NCAA Hoops: Crunching the Numbers

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NCAA Hoops: Crunching the Numbers

Time is ticking on the NCAA Men’s Hoops season.

Conference tournaments are set to begin in the next two weeks, leading to Selection Sunday, March 16th, and the Sweet Sixteen determined a week later.

Enough time has passed where teams have shown their strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and what they avoid.

Statistics can reveal trends otherwise overlooked.

There are those statistics which don’t seem to reveal much:

NCAA Men’s Basketball
Division I
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L 3FG 3PG
1 VMI 24 13-11 295 12.3
2 Troy 26 10-16 299 11.5
3 Belmont 27 19-8 287 10.6
4 Houston 24 19-5 252 10.5
5 Lafayette 25 14-11 255 10.2
6 Citadel 25 6-19 241 9.6
7 Valparaiso 26 15-11 246 9.5
8 Navy 25 13-12 236 9.4
9 Hartford 28 15-13 264 9.4

I don’t see any of these teams winning more than one game in the NCAA tournament.

Then there are other more significant stats - such as 2000 when Michigan State won the title. The Final Four participants: UNC, Florida, Wisconsin, and MSU all finished in the top five of rebounding margin. This came one year after UConn won the title, and one of Jim Calhoun’s calling cards has always been rebounding. High school coaches round the country rushed to incorporate the ‘war drill’ into the practice the next season.

Interesting to note that of last year’s Final Four only national champion, Florida, and Georgetown entered the dance in the top fifty of rebounding margin – Florida at #7 and GU at #19.

Sometimes team statistics in and of themselves can determine success while in most situations it is a combination of statistics with other conditions that lead to wins.

Recently Memphis has drawn criticism because of their team free throw percentage of 59% - none of last year’s final four finished in the top 50 of free-throw percentage.

Along with being in the top ten of rebounding margin the Gators entered last year’s tournament #1 in field goal percentage, #9 in three point field goal percentage, #4 in scoring margin, and #12 in overall offense. (Those stats sure do put a hurtin’ on my ‘defense wins championships’ argument. By the way – has anybody heard from Mike? He started that whole discussion and then ran for cover.)

Where to begin? How about this year’s leaders in rebounding margin:

NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Rebound Margin
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L REB RPG OPP REB OPP RPG REB MAR
1 North Carolina 26 24-2 1182 45.5 868 33.4 12.1
2 Stanford 25 21-4 999 40.0 733 29.3 10.6
3 Kansas St. 24 18-6 1030 42.9 793 33.0 9.9
4 UCLA 25 22-3 916 36.6 675 27.0 9.6
5 Texas A&M 25 20-5 1010 40.4 790 31.6 8.8
6 Notre Dame 24 19-5 1042 43.4 838 34.9 8.5
7 New Mexico St. 27 15-12 1085 40.2 869 32.2 8.0
Albany (N.Y.) 25 13-12 946 37.8 746 29.8 8.0
9 Memphis 25 25-0 1065 42.6 866 34.6 8.0
Michigan St. 25 20-5 953 38.1 754 30.2 8.0

That’s quite a lineup. In case you are wondering Albany is third in the America East, and New Mexico St. is second in the WAC. Other than that the rest of these teams rank in the top twenty.

How about field goal percentage?
NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Field-Goal Percentage
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L FGM FGA FG%
1 Boise St. 25 19-6 745 1445 51.6
2 Kansas 26 24-2 783 1542 50.8
3 Utah St. 26 18-8 666 1314 50.7
4 IUPUI 26 21-5 697 1379 50.5
5 Pacific 25 17-8 616 1255 49.1
6 Cornell 21 16-5 563 1148 49.0
7 Florida 26 19-7 754 1540 49.0
8 UNC Asheville 25 18-7 700 1430 49.0
9 Syracuse 26 17-9 741 1514 48.9
10 Murray St. 26 16-10 675 1380 48.9
11 Georgetown 24 20-4 608 1244 48.9

Billy Donovan sure does know how to teach shooting – his kids are in the top ten again. Other than Kansas and Georgetown this list is heavy on pretenders. MSU ranks 15, UCLA – 24, and UNC – 27.

