NCAA Tournament First Four Preview: Who Will Advance on Tuesday?
The field is set, the brackets are filled, and, tonight, the first games will be played.
The 2015 NCAA Tournament begins in Dayton with a pair of "First Four" games, as two 16 seeds, Manhattan and Hampton square off at 6:40, followed by Brigham Young and Ole Miss in a battle of 11 seeds.
Both matchups have more than enough intrigue and, together with Wednesday's games, should be able to hold you over until Thursday, so let's take a closer look at both games.
Manhattan vs. Hampton
Manhattan and Hampton will get the madness started in what could be a mismatch in favor of the Jaspers.
Manhattan is our 157th ranked team and, based on nERD scores alone, would be expected to beat our 268th-best team, Hampton, by 5.7 points on a neutral court. Hampton could be in a deeper hole, though, as 6’7’’ guard Dwight Meikle, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed the team’s last three games. His status is uncertain for Tuesday’s contest.
Hampton looks to push the tempo, ranking 28th in pace, but is only 298th in offensive efficiency, according to our metrics. They rank better than just 17.0% of offenses in the country. Manhattan, meanwhile, has an above-average defense, ranking 98th in defensive efficiency and eighth in the country in turnover rate (24.1%).
Jaspers forward (and top scorer) Emmy Andujar is a big reason why, as he ranks first the MAAC and is tied for 19th in the country in steals per game with 2.1.
This will almost surely be problematic for Hampton, which gives the ball away on 20.5% of its possessions (273rd). Hampton also struggles shooting the ball, ranking 299th in effective field goal percentage, while shooting just 30.4% from three-point range (314th).
Hampton does get to the line at an efficient rate (ranking 37th in free throws per field goal attempt), while Manhattan allows a high number of fouls as a byproduct of its aggressive defense (the Jaspers allow the seventh most free throws per field goal attempt). The Pirates are also solid on the offensive glass, but their turnover and shooting woes could spell trouble against Manhattan.
The script will be turned on the other end of the floor, where Hampton is in the 69th percentile in defensive efficiency (102nd in the nation), while the Jaspers are in the 41st percentile on offense (209th).
Like Manhattan, Hampton will have plenty of opportunities to force turnovers on defense, given that they rank 110th in turnover percentage (above the national average) and will face an offense that ranks 296th in this department.
Hampton is also 70th in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense, due in part to a strong interior presence. The Pirates are 50th in the country in field goal percentage at the rim, according to Hoop-Math, thanks to forward Jervon Pressley and Meikle, who ranked fourth and fifth in the MEAC in block percentage, respectively.
Manhattan, though, likes to attack the rim, ranking 28th in percentage of field goal attempts that take place at the rim (49.7%). While the Jaspers are not particularly efficient from the floor near the basket, ranking just 251st in rim field goal percentage, the frequency with which they get their explains how the Jaspers are fifth in the nation in free throw attempts per field goal attempts. Much of Manhattan’s offensive efficiency is derived from their ability to get to the line, as they do not stand out offensively in terms of shooting, rebounding, or avoiding turnovers.
Ashton Pankey leads the way here, and is 17th in the country in free throws attempt per field goal attempt and should have ample opportunities to pad his numbers here, given Hampton’s defense is 323rd in team free throw attempts allowed per field goal attempt faced.
There are not many certainties this time of year, but expecting a high volume of free throw attempts in this game seems like as safe a prediction as possible.
An ever safer assumption is that whoever wins this one won’t be celebrating for long, as the reward for victory is a date with top-seeded Kentucky.
Have fun with that.
BYU vs. Ole Miss
BYU and Ole Miss come into the night’s second game as two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions.
The Cougars won eight consecutive games before losing the West Coast Conference final to Gonzaga. During that winning streak, which included a win at Gonzaga, BYU won by an average margin of 13.9 points.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, has lost four of its last five, including a defeat to South Carolina in the first round of the SEC tournament.
The Rebels allowed over 1.06 points per possession in three of its last five games, and their defense will not get a break against BYU, which ranks seventh in the nation in Offensive Efficiency.
By combining this efficiency with the nation’s 12th-fastest pace -- the second-fastest pace in the tournament -- the Cougars are averaging 81.8 points per game (behind only Northwestern State).
BYU is 39th nationally in effective field goal percentage (53%), 33rd in turnover rate (16.4%), and 51st in free throw attempt rate (.423) (they also have a 33.9% offensive rebound rate, which is 88th, but still ranks above the national average).
The duo of Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth has been the catalyst here, as the two guards have offensive ratings of 123.6 and 116.7, respectively.
Haws, a senior who is averaging 19.5 points per game in his career, has a usage rate of 30.9% this season, making him of one of 55 players in Division I with a usage rate north of 30%.
Among this group, Haws has the highest offensive rating, sixth highest true shooting percentage (59.4%) and fourth lowest turnover rate (9.7%).
Of the 139 players with a usage percentage higher than 28%, only Wisconsin's Frank Kaminksy has been more efficient (with an Offensive Rating of 129.8).
Collinsworth is 17th in the country in assists per game (5.8) and 11th nationally in assist percentage (among players with a usage rate of at least 24%).
Throw Chase Fischer, who is averaging nearly three made three-pointers per game and shooting 39.7% from behind the arc, into the mix and it is not hard to see why BYU has been so strong on offense.
It could all be too much to handle for Ole Miss, which ranks 144th in defensive efficiency. The Rebels defend two pointers well (allowing teams to shoot 43.4% from inside the arc, which ranks 31st nationally), but that is about all they do well on defense.
They rank 205th in three-point percentage defense and 319th in three-point attempt rate. Mississippi’s 18.9 turnover rate is 184th nationally, their defensive rebounding rate (68.3%) ranks 207th, and their free throw attempt rate (.412) is 257th.
It is hard not to envision BYU putting up a ton of points, but the Cougars could struggle at the other end.
BYU is in the 47th percentile in defensive efficiency, ranking 177th. Defensive rebounding is the only one of the Four Factors where they crack the top 190 (they grab 71.8% of available defensive boards, which is 56th). They are 197th in effective field goal percentage (49.6%), 229 in free throw attempts per field goal attempt (.396), and 245th in turnover rate (18%).
It is a matchup that Ole Miss will have to exploit to have a chance Tuesday night. The Rebels are tied for 51st in Offensive Efficiency and rank in the 83.7th percentile. While they don’t shoot very well, ranking 208th nationally in effective field goal percentage, they compensate with above average offensive rebounding and ball protection.
Ole Miss is 48th in turnover percentage (16.9%), and in conference play, they were even better, posting an SEC-best rate of 15.1%. On the offensive glass, the Rebels rank 49th nationally, with a rebound rate of 35%.
Their offense will go as far as leading-scorer Stefan Moody takes them, as the Florida Atlantic University transfer was fourth in the SEC in points per game with 16.3. He was also one of the conference’s most efficient scorers, despite leading the league in usage rate (29.7%). He ranked ninth in the conference in Offensive Rating (116.1) and third among the 16 players in the conference that used more than 25% of their team’s possessions.
Moody could use a hand from fellow guard Jarvis Summers, whose stats fell across the board this season after a strong showing last year. Since last year, the senior’s points per game average fell from 17.3 to 12.4, his field goal percentage fell from 48.6% to 34.4%, and his Offensive Rating dropped from 118.9 to 104.0.
Summers’ usage rate was about the only thing that increased from last year, as it rose from 26.7% to 27.1%, so he’ll play an important role in Ole Miss’ efforts to keep up with BYU.
The winner of what promises to be a high-scoring game will face sixth-seeded Xavier on Thursday.