The East Region of the NCAA Tournament ischock full of teams that appear to be under-seeded and those which areoverrated. That's a recipe for some quality March Madness bracket-busting, so here's the critical numbers to get you prepared.
NCAA Tournament stats to know
No. 1 Villanova's earliest threat
This is an easy one. Wisconsin as a No. 8seed is a potentially very tough draw for Villanova. The Badgers were ranked ninth in the preseason AP Poll and were in the top 10 as recently as a month ago. They spent 10 weeks in the top 15 of the poll and made the championship game of the Big Ten tournament. A strong defense, which led the Big Ten in opponents' points per game (61.1) and defensive efficiency (93.4 points allowed per 100 possessions), is well-crafted to neutralize a Virginia Tech offense that led the ACC in field goal percentage (49.4 percent) and make a matchup with Jay Wright's squad possible.
Wisco also crashes the offensive boards hard (ranking 23rd nationally in percentage of available offensive rebounds grabbed) which happens to be one of Nova’s few relative weaknesses —ranking 151st in OREBsallowed. Ethan Happ could be a nightmare down low against a Wildcats team that doesn't have a rotation player taller than 6-8.
Most eye-popping stat of the region
Can we please talk more about Luke Kennard? He might be the most unheralded and least scrutinized Duke starin the Coach K era, scoring at an incredibly efficient rate. Consider this: At 20.1/50.0/44.3,Kennard is the only ACC player in the last 20 years to average20 points per game while shooting at least 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from downtown.
Only six total major-conference players have accomplished this over that span,with Buddy Hield the only other within the last three yearsas he led his Oklahoma team to the Final Four. Kennard has a smooth calmness to his game and, like Buddy, has themakings of a guy who can carry his No 2-seeded Blue Devilson a deep tourney run.
Most overrated seed
Early wins over deceptively ranked Michigan State and Xavier teams along with a Dillon Brooks-less Oregon inflated the resume of a Baylor team that looks a little weak as a No. 3 right now. The Bears have lost sixof their last 11 games while struggling to shoot and just put the ball in the basket. Manu Lecomte and Al Freeman are the only Bears averaging at least one 3-pointer per game, while the team ranked 231st nationally in that department.
Baylor's offense as a whole ranks 189th in scoring at a relativelyanemic 68.3 points per game, not helped by a Big 12-worst 14.3 turnovers per contest. If Lecomte and Freeman go cold, even Jonathan Motley and the Big 12’s top-ranked defense won’t able to keep them in it. Oh, and Scott Drew's team has been upsetby double-digit seeds in each of their last two tourney openers.
Most dangerous sleeper
Another easy one. No. 6 SMU has won 16 straight games and just avengedits only conference loss of the year with a 15-point, rubber-match win over Cincinnati in the AAC Tournament final. Tim Jankovich coaches a No. 6 seed that finished 30-4 with an RPI of 15 and a KenPom ranking of 11. There is high-end talent here, led by forward Semi Ojeleye, a transfer from Duke, whowas No. 40 in his recruiting class in the ESPN 100 rankings.
The Mustangs have the nation’s third-ranked defense inpoints allowedat 59.9 per game, hold opponents to an eighth-ranked 38.6 field goal percentage and own a second-ranked 9.4 rebounding margin. They can put also put it in the basket quite well,sitting at ninth inoffensive efficiency with 116.7 points per 100 possessions. We’re looking at one of the hottest teams and most well-rounded teams in the country, which will be hungry to make up for a missed opportunity last year when they were banned from the tourney under Larry Brown.
First-round upset alert
The No. 4 Florida Gators aren’t playing their best basketball right now, losing three out of four including two straight to Vanderbilt. No. 13 East Tennessee State, on the other hand, is red hot. It has won nineof its last 10 games, led by senior guard T.J. Cromer, who’s averaging 20.9 pointswhile shooting 41.1 percent from deep (making 3.7threes per contest) over that stretch.
If the Gators’ three total losses to Vandy— who made more3s than any team in this year's tourney —are an indication of what can give them trouble, then they may have their hands full with Cromer and a Buccaneers squad that shot 38.3 percent from long range as a whole. ETSU has already proven it can handleSEC teams — albeit poor ones — when it beat Ben Howland’s Mississippi squad in December and lost to Rick Barnes' Tennessee by just four a week later.