. To put this another way, Wichita State is the second-most underrated, underseeded team in the tournament over the last decade and a half.
55. The Shockers have won at least one game in each of their last four tourney appearances.
56. Another team that's had a lot of early-round success in the tournament is Maryland -- they've somehow won at least one game in each of their last 12 appearances.
57. Unfortunately, that may end this year: they're the most overrated team in the tournament according to our numbers.
59. As noted earlier, Minnesota has the highest likelihood of suffering the dreaded 12-5 upset this year.
60. A 12-5 upset has happened at least once in all but two tournaments over the last 15 years.
61. About 43% of 12 seeds have won their first-round matchups over this time.
62. Since the bracket expanded to 64 teams back in 1985, only one more 5 seed has made the Sweet 16 versus 6 seeds.
63. And nearly 60% of National Champions have been 1 seeds.
64. North Carolina's tournament results over their last 10 dances as a 1 seed: one second-round exit, two Elite Eight exits, three Final Four exits, one championship loss, and three National Championships won.
65. Per nERD, no 1 seed has an easier path to the Elite Eight than North Carolina.
67. That is, if Purdue can make it that far -- over their last four tournament appearances, they've failed to make it to the Sweet 16.
68. Purdue is the unquestioned best Big Ten team in the dance, though, with a nERD of 16.66.
71. A lot of folks are picking UCLA to come out of their region because of their talented roster, but the Bruins rank 63rd in the country in adjusted defensive rating.
72. Teams with a better adjusted offensive rating than UCLA: Villanova and Oklahoma State.
73. Oklahoma State is vastly underseeded -- their 15.02 nERD is nearly 5 points better than the historical 10 seed.
74. They draw a tough first-round matchup against Michigan, though, who's also underrated.
75. Oklahoma State ranks third in possessions per game among tournament teams. Michigan ranks third-lowest.
76. The winner of that game would be expected to lose to Louisville, a strong 2 seed, by over three points.
77. The Cardinals have the fourth-best adjusted defensive rating in college hoops and, among tournament teams, have the seventh-best effective field goal percentage against.
78. No matter who they face in the Round of 32 -- assuming they make it there -- Louisville will be tested: Michigan, like Oklahoma State, has a top-five adjusted offensive rating.
79. Overall, this year's tournament is filled with good teams: only 23 of the 68 squads have a nERD rating that's below the average historical nERD for their particular seed.
80. It's going to be a fun few weeks.