March Madness: 16 Stats to Know for the Sweet 16, Presented by GMC
As always, the first week of the NCAA Tournament was a treat to watch. We got a little bit of everything -- wild finishes, big-time highlights, and a Cinderella story.
There are 16 teams still alive. While we can't pull anything concrete from a two-game sample size, let's take a quick numbers-based snapshot of each team left standing in the Sweet 16.
Remember to get those picks in for the GMC Mountain Climber Pick 'Em contest for your chance at $20,000 in prizes. And don't forget to reserve your Sierra.
Here we go.
Arkansas Is Shooting 27.0% From Three
Through two NCAA Tournament games, the Arkansas Razorbacks are hitting just 27.0% of their three-point tries.
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, that's not actually that much worse than their usual three-point percentage. For the campaign, Arkansas hit only 30.5% from deep, which ranked 323rd nationally.
Going up against a Gonzaga Bulldogs team that checks in first in adjusted offense, per KenPom, and second in tempo among teams left in the tourney, Arkansas likely needs a flukey-hot night from beyond the arc to pull the upset.
Gonzaga Is Averaging 87.5 Points Per Game
Going by nearly any metric you could find, the Bulldogs came into the Big Dance as clearly the best team in the nation. They haven't been flawless, getting pushed to varying degrees by both the Georgia State Panthers and Memphis Tigers. The Zags have still been pretty dang good, though, especially offensively.
Gonzaga is averaging 87.5 points per game in the tourney. That's the top-ranked clip among teams who haven't played in any overtime games.
Our algorithm gives Gonzaga an 87.0% chance to advance past Arkansas, the second-highest odds to get to the Elite 8.
Texas Tech Is First in Adjusted Defense
The Texas Tech Red Raiders came into the tournament with a rock-solid defense, and they've flexed their muscles on that end of the floor.
Tech has held the Montana State Bobcats and Notre Dame Fighting Irish to 62 and 53 points, respectively. And it's not like those are bad offenses, as KenPom slots Notre Dame's O 29th.
The Red Raiders will have their work cut out for them against the Duke Blue Devils' fourth-ranked offense. Duke has the tourney's best adjusted field goal percentage (60.5%), but our model has Texas Tech advancing 52.1% of the time. The Red Raiders won't keep shooting a tourney-best 45.7% from deep, but they can keep playing lights-out D.
Duke Has Swatted 16 Shots
Defense isn't necessarily one of the strengths of this year's Duke squad -- just 43rd in D, per KenPom -- but they've held a block party through two games. They blocked 10 shots in the first round against the Cal State Fullerton Titans before stuffing the Michigan State Spartans 6 times in the Round of 32.
The 16 total blocks ranks first in the tourney among teams in the Sweet 16. Impressively, they've managed to turn away a ton of shots without fouling much, recording 0.70 blocks per foul, which is by far the best mark in the Big Dance.
Michigan Has Taken Only 30 Three-Pointers
The Michigan Wolverines have stayed true to who they are offensively, and they're a team that doesn't shoot many three-balls.
Michigan entered the tourney with a three-point attempt rate of just 32.2%, which was the 13th-lowest mark among tournament squads. Through two games, they've taken only 30 total three-point tries, making just 10. They're getting it done inside the arc, making 52.0% of their two-pointers, the second-best clip in the Big Dance.
Michigan has taken more than 22 threes in a game once since December 30th, but the three-point line might end up being their best chance to upset the Villanova Wildcats, a team that has allowed a three-point attempt rate of 42.8%, the second-highest clip among teams still playing.
Villanova Is Hitting 87.5% of Their Free Throws
If you watch a Villanova game, you're bound to get told over and over again by the commentators that Villanova leads the nation in free-throw percentage. But, man, it really is wildly impressive.
For the year, 'Nova is making 82.6% of their free throws -- the best mark nationally by 2.9 percentage points. The all-time single-season record is 82.2%, set by the Harvard Crimson in 1983-84.
Jay Wright's team has somehow upped its free-throw shooting in the tourney, hitting 28 of 32 from the line (87.5%). They made 17 of 20 against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second round, compared to the Buckeyes going only 6 of 11 on their freebies.
We give Villanova a 74.1% chance to beat Michigan, the fourth-best win odds in the field.
Houston Plays at the Second-Slowest Pace
Personally, the Sweet 16 game I'm most looking forward to is the Houston Cougars against the Arizona Wildcats. Not only is it a matchup of two of the very best teams in the land -- we rank Arizona second and Houston third -- but it's two contrasting styles.
Among teams left in the tourney, Houston plays at the second-slowest adjusted tempo. According to KenPom, the Cougars rank 333rd nationally in pace. 'Zona, meanwhile, plays at the fastest pace among teams still alive and is fifth in the country in adjusted tempo.
It'll be fascinating to see how this game plays out. Our numbers hand 'Zona 56.6% odds of moving on.
Bennedict Mathurin Has Shot 21 Three-Pointers
Arizona star Bennedict Mathurin has been one of the best players in the tourney so far, averaging 24.0 points and 6.5 boards per game.
He's been super aggressive from three -- considerably more active from deep than he was in the regular season.
