March Madness: The 6 Fastest Teams in the Field

Six teams in the field rank in the top 50 in Pace, but none are ranked higher than an 8 seed. Who are they?

Pushing the pace is how some college basketball teams try to gain an upperhand on their opponents, and that could certainly come into play in the NCAA Tournament.

Pace, the number of possessions per 40 minutes played, can vary pretty drastically.  Number of possessions by team this season ranges from 61.1 (Virginia) to 81.2 (The Citadel).

As a whole in college basketball, there isn't a significant relationship between Pace and Offensive Rating, points scored per 100 possessions. (For the math fans, the correlation coefficient is just 0.03 this year.)

So why is Pace an interesting metric come tournament time? The extra possessions, whether efficient or not, do lead to more points. When Pace is compared to points per game, the correlation is 0.57, a pretty strong relationship.

One thing to keep an eye on once the tournament starts is who these teams match up with and whether the team can impose this style of play on the other team or the other way around.

These are the teams in this year’s NCAA tournament field that rank in the top 50 of Pace.

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Iona Gaels (13 Seed, Mid West Region)

Iona qualified for the tournament by winning the MAAC tournament, knocking off Monmouth for the second time this season. The Gaels rank 50th in Pace and 69th in Offensive Efficiency, which is the best of any team on this list.

Iona averages 79.6 points per game, 31st in the country, and are 35th in Effective Field Goal Percentage, making them the most overall efficient of any team who runs a faster pace in the field.

Senior guard A.J. English leads the Gaels in scoring with 22.4 points per game, which is 10th-best in the country. He also contributes 6.2 assists and 5 rebounds per game. He is one of four players averaging double figures for the Gaels this season.

Iona has drawn Iowa State in the first round. The Cyclones rank 71st in Pace and feature senior forward Georges Niang, who averages almost 20 points per game.  As a team, Iowa State can be dangerous offensively, ranking 22nd in Offensive Efficiency this year.

Green Bay Phoenix (14 Seed, West Region)

Green Bay enters the tournament as the automatic qualifier from the Horizon League, where they finished fourth in the conference. The Phoenix took out the 1 seed Valparaiso and the 3 seed Wright State in order to claim the Horizon’s tournament bid.

Green Bay is the fastest team in the field this year, ranking fifth in the country in Pace. They’re 6th in the country in points per game with 84.2 but rank 99th in Offensive Efficiency.

Carrington Love leads the Phoenix in scoring this year, averaging 17.7 points per game. He is one of four players averaging at least 9.8 points per game for Green Bay.

Green Bay has drawn Texas A&M in the first-round of the tournament.  The Aggies rank 221st in Pace and 33rd in Defensive Rating, so this should be a tough style matchup for the Phoenix.

USC Trojans (8 Seed, East Region)

USC is one of seven teams representing the Pac 12 in the NCAA Tournament. Led by coach Andy Enfield, who you may remember coached Florida Gulf Coast into the Sweet 16 in 2013, the Trojans rank 32nd in Pace and 71st in Offensive Efficiency. USC averages 80.8 points per game, good for 20th in the country.

USC’s balanced scoring attack is led by sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin, averaging 13.8 points per game. The Trojans have six players averaging at least 9.8 points per game this season.

USC will face off with Providence in their first-round matchup.  Statistically, Providence does not like to push the tempo, ranking 147th. However, given the opportunity, Kris Dunn can get the Friars moving.  The Friars can be forced to try to speed up against USC.

Buffalo Bulls (14 Seed, South Region)

Buffalo got in the tournament as the automatic qualifier out of the MAC for the second straight year, knocking off the top two seeds, Akron and Ohio. The Bulls rank 36th in Pace and 70th in scoring at 77.6 points per game.

Buffalo has four players averaging double-digits in points per game, led by sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden, with 13.6.

Buffalo will square off with Miami (FL) in the first round.  The Hurricanes tend to play slow, efficient offense, ranking 310th in Pace but 20th in Offensive Efficiency.

Hampton Pirates (16 Seed, Mid West Region)

Hampton enters the tournament as one of the few teams to win their conference’s regular season title and tournament, as they dominated the MEAC this season. Hampton ranks 44th in Pace and averages 74.8 points per game, 142nd in the country.

The Pirates rely heavily on the efforts of their two senior guards, Reginald Johnson Jr. and Quinton Chievous. Johnson averages 36 minutes and 18.3 points per game while Chievous contributes 17 points in 34.3 minutes per game.

Hampton shoots poorly, ranking 302nd in the country in Effective Field Goal Percentage and comes in at 270th in Offensive Efficiency.

The Pirates will face Virginia in their first-round game.  As mentioned before, Virginia played a very slow style, and ranking 40th in Defensive Efficiency, can exploit the poor shooting of Hampton.

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (16 Seed, East Region)

Fairleigh Dickinson earned their tournament bid as the automatic qualifier out of the MEAC, where they finished second in the regular season and knocked off the 1 seed Wagner in the conference tournament championship game.

The Knights are 46th in Pace in the country and 59th in scoring with 77.9 points per game. They are around the middle of the pack in Offensive Efficiency, ranking 141st.

Fairleigh Dickinson’s leading scorers are their sophomore guards Darian Anderson and Earl Potts Jr., both averaging around 15 points per game. The team ranks 87th in the country in Effective Field Goal Percentage.

Fairleigh Dickinson will begin the tournament in the First Four against Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles play at an average Pace, ranking 164th in the country and can be forced to push the tempo against the Knights.