3 Pt. Field Goal percentage:
NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage
Through Games 02/17/2008

Minimum 5.0 made per game
Rank Name GM W-L 3FG 3FGA 3FG%
1 IUPUI 26 21-5 192 448 42.9
2 New Mexico 26 20-6 221 516 42.8
3 UC Santa Barbara 25 19-6 192 463 41.5
4 Cornell 21 16-5 167 403 41.4
5 Ill.-Chicago 26 14-12 204 493 41.4
6 Utah 23 15-8 178 435 40.9
7 Montana 25 12-13 196 481 40.7
8 American 26 16-10 209 514 40.7
9 Notre Dame 24 19-5 195 482 40.5
10 Utah St. 26 18-8 154 381 40.4
11 Xavier 25 21-4 207 513 40.4

Again a little light on contenders except for ND and Xavier. Vanderbilt ranks 15.

NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Scoring Offense
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L PTS PPG
1 VMI 24 13-11 2239 93.3
2 North Carolina 26 24-2 2351 90.4
3 Duke 24 22-2 2043 85.1
4 Duquesne 24 16-8 2019 84.1
5 Texas St. 24 11-13 2015 84.0
6 Tennessee 25 23-2 2093 83.7
7 Cal St. Fullerton 24 17-7 1997 83.2
8 Kansas 26 24-2 2142 82.4
9 Boise St. 25 19-6 2059 82.4
10 Massachusetts 25 16-9 2055 82.2

Yeah – I can see some of these teams surviving the first weekend of March Madness.
Besides rebounding margin Memphis is in the top ten of the following:

NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Scoring Margin
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L PTS PPG OPP PTS OPP PPG SCR MAR
1 Kansas 26 24-2 2142 82.4 1591 61.2 21.2
2 Memphis 25 25-0 2005 80.2 1519 60.8 19.4
3 North Carolina 26 24-2 2351 90.4 1888 72.6 17.8
4 Duke 24 22-2 2043 85.1 1628 67.8 17.3
5 UCLA 25 22-3 1852 74.1 1449 58.0 16.1
6 St. Mary’s (Cal.) 26 23-3 2030 78.1 1627 62.6 15.5
7 West Virginia 25 18-7 1904 76.2 1525 61.0 15.2
8 Davidson 25 19-6 1996 79.8 1626 65.0 14.8
9 Tennessee 25 23-2 2093 83.7 1727 69.1 14.6
10 Xavier 25 21-4 1928 77.1 1567 62.7 14.4

NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Field-Goal Percentage Defense
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L OPP FG OPP FGA OPP FG%
1 Georgetown 24 20-4 472 1322 35.7
2 Mississippi St. 24 17-7 540 1477 36.6
3 Memphis 25 25-0 540 1446 37.3
4 Louisville 26 20-6 540 1438 37.6
5 Sam Houston St. 24 19-5 508 1347 37.7
6 Ohio St. 26 17-9 580 1533 37.8
7 Stephen F. Austin 24 21-3 462 1218 37.9
8 Connecticut 25 20-5 625 1647 37.9
9 Texas A&M 25 20-5 562 1475 38.1
10 Stanford 25 21-4 510 1335 38.2

and

NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Blocked Shots Per Game
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L BLKS BKPG
1 Connecticut 25 20-5 217 8.7
2 Mississippi St. 24 17-7 203 8.5
3 Duquesne 24 16-8 178 7.4
4 Massachusetts 25 16-9 181 7.2
5 Maryland 26 17-9 181 7.0
6 UNC Asheville 25 18-7 173 6.9
7 Boston College 24 13-11 157 6.5
8 Kansas 26 24-2 169 6.5
9 Memphis 25 25-0 162 6.5
10 McNeese St. 22 10-12 135 6.1

Can the Tigers maintain this pace when they play outside Conference USA? Saturday night’s matchup with Tennessee should shed some light on that.

