16 Things to Know About This Year's Sweet 16 Teams
Over the last five NCAA Tournaments (since 2010), there have been an average of 3.4 double-digit seeded teams in the Sweet 16. And none of these tournaments saw fewer than three of these types of teams make it to the second week.
This year's big dance features just one double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. That lone team? Naturally, it's the one squad everyone wanted out of the tournament before it even started: UCLA.
Can they make moves in the South Region, or is their Cinderella story about to end? Let's take a look at them and the 15 other teams that make up this year's Sweet 16.
1. UCLA may be undeserving, but they weren't bad this year.
As an at-large team this year, many believed UCLA's resume didn't warrant an NCAA Tournament trip. Perhaps that's not unfair, but one thing was clear according to our numbers: UCLA wasn't as bad as a lot of the other at-large teams in the big dance.
Entering the tournament, the Bruins had a 9.48 nERD, which measures the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average opponent on a neutral court. Eight other at-large teams had a worse nERD rating.
With that being said, the remaining 16 teams all have better nERDs than UCLA. The odds are certainly stacked against them as the only double-digit seed remaining in the tournament.
2. This may be the best Gonzaga team we've ever seen.
Back in February, our own Matt Goodwin looked into Gonzaga's season and compared it to others over the last decade and a half. The verdict? Their nERD this season (18.20 entering the tournament) was better than any other Gonzaga team since 2000.
3. Utah is the first 5 seed to make the Sweet 16 since 2011.
Don't write off the Utes. That, at least, was what our numbers were screaming at the start of this year's tournament, as Utah, a 5 seed, was ranked as the eighth-best team in the country per nERD.
After knocking off Stephen F. Austin -- a team that had lost just one game since the end of November -- and Georgetown, Utah became the first 5 seed since 2011 to reach the Sweet 16. That 5 seed, Arizona, would go on to lose by two points in the Elite Eight to eventual champion UConn.
4. This is the 14th Sweet 16 trip for Duke since 1998.
For those of you who had a long weekend and don't feel like doing math, that's 14 trips to the Sweet 16 for Duke over the last 18 NCAA Tournaments. And that's really good.
5. This is the seventh Sweet 16 for Michigan State in eight years.
Tom Izzo is March Madness. Izzo, who has his team in the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in eight years, has a strong shot to make it back to the Final Four given the madness in the East Region -- they were our most underrated team entering the tournament.
6. Lon Kruger is the only coach to win an NCAA Tournament game at five different schools.
When Oklahoma beat Albany in the first round of this year's tournament, Lon Kruger became the first coach to win in the big dance with five difference teams. The others: Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV.
Now he has Oklahoma -- who, among the Sweet 16 teams, has done the least to improve their nERD score -- in a decent spot to reach the Final Four.
7. Louisville has the worst assist-to-turnover ratio among all Sweet 16 teams.
According to our numbers, Louisville is a good, deserving team in this year's dance, ranking 17th in nERD as a 4 seed. However, so far in the tournament, none of the Sweet 16 teams have a worst assist-to-turnover ratio than the Cardinals. Fortunately, they'll be facing an NC State team that has the worst steals-per-possession rate so far in the tournament among the remaining 16 squads.
8. NC State held Villanova to a 31% field goal percentage, when Villanova hit 47% of their shots in the regular season.
The biggest upset of the tournament so far came on Saturday, as North Carolina State got the win over 1-seeded Villanova. We mentioned last week that Villanova could be a team to get bounced earlier than expected in the tournament thanks to a heavy reliance on the three ball. Though they shot below average from downtown in their game against the Wolfpack, they really couldn't hit anything from the field.
NC State's defense is the second-worst one remaining in the tournament, but if they can step up as they did against Villanova, who knows how far this Wolfpack team can go.
9. Since the end of February, Arizona's average margin of victory per game is 21.86 points.
Just one of Arizona's last seven opponents -- UCLA -- have come within 15 points of the Wildcats. The other six include tournament teams Ohio State, Texas Southern, and Oregon, as well as Cal (twice) and Stanford. Not much is stopping Arizona right now.
10. This is the fifth time Xavier has made it to the Sweet 16 since 2008.
The Xavier basketball program has been great since the turn of the century -- 13 tournament appearances, and now 5 Sweet 16 trips. Unfortunately, our numbers give them just a 0.12% chance to win the whole thing, which are the third-worst odds among remaining teams.
11. Of the remaining teams, North Carolina has faced the toughest schedule.
Though things haven't been easy for the Tar Heels so far in the tournament, they certainly have been tested. Among all teams left, Carolina has faced the toughest schedule this season (includes the tournament) according to our numbers.
12. Among Sweet 16 teams, only Oklahoma has dropped more in nERD than Wisconsin.
After beating Coastal Carolina by 14 in their opening contest, Wisconsin had a slight scare against Oregon in the Round of 32, winning by just seven. Our nERD rankings didn't love that, as Oregon was one of the most overrated teams entering the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Arizona has actually improved their nERD score, making for an interesting potential Elite Eight matchup between the teams. That is, of course, if Wisconsin can get by North Carolina.
13. Wichita State has improved their nERD score by more points than any other Sweet 16 team.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, no team has done more to improve their nERD score than Wichita State has. Beating Indiana in the opening round should've been easier, as Indiana's defense has been susceptible this year. But the Shockers' victory over Kansas was huge, especially considering how they did it, winning by 13 points.
14. Notre Dame has the worst defense remaining in the tournament.
According to our numbers, Notre Dame's defense is barely above average, ranking in the 51st percentile. That defense stepped up a bit against Butler this past weekend, and the Irish will need that play to continue in order to knock off Wichita State.
15. West Virginia has the worst effective field goal percentage among the Sweet 16 teams.
This isn't much of a surprise, as West Virginia finished the season ranked 282nd in field goal percentage. They were 36th in overall scoring thanks to a fast pace of play, the second-fastest left in the tournament.
16. Kentucky has a 42.68% chance to win the championship.
Kentucky is easily still the favorite, per our numbers, in case you're wondering. To get to the Final Four, they'll have to knock off teams (West Virginia, Notre Dame/Wichita State) that all rank in the bottom half in nERD among the remaining 16 squads.