Water Cooler Talk: 80 Quick Facts About This Year’s Big Dance
The NCAA Tournament can bring stress in a variety of ways. Naturally, America will be on the edge of their seats as they watch buzzer beaters and upsets, and that can be stressful enough. But going to the office uninformed on Day 1 and 2 of the Big Dance can be just as anxiety-filled.
You go to the water cooler, and Frank is standing there with his bracket. You know Frank is a sports geek, but more of a bro than anything else. He’s bound to stir up conversation about the tournament, and you’re more than likely going to find an excuse to leave the discussion.
Using our awesome analytics, I’ve put together 80 quick facts to get you on the right path to a good, sound sports discussion by your office's water cooler. It’s time to join in on the conversation – don’t be afraid of Frank’s knowledge. Let the analytics back you up.
1. Kansas is really good, but there are question marks surrounding their chances due to an injury to freshman center Joel Embiid.
2. His name is pronounced “Jo-El Em-Beed”.
3. The Jayhawks (that’s Kansas) played the toughest schedule this year though, and Embiid could be back for the Sweet 16.
4. The Big 12, Kansas’ conference, sent the most teams to the NCAA Tournament (7).
5. Oklahoma State, one of those seven teams, has a talented sophomore guard in Marcus Smart.
6. Marcus Smart did this, was suspended, and the Cowboys struggled mightily from the end of January until the middle of February.
7. But they still managed to win five of their last seven, losing in overtime in the Big 12 Tournament to the aforementioned Kansas Jayhawks.
8. Speaking of conference tournaments, Virginia won the ACC Tournament. And the ACC regular season title.
9. But no one wants to pick Virginia in the Final Four because they’re the worst one seed, and they went 2-3 against top-25 teams this year.
10. But they’ve won 16 of their last 17 games, and are a top 10 team according to nERD.
11. When talking around the water cooler, explain that nERD is a numberFire metric that looks at how many points a team would win by against an average team on a neutral court.
12. Tell everyone that Arizona is the best team in terms of nERD, despite losing forward Brandon Ashley for the season at the beginning of February.
13. When Ashley first got injured, Arizona lost their first game, and began 2-2 without him.
14. Since then, however, Arizona’s 7-2.
15. They have one of the best defenses in the country.
16. So does Louisville, a favorite to repeat as National Champions.
17. Despite being a four seed, Louisville is numberFire’s second-best team.
18. Everyone is picking Louisville to go to the Final Four.
19. Except for people from Wichita, Kansas.
20. Wichita State still hasn’t lost this season, but ranked 90th in terms of strength of schedule.
21. Only 22 tournament teams played easier schedules.
22. Wichita State calls themselves the Shockers, which means “one who harvests wheat”.
23. People who pick teams to go on in the NCAA Tournament based on mascots probably won’t be picking Wichita State, either.
24. Wichita State’s best win was against Saint Louis, who have just as weird of a mascot (the Billikens).
25. Saint Louis losing to North Carolina State will be one of the most popular 12/5 upsets, even though Saint Louis has a top 10 defense in the country.
26. Saint Louis finished their season 1-4 after starting 25-2.
27. The Syracuse Orange also started strong and finished weak, going 25-0 and finishing 3-5.
28. Syracuse is a three seed as a result.
29. Iowa State is also a three seed, but they’re a better team, ranking 14th in nERD versus Syracuse’s 21 rank.
30. Iowa State is led by a guy named Melvin Ejim, who averaged over 18 points per game this year.
31. The Cyclones also have four players who average double figures, giving them a 34th-ranked offense.
32. Their friends in Iowa, the Hawkeyes, play better offense though.
33. But that doesn’t matter, because Iowa has lost six of their last seven games, and could be knocked out of the tournament before Thursday.
34. Their game tonight is against Tennessee, who played in a conference (the SEC) that sent just three teams to the NCAA Tournament.
35. One of those teams, however, was top-ranked Florida.
36. Florida hasn’t lost since December 2nd, 2013.
37. Our numbers still like Kansas, Arizona and Louisville more.
38. Florida’s last loss came against UConn, a seven seed out of the American Athletic Conference.
39. The AAC used to be the Big East, but reorganized after teams like Pittsburgh and Syracuse left for the ACC.
40. The AAC still sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament this year.
41. None were ranked lower than Memphis in nERD. Memphis plays George Washington on Friday.
42. George Washington played in the Atlantic 10 this year, a conference that doesn’t get along with our analytics.
43. Massachusetts is the one team our metrics may hate most. They’re a six seed, while our numbers say they should be an 11 or 12 seed.
44. At the water cooler, don’t let Jerry tell you UMass plays good offense. They rank 126th in the country. They just play fast.
45. But no team in the Big Dance plays faster than BYU.
46. The Cougars have a stud named Tyler Haws, who averaged more than nine more points per game than the team’s second-leading scorer.
47. BYU’s first game is against Oregon, who also plays fairly fast.
48. Don’t watch that game if you get motion sickness.
49. The country’s best player is probably Doug McDermott of Creighton.
50. The Bluejays are a three seed, but have the best offense in the country.
51. Given the way the bracket is set up, Creighton won’t have to face a top-50 defense until the potential Elite Eight.
52. The best defenses in the tournament belong to: Louisville, San Diego State and Arizona
53. San Diego State has only lost four games this year, two to New Mexico.
54. They beat Kansas.
55. SDSU will face New Mexico State (not New Mexico) in their first game.
56. New Mexico State has won five straight games, and have a 20th-ranked offense.
57. But they played the 170th-hardest schedule.
58. Teams in the tournament that played the toughest schedules: Kansas, Wisconsin, Kentucky
59. Kentucky’s top four scorers are freshman.
60. Coach John Calipari won the National Championship two years ago with Kentucky.
61. That team had three freshman averaging double-digit points.
62. The best offenses in the country: Creighton, Duke, Louisville
63. Coach K’s Blue Devils are led by a freshman, too: Jabari Parker.
64. Duke is the sixth-best team in our power rankings.
65. Villanova ranks one slot ahead of them in the five spot.
66. ‘Nova is a two seed in the East region, but is 1-3 against the top 25.
67. The only other tournament team that relies more on three-pointers than Villanova is Creighton.
68. Villanova and Creighton finished first and second in the new Big East.
69. Providence, and 11 seed, won the Big East Tournament though.
70. The Friars have a really good senior guard named Bryce Cotton.
71. Providence still lost 11 games, and rank 50th in nERD.
72. The worst at-large bids in terms of nERD: NC State, Nebraska, Colorado
73. Nebraska is 3-7 against the top 25.
74. But they’ve won 10 of 13.
75. Unfortunately, they’re playing a Baylor team that’s won 10 of their last 12.
76. Baylor ranks 30th in nERD.
77. They're the third-best six seed in the tournament, according to our metrics.
78. Ohio State is the best one, ranking 16th.
79. Ohio State has a guard named Aaron Craft, who has played college basketball for 16 years.
80. That’s not true, but the guys at the water cooler will say, “How is Aaron Craft still playing college basketball?”
I guess I’ll end with that.