Water Cooler Talk: 80 Quick Facts About This Year’s NCAA Tournament
No one wants to be the person at work who knows nothing about college basketball during March Madness.
It's OK if you're not really into the sport -- plenty of people aren't. But you should have a general idea of who's playing who, which players are best, and which teams are expected to make big runs in this year's big dance.
So to help, I did exactly what I did last year: I made a list. A list of 80 things, in fact, that should help guide conversation and make you look moderately intelligent at the water cooler when NCAA Tournament conversation begins.
2. This year's top 10 within the rating includes Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, Virginia, Villanova, Gonzaga, Duke, Utah, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
3. The only team in that top 10 that's not a 1, 2 or 3 seed in this year's tournament is Utah.
4. Utah got a 5 seed in the big dance (another name for the tournament) after losing four of their final seven games, dropping two games to Oregon, one to Arizona, and an ugly one to Washington.
5. However, per our nERD metric -- which tells us how many points we should expect a team to win by against an average opponent on a neutral court -- Utah is the eighth-best squad in the country with a top-15 offense and defense.
6. The 1 seed in Utah's region is Duke, a team that ranks fifth in our power rankings.
7. Duke can play offense just as well as anyone, led by freshman Jahlil Okafor, who's arguably the best college basketball player in the country.
8. The Blue Devils (that's Duke) struggle a little on defense though, ranking 78th in the country according to our numbers.
9. Speaking of struggling defenses, the worst five defensive teams in this year's tournament include Lafayette, Eastern Washington, Belmont, Texas Southern and Indiana.
10. Indiana probably doesn't deserve to be in the tournament, and they've lost 9 of their last 14 games.
11. Don't pick Indiana to go far in this year's dance.
12. Indiana's Round of 64 opponent is Wichita State, a 7 seed, who's underseeded according to our metrics.
13. Two years ago, Wichita State made it to the Final Four as a 9 seed.
14. According to our numbers, the team in 2013 would lose to this year's team by 0.57 points on a neutral court.
15. Don't sleep on the Wichita State Shockers.
16. Don't sleep on a 12/5 upset, either, as it's happened six times over the last two tournaments alone.
17. If one happens, our numbers like Buffalo over West Virginia.
18. If Buffalo wins, they could take on 4-seeded Maryland in the second round, one of the most overrated teams in the NCAA Tournament.
19. Teams with a better nERD than Maryland: Oklahoma State, Virginia Commonwealth, Southern Methodist, Davidson and Providence.
20. A lot of expert analysts are on Providence (11.38 nERD, 28th best in the country) to potentially upset Oklahoma (15.91 nERD, 11th best in the country) in the Round of 32 thanks to a balanced team that faced the fifth-toughest schedule this year.
21. If you remember, though, Oklahoma was one of the 10 potential Final Four teams this year, led by guard Buddy Hield.
22. Oklahoma has the 10th-most efficient defense in the nation and the fourth-best Adjusted Defensive Rating (per Sports-Reference.com).
23. The only three teams with better Adjusted Defensive Ratings than the Sooners (that's Oklahoma) are Kentucky, Virginia and Arizona.
24. Arizona, also on the Pythagorean Rating Final Four list, is the best 2 seed in this tournament.
25. And actually, they have the second-best nERD in the country behind only Kentucky.
26. They're a little more difficult to predict though -- according to our consistency ratings, only 11 other schools rank as more inconsistent than Arizona.
27. The most inconsistent on the list is Northern Iowa, who have lost just once since New Year's Day.
28. Northern Iowa is led by Seth Tuttle, who ended the season with the fourth-best Player Efficiency Rating in the country (that's a good thing).
29. The best player in terms of PER, however, was Frank Kaminsky.
30. Kaminsky, a senior for Wisconsin, is looking to get the Badgers back to the Final Four for the second straight season.
31. Wisconsin ranks third in nERD, but is playing in the same region as Arizona, who has a nERD score that's just 0.16 points better.
32. If Wisconsin and Arizona face off in the Elite Eight, it would be an Elite Eight rematch from last year's tournament, where Wisconsin won by one point.
33. Wisconsin plays at a sluggish pace (fourth slowest in the tournament), but they're not as slow as 2-seeded Virginia.
34. Virginia beats you with an annoying defense (second-best in efficiency, per our metrics), but their offense is still a top-30 one in the country in efficiency, despite finishing the season ranked 225th in points per game.
35. The Hoos (Virginia's nickname) aren't as popular of a Final Four pick this year, however, because of the 7 seed they could face in the Round of 32.
