10 Things to Know About This Year’s Sweet 16
How can they do this to us? Four straight days of single-elimination college basketball, and then all of a sudden, the NCAA wants us – the fans – to wait nearly four days for another game?
We're always waiting for things. Just now, I waited five minutes just to get my iced coffee at Starbucks (don't judge me). And apparently, on average, people spend between 45 and 62 minutes waiting for something every day. In March, that range is more like 18 to 20 hours per day. The other four hours are spent playing daily fantasy sports, of course.
Fortunately, there's only a handful of hours left until the Sweet 16 officially tips off. The waiting is almost over. But before you get comfortable on your couch tonight, make sure you're aware of the 10 things below. It could change your tournament watching experience.
1. Only three teams remaining ranked in the top 130 in pace this season.
Iowa State plays at the 11th-fastest pace in the country, while UCLA ranks 38th and Louisville 59th. The next-fastest team, Stanford, was the 136th-fastest team in terms of pace in the country this past season.
2. Louisville’s current nERD score ranks as the 27th-best since 2000.
Louisville is currently the best team left in terms of nERD, a metric that looks at the number of points a team would win by against an average squad on a neutral court. And according to the statistic, you’d expect them to win by 19.44 points against one of those average teams. But that number – 19.44 – ranks 27th since 2000. Considering there have been 14 tournaments since that time, it’s clear that Louisville isn’t as dominant as top teams in the past. Perhaps this is another sign that the playing field is truly leveling out in college hoops.
3. Five of the top six adjusted defensive rating teams are still alive.
Arizona, Virginia, Louisville, Florida and San Diego State are all still dancing, while Ohio State, who ranked second in adjusted defensive rating this season, was bounced by Dayton in Round 1. Stew Bratcher goes in depth about this in a recent article, found here.
4. 11 of the 16 teams remaining ranked in the top 20 in adjusted offensive rating.
While defense is clearly important, so is offense. Obvious? Yes, of course. You need a balanced team to move forward in the tournament. Only Virginia (37th), Stanford (40th), Connecticut (41st), Dayton (45th), and San Diego State (96th) remain in the tournament while not ranking in the top 20 offensively. And, as you can see, all teams rank in the top 100.
5. No SEC team has been eliminated from the tournament.
Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee were the only three teams making the Big Dance from the SEC, and each of them have survived to the Sweet 16. And it’s not as though the tasks have been easy. Florida had to face a tough Pitt team in the Round of 32, Kentucky beat an undefeated Wichita State squad, and Tennessee had to win a play-in game just to get to the Round of 64. Perhaps we all underrated the conference this year.
6. Of all remaining teams, San Diego State has played the easiest schedule.
The Aztecs ranked 83rd in strength of schedule this past season, which is the worst rank of any team remaining in the tournament. Which team ranks second to last? The Louisville Cardinals, who played the 75th-toughest schedule.
7. Four top-20 three-point shooting teams are in the Sweet 16.
That’s a mouthful. Of the 16 teams remaining, Michigan, Michigan State, Baylor and Connecticut all ranked in the top 20 in three-point field goal percentage this season. While they can hit the three well, none of them rank in the top 20 in percentage of points from three-pointers - they can do more than just hit long-distance shots.
8. Three of the top four teams in rebound rate are still alive in the tournament.
Kentucky, Tennessee and Arizona each rank in the top four in rebound rate, and, obviously, are still playing. Kentucky leads all of college basketball in total rebounds, too, while Tennessee ranks seventh and Arizona sits in ninth.
9. Three of the top six teams in assists per game are Sweet 16 teams.
Iowa State leads the nation with 18.5 assists per game, while UCLA ranks fourth (17.3) and Michigan State comes in at sixth (17.0). Interestingly enough, seven of the top 10 teams within this metric ended up being tournament teams.
10. Tennessee may be the best 11 seed in NCAA Tournament history.
I understand that making a claim like that is probably a little premature, but there’s some interesting data to back it up.
Just the other day, I looked at nERD scores from teams since the year 2000, realizing that Kentucky was the best eight seed we’ve ever seen over that time. And guess what? Tennessee’s 14.46 nERD is the highest of any 11 seed since the year 2000. Not only that, but the difference between Tennessee and the second-best team, 2001’s Temple Owls, is larger than what we saw with Kentucky.
And for the record, Temple went to the Elite Eight that year.