With the inaugural First Four complete and the field of 64 locked, stories are emerging involving Purdue and Duke, two of the higher seeds in the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, while the Madness-loving maniacs frantically piece together their bracket masterpieces, there are not only need-to-know breaking stories in college hoops, but also some eye-popping stats and analysis that could make a person lean from one team to another.
Take the following pluses and minuses – region by region – presented to make you want to lean toward some teams, question others, and perhaps aid in selecting upsets. As you will notice, some additional statistics are mixed within.
2011 NCAA Tournament: News and Stats
(1) Ohio State – PLUS – The Buckeyes start three seniors and a junior, plus have future high draft pick Jared Sullinger, the big man that averages nearly a double-double a game. OSU is a steady balance of defense, three-point shooting, veteran leadership and size inside.
In addition to Ohio State, tournament teams that feature a lot of veteran leadership in its starting lineup: Wisconsin, Penn State, Washington, Richmond, Purdue, among others.
(2) North Carolina – MINUS – The Heels are super talented, but also very young. Tyler Zeller is the only upperclassman in the starting lineup – a team that struggles from behind the arc and from the free throw line.
(7) Washington – PLUS – The Huskies hit three-pointers in bunches (8.8 per game – 9th in nation), and have the third highest scoring offense in the nation (83.5 PPG).
In addition to Washington, tournament teams that also hit 8+ 3-pt FG per game: Belmont, Louisville, BYU, Oakland, VCU, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and Duke.
(1) Duke – PLUS – Surprising news came out earlier in the week when reports emerged that freshman guard Kyrie Irving may return for the NCAA Tournament. Irving, who averaged 17.4 PPG on the year, suffered a toe injury in early December, and was thought to be out for the rest of the year. If he’s able to return and be effective, the Blue Devils arguably would be considered the favorites, and have a much better chance of repeating as champs.
(5) Arizona – PLUS – This young Arizona team holds opponents to just 28.8% shooting from behind the arc – good for the best three-pt FG defense in the tournament and 4th in the nation.
In addition to Arizona, tournament teams that hold opponents to < 30% shooting from behind the arc: Texas, West Virginia and Kansas
(13) Oakland – PLUS – Of the teams in the tournament, Oakland has the highest ranked scoring offense (2nd – 85.6 PPG). They are also second to Kansas in field-goal percentage (49.4%) and a battle tested team (facing 7 tournament teams during the regular season).
(2) Notre Dame – PLUS – Notre Dame doesn’t just shoot the ball well; they keep players on the floor (and opponents off the line) by minimizing its foul totals. Notre Dame’s 15.0 fouls per game is among the lowest in the nation.
In addition to Notre Dame, tournament teams that commit < 15.0 personal fouls per game: Ohio State, Florida, Old Dominion and San Diego State.
(3) Purdue – MINUS – This week, Purdue suspended Kelsey Barlow for the rest of the season due to “conduct detrimental to the program”. If there’s a bright side to unfortunate news such as this, it’s that Barlow isn’t a starter. However, his loss will certainly take a hit on the team’s depth.
(10) Florida State – PLUS – FSU has the nation’s top field goal percentage defense, holding its opponents to a field goal percentage of 36.4%.
In addition to Florida State, tournament teams that hold opponents to < 40% shooting: Utah State, Texas, Kentucky, Bucknell, Syracuse, Louisville, San Diego State, Georgia, Kansas, Gonzaga and Pittsburgh.
(4) Wisconsin – PLUS – Wisconsin leads the nation both in free throw shooting (82.4%) and assist turnover ratio (1.78). Being able to dish the rock and make key free throws in a close game is very important during the big dance.
In addition to Wisconsin, tournament teams that crack the nation’s top ten in assist turnover ratio: Notre Dame, Ohio State, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Temple and Richmond.
(5) Kansas State – MINUS – KSU senior guard and leading scorer Jacob Pullen has been battling an illness and did not practice on Wednesday. It’s hard to imagine that he won’t play in Thursday’s game against Utah State. If he does, he may not be 100%.
(9) Old Dominion – PLUS – Only two teams have a double-digit positive rebound margin and Old Dominion is one, leading the nation (12.2). Pittsburgh is the other – and interestingly enough, these two teams could face each other in the third round.
(12) Utah State – PLUS – The Aggies are ranked 3rd in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 58.2 PPG. Expect USU to give Kansas State all it can handle, and then some.
In addition to Utah State, tournament teams that crack the nation’s top 20 in scoring defense: Old Dominion, Wisconsin, San Diego State, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Clemson.
(13) Belmont – PLUS + MINUS – A popular upset pick by many, Belmont leads the nation in scoring margin, outscoring its opponents by 18.4 PPG. They also live and die by the three-point shot, dropping 9.4 per game. But the Badgers defense is tough, and will give them problems. Belmont also commits a lot of fouls, while Wisconsin has the nation’s best free throw percentage.
* All Stats through 3/13/11 and courtesy of NCAA.org
Enjoy the NCAA Tournament, everyone! Embrace the madness.
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