36. That 7 seed is Tom Izzo's Michigan State Spartans, who have made it to the Sweet 16 in all but one season since 2008.
37. Michigan State, too, is underseeded -- they rank 17th in nERD thanks to losing five of their 11 contests this year in overtime.
38. Picking against Tom Izzo in the NCAA Tournament is like investing in MySpace instead of Facebook.
39. The 1 seed in Michigan State's region (East) is Villanova.
40. Villanova lost just two games this year and went 5-1 against top-25 teams.
41. The downside to picking Villanova is that they rely heavily on the three-pointer, ranking 13th in the country in percentage of points from threes.
42. Davidson, the South Region's 10 seed, ranked second in college basketball this year in percentage of points from three-pointers.
43. If Davidson gets by Iowa, they'll more than likely face 2-seeded Gonzaga in the Round of 32.
44. Gonzaga ranked 73rd in the country in three-point percentage against, which could spell trouble for Davidson.
45. This is Gonzaga's 17th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
46. They've made it past the Sweet 16 once, and it came all the way back in 1999.
47. Don't let that completely deter you from picking them though -- their current 18.16 nERD, the seventh-best rating in the country, is the best score they've had since 2000.
48. Teams with a worse nERD rating than Gonzaga: Notre Dame, Kansas, Baylor and North Carolina.
49. North Carolina is a 4 seed in the toughest region, but have the 10th-best offense in terms of Adjusted Offensive Rating to go along with the 14th-best Adjusted Defensive Rating.
50. Their first matchup is against Harvard, a team making their fourth straight NCAA Tournament trip.
51. As a 12 seed, Harvard beat 5-seeded Cincinnati last year.
52. Cincinnati is an 8 seed this season, and is also one of the worst at-large teams in this year's tournament.
53. Fortunately for the Bearcats (that's Cincinnati), they'll be facing Purdue in their opening game.
54. Purdue ranked 44th this season in nERD, and based on the metric alone, is expected to beat Cincinnati by just 0.51 points.
55. Both Purdue and Cincinnati are below-average teams in this year's NCAA Tournament.
56. One of the most average teams in this year's dance is North Carolina State (10.48 nERD).
57. The Wolfpack, an 8 seed, beat Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville this year, all top-four seeds in their respective regions.
58. Louisville is actually in NC State's region, and enter the tournament with the fifth-most efficient defense in the country.
59. They've had trouble on the offensive end though, averaging the 130th most points per game in the country with an Adjusted Offensive Rating that ranks 57th in the nation.
60. Louisville will open the tournament against UC Irvine, who have 7'6'' Mamadou N'Diaye.
62. According to nERD, 16 teams are worse than UC Irvine in this year's tournament.
63. The team ranking last is Hampton, who won their play-in-game last night.
64. Hampton has the 263rd best offense in the country, which places them in the 17th percentile.
65. The second-worst offense in this year's dance is Manhattan, who rank in the 41st percentile and lost to Hampton last night.
66. The third-worst offense is San Diego State, an 8 seed who got an at-large bid out of the Mountain West.
67. San Diego State got an 8 seed because of their defense, which was sixth-best in the country with an 83.21 Adjusted Defensive Rating.
68. If they beat St. John's in the Round of 64, San Diego State will more than likely face Duke, who, as mentioned earlier, can ball offensively but can't play D.
69. The Aztecs made it to the Sweet 16 last year.
70. I may have just talked myself into an upset.
71. We all love upsets, and according to our own Brandon Gdula, teams we should watch for in the Round of 64 are Ohio State (10 seed), Valparaiso (13 seed), Buffalo (12 seed), Davidson (10 seed) and Texas (11 seed).
72. Texas is an intriguing Cinderella team, as they rank 19th in nERD after facing the 14th-toughest strength of schedule this year.
73. The Longhorns struggled in Big 12 play, but of their five most recent losses (each to highly-ranked tournament teams Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kansas), they lost by an average of 4.8 points per game.
74. Texas ranked 10th in offensive rebounding percentage and 31st in defensive rebounding percentage this year.
75. They could face ACC Tournament champion Notre Dame in the Round of 32 -- Notre Dame ranked 165th in rebounding rate this season.
76. The winner of that potential game may not matter though, because Kentucky is the region's 1 seed.
77. According to nERD, Kentucky's 23.23 score is the second-best rating we've seen since the turn of the century.
78. Kentucky has the fourth-best Adjusted Offensive Rating and the best Adjusted Defensive Rating in the entire country.
79. Kentucky is undefeated.
80. Our metrics give Kentucky a 43.18% chance to win this year's NCAA Tournament.