Just because your NCAA Tournament bracket is done, doesn't mean you can't use a little more March Madness knowledge to impress freinds and enhance your viewing pleasure.
Here aresome critical stats for Thursday night's Sweet 16 schedule, which are likely to be signifcant factors as the games play out.
Key to the Game
This matchup betweet No. 7 seed Michigan and No. 3 seed Oregon features arguably the two hottest players in postseason play, and which of them stays hot could ultimately determine the outcome. Ducks sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey is shooting an absurd 64.6 percent from the field to lead all Sweet 16 participants and 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from deep in five postseason contests, while scoring 23.6 points per game. Derrick Walton has done it all during the Wolverines 6-0 postseason run, averaging 19.7 points, 7.0 assists and 5.2 boards. Dorsey leads all Sweet 16 participants in field goal percentage while Walton is tops in assists. Advantage might go to Dorsey here, since Michigan is allowing opponents to shoot 37.5 percent on threes this season, 306th in Division 1.
Here’s one for the counterintuitive file: while Michigan has made more threes than any major conference team this season (including a Sweet 16-high 22), they also play the second slowest pace (64 possessions per 40 minutes) among major conference schools. What makes this so surprising is when you look at the NBA trend,prolific 3-point shooting and fast-pacedplay go hand and hand. During eachof Steve Nash’s MVP seasons the Suns led the league in both threes made and possessions per game, while this season’s Rockets, who have made over 100 more threes than any team, play the fourth-fastest pace in the league. Should Wolverines coach John Beilein speed things up?
Key to the Game
In their second roundwin over Notre Dame, No. 4 seed “Press” Virginia caused the Irish, who turned the ball over fewer than any team this season, to cough it up 13 times. That’s because the Mountaineers force more TOs than any other school (12.3 per game), thanks to their smothering full-court pressure. Among the 100 other things No. 1 sed Gonzaga does well, they are solid at protecting the ball despite playing at the second-fastest pace in Division 1. If they can stay consistent with their turnover rate, which ranks 34th in the country,the Bulldogs’ overall talent edge should prevail through an up-and-down affair.
After averaging 12 points and 5.5 rebounds through the first two games, look for Zags talented freshman Zach Collins to break into the national lexicon. Over the last five seasons, only seven other major conference freshman have posted a Player Efficiency Rating above 30, like Collins’ 31.7: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Cody Zeller, Jahlil Okafor, Jared Sullinger and Nick Ward of this year’s Michigan State team. Allof them except for Ward were consensus All-Americans. Quite a list for the young 7-footer, who is already projected as a future lottery pick.
Purdue vs. Kansas
Key to the Game
Caleb Swanigan leads the country with 28 double-doubles, which also happens to be the most of any Big Ten player in history. Whether he can repeat that success against No. 1 seed Kansas might determine whether the No. 4-seeded Boilermakers advance, considering Purdue is 24-4when the 6-9 sophomore doubles up compared to just 3-3 when he doesn’t. Swanigan’s odds of success seem strong, considering the Jayhawks rank 174th in points allowed (72.0 per game) and 128th in opponent rebounds per game. But even if Swanigan is limited, Purdue's 40.4 percent 3-point shooting could bail them out against Kansas' 199th-ranked 3-point defense.
The Jayhawks have done a 180 one oftheir biggest weaknesses entering the tournament. After shooting an abysmal 66.6 percent on free throws (283rd in the nation) through their first 32 games, Kansas went 31-of-35 (88.6%) from the stripe over the first two rounds – the best of any team to playmultiple games. Now they just need to get there more often, as they’re just 14th in tournamentattempts among teams in the Sweet 16.
Key to the Game
These teams have undergone a bit of a role reversal. After ranking 229th in the regular season with a 34.1 clip from 3-point land, No. 11 seed Xavier has seriously found the stroke come tournament time. They’ve sank a sizzling 20 of 40 shots from long range in their two wins, second only to Michigan among Sweet 16 teams. No. 2 seed Arizona, which ranks 19th nationally from behind the arc (39.6 percent), has made just eight threes in the tourney, least among Sweet 16 teams. Regression to the mean seems likely, which bodes well for the favorite Wildcats. Especially so for star freshman Lauri Markkanen, who's made just one three so far after averaging almost two per game on over 43 percent shooting during the season.
Xavier reserve forwards Kaiser Gates and Sean O’Mara came into the tournament each averaging under six points per game. Something has come alive inside them during the first two rounds as they’ve gone off for a combined 29 and 25 points, respectively, their two highest combined scoring totals of the season. As with the Musketeers 3-point shooting, averages are called averages for a reason, so don't expect this to continue.