The Volunteers are in the top ten of:
NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Assist Turnover Ratio
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L AST TO Ratio
1 UMBC 25 18-7 380 236 1.61
2 Kansas 26 24-2 495 332 1.49
3 West Virginia 25 18-7 395 265 1.49
4 Tennessee 25 23-2 479 322 1.49
5 UNLV 25 19-6 388 271 1.43
6 Northwestern 23 7-16 383 270 1.42
7 Texas 25 21-4 329 236 1.39
8 Davidson 25 19-6 441 317 1.39
9 Notre Dame 24 19-5 448 325 1.38
10 Washington St.

NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Steals Per Game
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L ST STPG
1 VMI 24 13-11 306 12.8
2 Tennessee 25 23-2 257 10.3
3 Cal St. Northridge 23 17-6 233 10.1
4 Clemson 25 19-6 253 10.1
5 Austin Peay 28 18-10 282 10.1
6 Robert Morris 27 21-6 271 10.0
7 Pepperdine 27 9-18 270 10.0
8 Minnesota 24 15-9 239 10.0
9 Seton Hall 26 15-11 256 9.8
10 TCU 24 12-12 233 9.7

and
NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Assists Per Game
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L AST APG
1 Tennessee 25 23-2 479 19.2
2 Sam Houston St. 24 19-5 459 19.1
3 Kansas 26 24-2 495 19.0
4 VMI 24 13-11 453 18.9
Duquesne 24 16-8 453 18.9
6 Notre Dame 24 19-5 448 18.7
7 Boise St. 25 19-6 457 18.3
8 Vanderbilt 26 22-4 471 18.1
9 Robert Morris 27 21-6 485 18.0
10 Michigan St. 25 20-5 448 17.9

These stats can be a little misleading come tournament time. Bruce Pearl’s gang is surviving off pressure defense that leads to a lot of turnovers and easy buckets – nothing wrong with that except the Volunteer half-court offense looks constipated. When Tennessee meets a team in the tournament that takes care of the ball, they will find the end of their road.

One last stat:
NCAA® Men’s Basketball
Division I
Scoring Defense
Through Games 02/17/2008

Rank Name GM W-L OPP PTS OPP PPG
1 Stephen F. Austin 24 21-3 1286 53.6
2 Wisconsin 25 21-4 1384 55.4
3 Washington St. 25 20-5 1387 55.5
4 Air Force 24 13-11 1380 57.5
Georgetown 24 20-4 1380 57.5
6 Iowa 26 11-15 1500 57.7
7 Stanford 25 21-4 1446 57.8
8 UCLA 25 22-3 1449 58.0
9 Winthrop 26 17-9 1531 58.9
10 Butler 26 24-2 1534 59.0

That’s quite a mix. Wisconsin, Washington St., G-town, Stanford, UCLA, and Butler will have a say in who wins the national title.
So how do we make sense of all this? Will there be any super-human individual performances from a point guard or a shooting guard? Is there a George Mason out there? Are there any teams ready for a visit from Uncle Mo?

Indiana is perplexing. Will the impending coaching change cause them to implode? Or explode? On the topic – What is weirder?

1.The fact that Indiana – those of the zero-tolerance policy - hired Kelvin Sampson after his problems at Oklahoma.
2.The fact that after getting caught at Oklahoma Sampson would try the same thing at IU.
3.Brad Daugherty doing NASCAR commentary. (Okay I know that was random, but it still fits the weird category.)

With all that said, I pose the Sweet Sixteen again to the Clipboard readers: how many of the sweet sixteen can you predict BEFORE the conference tournaments begin? Yeah, you read that right BEFORE the brackets are released. You might remember this from last year.

Here’s Casey’s list:
Memphis, UNC, UCLA, Washington St., Georgetown, Texas, Michigan St, Marquette, Vanderbilt, Davidson, Duke, Kansas, UConn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, St. Mary’s.

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