He's taken 11 and 10 triples through the first two rounds, making 7 of them. In the regular season, Mathurin never shot more than nine threes in a game. He averaged just 6.1 three-point tries per night, compared to the 10.5 he's averaging thus far in the tourney.
Purdue Has Attempted 79 Free Throws
Through two NCAA Tournament matchups, the Purdue Boilermakers have taken a whopping 79 free throws. That's nearly 40 per game and is 19 more free-throw tries than anyone else in the field. Purdue has made them at a superb clip, too, shooting 75.9% from the stripe.
The Boilers shooting that many free throws is a little flukey, but overall, this is a Purdue team that does an excellent job getting to the line. They own a free-throw attempt rate of 38.5%, the second-best mark among tourney teams.
Things are falling Purdue's way so far, as they get a Sweet 16 matchup against the 15th-seeded Saint Peter's Peacocks. We project Purdue to win that game 94.5% of the time, the best win odds for any Sweet 16 team.
Saint Peter's Is Ninth in Adjusted Defense
I'm not saying we should have seen this Saint Peter's run coming, but there were some signs that the Peacocks weren't going to be a pushover. The biggest thing they have going for them is their defense.
Saint Peter's is now up to 28th in KenPom's adjusted D. That's the ninth-best mark among Sweet 16 teams, and it's a place where the Peacocks will have an advantage on Purdue. The Boilers rank just 89th in adjusted defense, the second-worst ranking among teams still lacing 'em up.
North Carolina Has Taken 60 Three-Pointers
The North Carolina Tar Heels average just 23.3 three-point tries per game with a three-point attempt rate of 38.0% that checks in 170th nationally. But they've been letting them fly in the tourney.
Across their two games (one of which was an overtime affair), UNC has attempted 60 total three-pointers, the most among the remaining 16 squads. The Heels have hit 24 of them -- good for a sparkling 40.0% clip.
For the year, North Carolina is making 36.4% of their threes, so it's not like they're shooting out of this world from three in the dance; they're just taking a bunch of three-pointers. That'll be tested against a UCLA Bruins defense that has permitted its two NCAA Tournament foes to shoot just 28.9% from three.
UCLA Plays at the Fourth-Slowest Pace
The UCLA-UNC matchup is similar to the aforementioned Arizona-Houston clash in that we get a date between polar opposites in the pace department.
The Bruins slot in 271st in adjusted tempo, the 4th-slowest among remaining teams. Carolina is 31st in pace and plays at the 4th-fastest tempo among the final 16 teams.
We can look to UCLA's three games against Arizona this year to get a feel for how the Bruins handle playing way up in pace, although it's obviously not an apples-to-apples comparison since the Wildcats are better than UNC. UCLA went 1-2 against 'Zona. They won the first matchup by 16 points before losing by 10 and 8, with the 8-point loss coming in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Our model has UCLA beating UNC 73.9% of the time.
Iowa State Has 24 Steals
The Iowa State Cyclones' turnaround from a two-win team to a Sweet 16 berth is a great story. The Cyclones have done it with defense. Iowa State ranks fifth in the nation in adjusted D, which is the second-best mark among teams left. They've swiped an astounding 24 steals through two tourney games.
It's not as pretty offensively, as the Cyclones sit 158th in adjusted O. Only Iowa State and Saint Peter's (226th) are outside the top 53 in offense.
Luckily for Iowa State, the bracket in front of them has fallen pretty nicely as they get to face the Miami Hurricanes in a rare 11/10 Sweet 16 bout. Our algorithm has Iowa State advancing 57.1% of the time.
Miami Has Committed 7 Total Turnovers
The Hurricanes knocked off the Auburn Tigers, a 2 seed, to get to the Sweet 16, and a big reason they're still alive is that Miami keeps getting shot attempts on nearly all of their trips -- as simple as that sounds.
Miami has turned the ball over just seven times through two games, which is an incredibly low number. Among teams still playing, no other squad has fewer than 14 turnovers.
That's helped Miami win two games despite some putrid shooting. The 'Canes have hit only 4 of 29 three-pointers in the Big Dance. All of the other 15 remaining teams have made at least 10 treys.
Providence Is Shooting 45.7% From Three
I guess the Providence Friars didn't like everyone calling them overrated.
While the gripes about the Friars getting a 4 seed were mostly warranted, there's no denying that Providence played well in the first two rounds, knocking off the South Dakota State Jackrabbits by 9 and the Richmond Spiders by 28.
Buuuuut they shot unsustainably well from three, hitting 45.7% of their shots from beyond the arc, the second-best clip in the tournament. The Friars are hitting just 35.0% of their threes for the campaign.
They'll likely need to keep hitting lots of three-balls to upset the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks.
Kansas Is Taking 67.0 Shots Per Game
The Kansas Jayhawks have been a force on the offensive glass, averaging 12.0 offensive rebounds per game in the Big Dance. That's helped them average 67.0 shots through two games, the most among the remaining teams.
It's something Kansas has done all year. They own a 33.0% offensive rebound rate, which is 38th in the country and 4th-best in the Sweet 16. KU has at least 10 offensive rebounds in six of their last nine games.
By seed, Kansas has the toughest Sweet 16 matchup it could've gotten, but Providence is a weak 4 seed. Our model has Kansas winning 85.2% of the time, the third-highest odds for this coming round.