Looking for reasons to not advance a team very far in your bracket?  You’re not alone there.

If you look hard enough, there are plenty of statistical red flags for even the biggest powers in college basketball – from injuries, to offensive woes, defensive woes, free throw shooting, and even single points of failure.

Take the following examples, which could assist you in putting the finishing touches on the masterpiece that is your 2011 March Madness bracket:

March Madness 2011: Reasons To Avoid Some of the Higher Seeds*+

Free Throw Shooting

March Madness is chock full of close games, and it’s often the players with ice in their veins that win tight games from the “charity stripe”.  I cited Clemson in 2009 and Syracuse last year as teams that struggled from the free throw line – and in the end, each underachieved in the tournament.  This year’s red flags include:

jacob-pullen-kansas-state-basketball

The stats say there are plenty of reasons to doubt Jacob Pullen and Kansas State

(4) Texas – 64.2% FT – Rank: 300th

(5) Kansas State – 64.7% FT – Rank: 291st

(2) North Carolina – 66.0% FT – Rank: 267th

(3) Syracuse – 66.3% FT – Rank: 258th

(4) Louisville – 66.3% FT – Rank: 255th

Offensive Rebounds Per Game

What’s better than a second chance?  Teams frequently earn big victories by accumulating a high number of second chance points.  The following teams have struggled to get a lot of offensive boards during the season:

(6) Georgetown – 10.1 per game – Rank: 273rd

(6) Xavier – 10.2 per game – Rank: 260th

(5) Arizona – 10.4 per game – Rank: 250th

(4) Wisconsin – 10.5 per game – Rank: 239th

Assist Turnover Ratio

An efficient and quality team effort can vault a team deep into the tournament.  Take the assist turnover ratio, where a team can dish out the rock frequently, while not turning the ball over.  Very few high seeds managed a ratio below 1.0 (more turnovers than assists), but these two did:

(5) Kansas State – 0.95 ATR – Rank: 183rd

(5) Vanderbilt – 0.98 ATR – Rank: 148th

Fouls Per Game

It’s tough to win a game without your starting lineup on the court.  A team needs to have discipline to avoid silly fouls, while also keeping an opponent off the line, and away from the double bonus.  These teams have committed a large number of fouls per game:

(5) Kansas State – 20.4 per game – Rank: 274th

(7) Washington – 20.3 per game – Rank: 268th

(4) Louisville – 19.2 per game – Rank: 202nd

Three Point Shooting

Ironically, it’s best to split this category into three parts: teams that struggle from behind the arc, teams with a high 3-pt percentage (but could go cold in one game), and those teams that have a very high total of three-point shots made – meaning, they live and die by the three too often:

Struggles from Behind the Arc

(2) North Carolina – 32.3% – Rank: 243rd

(7) UCLA – 32.8% – Rank: 223rd

(6) Xavier – 33.3% – Rank: 208th

Lives and Dies by the 3 (Percentage)

(1) Ohio State – 41.9% – Rank: 2nd

(5) Arizona – 40.1% – Rank: 10th

(4) Kentucky – 39.9% – Rank: 12th

Lives and Dies by the 3 (3-PT FG / Game)

(4) Louisville – 8.9 (285 total) – Rank: 7th

(7) Washington – 8.9 (275 total) – Rank: 9th

Injuries, Etc.

In some cases, injuries can be tough to gauge, as schools will downplay them to complicate an opponent’s game plan.  In others, players are out, or have been dismissed for other reasons.  Take the following examples affecting high seeds:

(6) St. John’s – D.J. Kennedy

Recently knocked out for the year due to a knee injury, the senior guard will be sorely missed by the Red Storm.

jimmer-fredette-byu

With Brandon Davies out, Jimmer Fredette will carry an even heavier load for BYU

Reports are saying that Wright has been cleared to play in the tournament, but it still remains to be seen just how healthy he is, and if he can be effective.

(3) BYU – Brandon Davies

In a heavily publicized story, Davies, BYU’s leading rebounder, was dismissed a few weeks back after failing to comply with the school’s honor code.  The Cougars haven’t been the same since.

Single Points of Failure

Finally, there are the teams that have one player that puts up the majority of the scoring.  Upon meeting a tough defensive opponent that can shut this player down, it’s often difficult to find others to step up and put points on the board.  The following players come to mind:

(3) BYU – Jimmer Fredette – 27.9 PPG

Fredette is the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and most definitely will be nearly impossible to stop.  But if teams can force him into a mediocre shooting night, the Cougars can be knocked out.

(3) Connecticut – Kemba Walker – 23.1 PPG

Outside of Walker, no one else on the Connecticut roster averages in double figures.

Tu Holloway (#6 – Xavier) and Jacob Pullen (#5 – Kansas State) are also heavily relied upon stars that play for high seeds.

* Most stats courtesy of NCAA.org and updated through games ending on 3/10/11

* Offensive Rebound stats courtesy of StatSheet.com

+ This is the 3rd edition of this post – KP also posted in 2009 and 2010

Good luck witih your brackets – and if you’re looking for a pool to join – here’s one that has a low entry fee, while also donating 10% to a good cause.

Which No. 1 Seed Will Lose First During The 2011 NCAA Tournament?

  • Pittsburgh (42%, 10 Votes)
  • Duke (38%, 9 Votes)
  • Ohio State (17%, 4 Votes)
  • Kansas (4%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 24

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