NCAA Tournament First Four Preview: Who Will Advance on Wednesday?
We're just one day away from the best Thursday of the year, but before we get ahead of ourselves, Wednesday has a pair of solid tournament games on the schedule.
16 seeds North Florida and Robert Morris get things started in Dayton at 6:40 before 11 seeds Boise State and Dayton wrap up the First Four.
What do you need to know about these four teams? Read on to find out.
North Florida vs. Robert Morris
Our numbers indicate North Florida is roughly three points better than Robert Morris, based on our nERD metric. nERD scores indicate by how many points our math thinks a team would beat an average team on a neutral floor. This year, North Florida has a nERD of 1.60, and Robert Morris's nERD is just -1.34, suggesting that they are a below-average squad.
North Florida brings a strong offense to the table and one that ranks 30th in our metrics. The Ospreys are in the 91st percentile in scoring efficiency, thanks to the nation’s 32nd best effective field goal percentage (53.6%).
They shoot the ball from three-point range well (38%) and often (42.1% of their field goals are three point attempts, which ranks 28th), led by guard Dallas Moore.
Moore is averaging 15.9 points per game and shooting 39.5% from point range, to go along with a 55.9% effective field goal percentage and 114.5 offensive rating.
Robert Morris is slightly above average defensively, ranking in the 52nd percentile nationally, and they stand out for their ability to force turnovers. The Colonials' 21.7% turnover rate is 30th in the country.
Offensively, their high turnover rate is more problematic, as the NEC champions rank 273rd with a 20.5% turnover rate. That is a big reason why they are in the 45th percentile in terms of Offensive Efficiency.
Fortunately for them, North Florida’s defense is nothing special and is 146th nationally (which places them in the 57th percentile), so tonight’s first game should be a matchup of comparative strengths and weaknesses.
Dayton vs. Boise State
Boise State will face Dayton in the night’s second game, a contest on a neutral court in name only. By our metrics, Dayton is less than a half of a point better than Boise State but by virtue of playing in their home gym, should have a somewhat bigger advantage in a contest that will determine who faces 6 seed Providence.
Still, the Flyers will have to contend with Broncos guard Derrick Marks, one the nation’s most explosive players who is averaging 19.3 points per game and is seventh in the nation in usage rate (33.3%). He is sixth nationally in Offensive Rating (117.6) among players with a usage percentage above 30% and fourth in this group in effective field goal percentage (56.8%). Marks is shooting 49.4% from the floor and 44.0% from three-point range.
Marks leads a Boise State offense that is 23rd in our Offensive Efficiency metric, ranking in the 93rd percentile. The Broncos are 33rd in effective field goal percentage (53.5%), thanks mainly to their three-point shooting. Boise State is 19th in the nation in three-point shooting percentage (39.1%), and 41.7% of their field goal attempts come from behind the arc (the country’s 32nd-highest frequency).
Boise State also takes care of the ball better than most teams in the tournament, ranking 23rd in turnover rate (16.1%). It’s less sexy than their hot shooting, but it is still a major part of their efficient offense, especially since Boise State is below average in terms of both offensive rebounding (288th in the nation) and free throw attempt rate (281st).
Dayton, tied for 35th in Defensive Efficiency and in the 90.6th percentile, seems to be up to the challenge. The Flyers defense excels where Boise State’s offense is at its weakest, ranking in the top-50 in both offensive rebound rate and free throw rate.
The Flyers combine this strong defense with an efficient offense. Their effective field goal percentage is a solid 52.8% (45th nationally), but they really stand out for their ability to get to the line. Dayton is third in the nation in free throw attempts per field goal attempts (.486), and almost 24% of their points come from free throw attempts (that number would be higher if they shot better than 68.3% from the charity stripe).
Guard Jordan Sibert leads the way, averaging 16.5 points per game to go along with an Offensive Rating of 115.0 and 61.2% true shooting percentage.
Boise State, for their part, has done a solid job off keeping opponents off the line (ranking 56th among defenses in free throw rate), so this should be an interesting battle.
Also, the Broncos defense will have a big rebounding edge, as Boise State ranks 16th in the country in defensive rebounding while Dayton is 330th in offensive rebound rate.
Both teams have distinct strengths and weaknesses, and while homecourt advantage will help Dayton, this should be a tight and interesting game.