The 4 Numbers to Know for the Sweet 16 (Day 1)
We pick up just where we left the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night, making fun of Georgetown and Mark Few's inability to do anything ever.
Which school is next in line to be ridiculed, and who will win the War of the Mid-Majors between Wichita State and La Salle? We're breaking it down like numberFire can: by the stats.
For each game, we've picked out a selected stat that we think could determine the outcome of the game. And because I'm feeling some Maundy Thursday generosity (is that a thing?), I'm also going to give you each team's odds of victory, as determined by the Elite Eight odds on our Team Rankings page.
(2) Miami Hurricanes vs. (3) Marquette Golden Eagles
Number to Know: 108
Only two teams still left in the NCAA Tournament are ranked outside the top 100 schools in opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency. One is La Salle, but their No. 142 defense is somewhat expected for a 13 seed. But the other will raise a few eyebrows: Marquette, sitting at No. 108 in the country with 0.980 points allowed per possession.
The defense played up to par against Davidson, as the Golden Eagles only allowed 0.921 points per possession (PPP) to the Wildcats. (That offense was a different story.) But against those Butler Bulldogs, the inefficiency started to rear its head: Marquette could barely hang on after allowing Butler to score 1.014 points per possession.
Against the Miami Hurricanes, beating their season average may be even tougher. Miami's offensive efficiency ranks No. 31 in the country at 1.098 points scored per possession, and in each of their first two Tourney games, Miami topped the 1.1 points per possession mark.
What We Expect: Miami win with 58.6 percent odds
Considering that Miami is higher up the efficiency rankings on both offense (19 spots) and defense (65 spots), I'd figure that there would be a much larger spread between these two teams. But the prediction model just doesn't seem to agree.
The main reason to even think about a Miami upset would be each team's consistency rating. Miami hasn't been very up-and-down with their efficiency so far this year; generally, what you see is what you get. Marquette, on the other hand, just can't seem to stay consistent. But in this case, that's not a bad thing.
Sometimes you'll get low points in inconsistent data (Bucknell can attest to that). Lower valleys means higher peaks, though, and Marquette's days where they're on means a potential greater efficiency than the Hurricanes. That's what happened in many of our "most similar games", at least. In our top five most similar historical contests to this game, the team whose efficiency closely correlates with Marquette won each of the first four matchups.
(2) Ohio State Buckeyes vs. (6) Arizona Wildcats
Number to Know: 16.38
Ohio State may have the No. 29 offense and No. 22 defense in the country according to our opponent-adjusted efficiency metrics, but good luck getting them to stay there. Their game-to-game efficiency measured out with a standard deviation of 16.38, the 36th-highest such number in the country. That means that you're more likely to find an Ohio State fan whose favorite sport is basketball than get a consistent game from these guys.
That gives Arizona all the chance they'll need. They don't exactly have a high standard deviation themselves (No. 206 in the country), but an average 0.159 points per possession net difference between offense and defense is a pretty good number to be consistent with. Chances are, if this game is an Arizona victory, it will be more because Ohio State playing under expectation than the Wildcats playing over expectation.
What We Expect: Ohio State win with 58.5 percent odds
Notice how we expect each of the two seeds to win their games, but neither one holds particularly overwhelming odds. In Ohio State's case, their roughly 0.04 fewer points per possession allowed is indeed something of an edge, but not the absolute game-changing edge that they had against Albany (0.05 fewer) or Creighton (0.07 fewer). These teams are actually pretty close.
For Arizona, it may come down to whether they can keep their exceptional efficiency ratings going. In both of their first two NCAA Tournament games, the Wildcats averaged at least 0.3 more points per possession than their opponent. Ohio State, meanwhile, did average 0.3 more points per possession than Iona but could only muster .034 more points per possession than Iowa State in a close battle.
(1) Indiana Hoosiers vs. (4) Syracuse Orange
Number to Know: 120.20
You may think the Indiana offense is good, but you'd be wrong. It's "Holy cow how are they ever supposed to be stopped I'm scared mommy!" good. After adjusting for their high opponent strength, the Hoosiers had averaged 120.20 points scored per 100 possessions entering the NCAA Tourney. That's two points higher than any other school still in the field and 10 points higher than Syracuse (who have the nation's No. 32 offense in their own right).
However, the results have been a bit more mixed here in the Tournament. Sure, the Hoosiers managed an offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of 131.7 against James Madison, but really, were you expecting anything different against a 16 seed? (Don't answer that, Gonzaga). But against the Temple Owls, a slightly stronger opponent (but still only our No. 188 defense), the Hoosiers could only muster an offensive rating of 90.7.
What We Expect: Indiana win with 68.6 percent odds
Don't get it twisted: if these teams played 10,000 times (aka every white college basketball fan's fantasy if Duke were somehow involved), the Hoosiers would win over two-thirds of those matchups. But in the non-fantasy world, these teams will play only once. And just like with Ohio State, Indiana's inconsistency could play a role.
The Hoosiers entered the NCAA Tournament with the 19th-largest standard deviation among Division I teams. They were the second-most inconsistent among Tourney squads, and we all saw what happened to Wisconsin in round one. Of course, being inconsistent may only mean about a 10 percent drop in offensive efficiency, and a 1.08 points per possession mark would still place them above all but 40 NCAA teams' average offensive efficiency.
Know one of those teams they'd be behind, though? Syracuse. The Orange hold the No. 32 offense and No. 52 defense in the country, not great rankings, but well enough to take advantage of a poor Indiana outing.
(9) Wichita State Shockers vs. (13) La Salle Explorers
Number to Know: 94.43
While La Salle's wins have been OK, beating Boise State's No. 143 defense, Kansas State's No. 68 defense and Mississippi's No. 53 defense doesn't prove too much. Wichita State will actually be the top team they've played in terms of defensive efficiency. The Shockers sit No. 44 on our opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency charts, allowing just 94.43 points per 100 possessions this season.
Considering that K-State, Ole Miss, and Wichita State all have similar offensive efficiency levels (all three teams are between No. 40 and No. 46 on our rankings), La Salle will have to play even better than they did the last two rounds in order to win tonight. Each of the last two games, La Salle has hung right around their 1.07 points per possession average, scoring 1.05 PPP against K-State and 1.08 PPP against Ole Miss. Continuing the trend against a tougher defense, though, will be difficult.
What We Expect: Wichita State win with 70.3 percent odds
This is one of those Biff Tanner games: if I had access to the Back to the Future time machines, I absolutely would have gone back in time and placed a bet on both Wichita State and La Salle to the Sweet 16. And while I was there, I might just want to place a Wichita State to the Elite 8 bet too: the Shockers have the highest win odds of any team playing tonight.
I can't say I'm exactly shocked, considering Wichita State sits in the top 50 of both offensive and defensive efficiency nationally. We also know that their game can reach new heights; scoring 1.169 points per possession against Gonzaga proved that quite nicely.