Around this time next week, a big chunk of the population will be sitting down to fill out their tournament brackets. March Madness has reached an all-time interest from the general public and last season, the Nielson Media Research reported that the NCAA Tournament reached an average of 10.7 million viewers (most since 1994). The great thing about March Madness is that you don’t have to be an avid college basketball fan to enjoy in the festivities. There is never an exact science to the matchups, as multiple upsets and Cinderella teams have shown us over the years.
This year, however, the Madness of March has been sweetened by Warren Buffet who is offering up $1 Billion dollars to anyone who correctly fills out a bracket and $100,000 to the Top 20 contestants. Yes, the odds are not in your favor (roughly 1 in 4,294,967,296), but a billion dollars is a billion dollars. So do yourself a favor and preregister (click here) for the contest and then submit your bracket online by March 19. Who knows, you might be actually win and find yourself at a table playing bridge with Buffet and Bill Gates.
To assist with your bracket preparation/research next week we’ll be highlighting the potential Cinderella teams, frauds, and of course our sure fire locks for the tournament. But until then allow yourself to feel the March Madness fever with a precursor to our previews as we break the participants down by the numbers:
3… Equals the number of SEC teams in the RPI Top 50 (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee). Don’t get me wrong, the Gators 18-0 conference record is impressive any way you slice. Still, it begs the question. Does Florida enjoy that much success in any other power conference (Big 10, Pac 12, ACC)? My guess is no. The Gators were 2-2 against non-conference opponents likely to receive automatic bids (W- Kansas, Memphis, L-Wisconsin, Connecticut).
3,011… And counting. That’s the current career point total for Creighton Blue Jays senior Doug McDermott. McDermott and company have won at least one game in their last two NCAA tournament appearances. With a 24-6 regular season mark, they figure to earn their highest seeding in the history of the program.
12.9… The average margin of victory for Atlantic Sun automatic qualifier Mercer. The Bears used a +7.6% field goal discrepancy to reel off 17 wins in conference. Mercer was 0-3 versus the RPI Top 50, but did nearly knock off Texas in their season opener (L. 76-73) Lets not forget that the Cinderella team of last season (Florida Gulf Coast) was from the Atlantic Sun. Coincidence?
66%… The winning percentage that Harvard has enjoyed since Tommy Amaker took over the program back in 2007. The Crimson have enjoyed five straight 20 win seasons under the tutelage of Amaker, including 3 straight Ivy League titles. Harvard currently projects as a 14 seed come selection Sunday, the same seeding they had last season when they knocked off #3 seed New Mexico.
1988… Ronald Reagan was Commander in Chief, Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a hit at the box office, and Guns N’ Roses Sweet Child of Mine was burning up the airwaves. Consequently, that was the last time the SMU basketball program won a game in the NCAA tournament. Hall of fame coach Larry Brown is looking to write a new history for the resurgent basketball program.
43%… The North Carolina Tar Heels are 23-2 when they shoot at least 43% from the field. There is always that one team every year that seems to get hot at the right time. The Tar Heels just might be that team entering selection Sunday. Before Saturday’s loss at Duke (a game in which they shot nearly 60% from the field), UNC had reeled off 12 wins in a row by an average margin of nearly 11 points per game.
59.3… The number of points teams averaged against the Syracuse Orange this season (10th nationally). Don’t let the team’s recent struggle deter you from riding this team come March. Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense is one of the most effective schemes in the country. You can argue that the Orange struggle to score themselves, however their defense should be good for at least two wins. Pencil them in.
7… The number of NCAA tournament wins that VCU has amassed since 2009 (Shaka Smart’s first season as head coach). The Rams could be as high as a 5 seed, and as low as a 7 seed come Selection Sunday. Ironically, opponents are shooting a higher percentage on the season (43.1%-Opp vs. 42.0%-VCU).
30… The number of games Cincinnati Bearcat senior Sean Kilpatrick (G) has scored in double figures this season. For those keeping track, that is all but one. If the NCAA tournament has told us anything over the years, it’s this; strong experienced guard play can take you a long way in the tournament.
