8 Things to Know About Day 3 of the NCAA Tournament
Even though your bracket may already be busted (sorry, Purdue fans), you shouldn't stop paying attention to the NCAA Tournament. I mean, The Bachelor is over -- what else are you going to watch on TV?
(And let's be real, March Madness is way more suspenseful than Bachelor Ben's rose ceremonies anyway.)
Before you settle in and turn on the tube, though, take a look at these eight things to note -- one for each game -- about Saturday's Round of 32 action.
1. Arkansas Little Rock could upset Iowa State thanks to their pace.
It's true that Purdue choked. It's true that plenty of brackets were crushed. But just because Arkansas Little Rock escaped the Round of 64 with an improbable comeback win doesn't mean they can't repeat their performance against Iowa State.
One of the biggest things to look for with an upset is pace of play. Why? Well, because math -- because the slower the pace, the fewer the possessions. And the fewer the possessions, the smaller the sample size. And the smaller the sample size, the larger the variance.
Variance can equate to unpredictability.
Arkansas Little Rock plays at the fifth-slowest pace among all NCAA Tournament teams this year. Meanwhile, Iowa State runs at the eighth- fastest pace. In other words, if Arkansas Little Rock can slow things down, they'll make Iowa State feel uncomfortable and limit overall possessions. That'd be huge in becoming this year's Cinderella.
2. Butler is the second-least consistent team in the tournament, while Virginia is the 12th-most consistent.
Butler isn't meant to beat Virginia, or at least that's what our metrics say. According to nERD, which measures the number of points a team would win by against average one on a neutral court, Butler ranks 30th among all college hoops teams with an 11.66 rating. Virginia's unsurprisingly in fourth at 18.37.
But Butler is super inconsistent from game to game, per our numbers, while Virginia is the opposite. In other words, Virginia generally always plays to that 18.37 nERD rating, while Butler sees a larger range of outcomes. That means this game could be a complete blowout, but Butler also has a high ceiling -- there's at least some hope for an upset.
3. Nearly 41 percent of Indiana's shots are three-pointers, good for the sixth-highest rate in the big dance.
Indiana relies pretty heavily on the three, and they hit them well, ranking fifth in the entire country in three-point percentage. Kentucky's opponents, though, have a three-point shot per field goal attempt rate that's under 30 percent, which is the fifth-lowest percentage in the tournament. In other words, Kentucky may not allow Indiana to do what they want to do. And that could spell trouble for the Hoosiers.
4. The biggest mismatch of the day, according to our numbers, is North Carolina versus Providence.
Our numbers aren't in love with Providence, despite the play from Kris Dunn. Per nERD, Providence is the 56th best team in the country this year. That was actually two spots worse than Yale. North Carolina, on the other hand, ranks third with a nERD rating that's over nine points better than Providence's score.
5. Miami could beat Wichita State at the line.
Miami is the much higher seed in this particular matchup, but anyone who's done research knows Wichita State is legitimate. In fact, per our numbers, this game is between two top-20 teams in the country.
What's interesting with the matchup is that Miami has fifth-highest free throw per field goal rate in the tournament (30%), while Wichita State and their suffocating defense are allowing free throws on 32.2% of field goals. That means the Hurricanes could be at the line a lot on Saturday, and their success there could determine the outcome of the big game.
6. You could almost consider Gonzaga a favorite against Utah.
Vegas sees the Gonzaga versus Utah matchup as a pick'em, which seems crazy considering it's a 3 seed going up against an 11 seed. But here's the thing: Utah played more like a 6 or a 7 seed according to our numbers this year, while Gonzaga was the same. In fact, nERD has Gonzaga ranked 24th and Utah 27th, meaning a Gonzaga victory wouldn't be surprising. It'd almost be expected.
7. UConn is the best team in the country at the free throw line, but they never get there.
No team in the country shoots better from the free throw line than UConn -- they were 79.3% from the line this year. But what's interesting is that UConn just doesn't get to the line very much. They ranked 325th in free throw attempts this season, while only three teams have lower free throws per field goal rate in the NCAA Tournament. They'll need as many extra points as they can against the best team in the country on Saturday, but they may have trouble getting them.
8. Yale has one tournament win in school history. Duke has 105.
Perhaps the most interesting matchup on Saturday is between Yale and Duke. On one hand, you have a school decorated with NCAA Tournament success and victories. On the other, you have a school that won their first NCAA Tournament game ever just hours ago.
Yale was our top 12/5 upset in the Round of 64 of this year's tournament, and it was for two big reasons: pace and defense. They play at a slow pace (again, that limits possessions and increases variance), while their defense ranked 12th this season per our unadjusted metrics.
Duke ranks 199th in pace in the country, which means they'll be ready to keep things slow, too. You could argue that plays into Yale's favor.