13… The number of times the Virginia Cavaliers held their opponents to under 35% shooting from the field (12-1). Head coach Tony Bennett prefers his team to play a “grind it out” style of basketball. Bennett led teams have experienced some previous success during tournament time. While with Washington State in 2008, his team reached the Sweet 16 (only to lose to UNC).
8… The number of times opposing teams shot over 35% from beyond the arc versus San Diego State. Historically, the Aztecs have always been one of the best perimeter defensive teams in the nation under head coach Steve Fisher. Their 28.8 3FG% defense was 4th best in the nation.
2/8/14… A day Iowa State Cyclones Melvin Ejim will soon not forget. The senior forward had arguably the most impressive game of the entire season, dropping 48 points (20-24 shooting) and pulling down 18 rebounds in a win versus TCU. The Cyclones are an experienced bunch that boast 11 RPI Top 50 wins.
19.1… The Roland average for Wichita State guard Ron Baker (8th nationally). Many believe the Roland rating to be the best indicator of a player’s worth to his team. In a nutshell, it measures a teams performance (both positively & negatively) when said player is on the court vs. when he isn’t.
1.18… The Points per Possession (PPP) the Michigan Wolverines average on the season (3rd-nationally). Led by Nik Stauskas, Caris Lavert, and Glenn Robinson III, head coach John Beilein’s team continues to be one of the most dangerous offensive teams in the nation. We’ve thrown this stat out before, but it warrants repeating. With the exception of Louisville (2013) and UCONN (2011), seven of the last nine tournament winners have finished in the Top 5 nationally in PPP.
2009… The last time a team from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference won a game in the NCAA tournament (#9 seed Siena beat #8 seed Ohio State). Manhattan had the MAAC’s most memorable run of recent memory back in 2004. As a 12 seed, the Jaspers knocked off the 5th seeded Florida Gators, and nearly followed that up with an upset of 4th seeded Wake Forest (L. 84-80). They’ll get a chance for a repeat performance starting next week.
3-9… Is the Kentucky Wildcats record versus the RPI Top 50. Since head coach John Calipari took over the program in 2009, the team has notched an Elite Eight (2010), Final Four (2011), and national championship (2012) under its belt. Don’t expect an encore this season, as the team simply isn’t as talented as in years past.
0… The number of career tournament wins for the Nebraska Cornhuskers basketball program (6 appearances). Expect that number to change this season, as head coach Tim Miles has rejuvenated the program in just his second season. We’ll talk Cinderella more next week, but the Cornhuskers certainly have the look of a team primed to reel off a couple wins.
7… Players average at least 8 points per game for the Massachusetts Minutemen (Esho, Davis, Putney, Carter, Gordon, Lalanne, Williams), making them one of the most well rounded scoring teams in the nation. Three teams from the Atlantic 10 earned wins in last season’s tournament (La Salle, VCU, Saint Louis). The Minuteman will be a threat to do the same thing this year.
59… The combined total of rebounds for Oregon Ducks forward Mike Moser the last four games (all Ducks victories). Oregon is 7-1 on the season when Moser pulls down at least 10 rebound or more. As a 12th seed last season, the Ducks knocked Oklahoma State (5 seed) and Saint Louis (4 seed), before losing to the eventual national champion Louisville Cardinal in the Sweet 16.
10-3… Is the Kansas Jayhawks mark when freshman center Joel Embiid records at least 3 blocks in a game. The talented big man will likely continue to nurse a sore back that hampered him towards the end of the season come tournament time. Still, keep in mind that since 2007 the Jayhawks have reached at least the Sweet 16 on six different occasions.
15… The number of tournaments wins for Gonzaga since head coach Mark Few took over the program in 1999. The Zags enter Selection Sunday flying under the radar, a year removed from earning a #1 seed. They project out as more of an 8 or 9 seed this go around, but don’t let that deter you from picking them. Since 1999, the Bulldogs have earned at least one win every season except 3 (2002, 2007, 2008).
Thanks to StatSheet.com for their chart contribution.
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