Holy Farokhmanesh Batman! What a dagger by the senior guard to ice the game for the Northern Iowa Panthers! His clutch shots in the first two rounds of the tournaments will undoubtedly be talked about for years to come. Fun fact: Ali's mom is a Division 1 volleyball coach for the University of Iowa.
I love the NCAA tournament. Some of you may know that from all my articles last year as Oklahoma made a bit of a tournament run into the Elite Eight. Obviously, our team left a little to be desired this season, but I'm still following the madness, so I figured I would post a little analysis on the first 8 teams to make the regional semifinals.
We do have a 1, 2, and 3 seed in now, but we also have a 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 seed in the Sweet 16. I wouldn't consider anything higher than a 7 seed a "Cinderella" in the Sweet 16 round, but that still means we have three Cinderella teams alive and well: Northern Iowa, St. Mary's, and Washington.
Time to take a look at the teams that made it, and which teams are looking to make deep runs in the tournament, after the jump (link below).
I've posted about Adjusted Scoring Margin (ASM) before on here. It is simply the sum of how many points a team surrenders vs. the other team's average scoring, and how many points a team scores vs. the other team's average number of points allowed. Essentially, it is a quick measure of how many points a team is playing "better than the average NCAA team". It has a proven track record of predicting tournament success and identifying the best teams in the country. The "adjusted" part comes from the fact that you are adjusting scoring margin for the level of competition.
So what I did was I took a look at the ASM for each Sweet 16 team in the two games they've played so far in the tournament (figure above, 3rd column from left). I listed the values for each game they played, the ASM for the entire season for each team, and then how much better they've played in the tournament vs. the season.
Kentucky has been an astounding 32.6 points per game better than the average NCAA team, and their win today was one of the most lopsided affairs in the tournament. They were already one of the most efficient teams in the country going into the tournament, but they have surpassed even that in the first couple of games. The Wildcats have got to be the favorite to win the tournament now, especially with Kansas eliminated.
Speaking of Wildcats, Kansas State has reached their first Sweet 16 since 1988. Congratulations to them. They have been almost as impressive as Kentucky so far, and they managed to pull off a pretty solid victory from beginning to end against BYU - a 30 win team - today behind 34 points and 7-12 shooting from beyond the arc by Jacob Pullen.
The third team that is really on a roll is Butler. You may be questioning the validity of that, given that they barely squeaked out a win against 13-seed Murray State today. However, they held Murray State to 52 points, which is well below their average of 76.5 ppg (32nd nationally). The Bulldogs' defense has been terrific, and they are a scrappy team that just finds ways to win.
Based on all of that, if I was doing a "second chance bracket" starting at the Sweet 16, I would pencil Kansas State and Kentucky into the Final Four with no second thoughts whatsoever.
Does ASM Help Identify Any Potential Upsets On Sunday?
Kansas posted a 20.1 ASM figure in their first game against Lehigh, mostly due to their offensive output, as they allowed Lehigh to score near their season average in points. But ASM did identify Villanova as a weak squad (4.6 ASM against Robert Morris). New Mexico posted a 13.4 figure against Montana, not terrible, but not great, and only managed to win by 5. BYU only posted a 12.8 figure in their first round game against a mediocre Florida team. While BYU wasn't upset, they got handled pretty well by Kansas State who played much better relative to their competition in the first round.
- West Virginia (32.6 ASM) throttled Morgan State in the first round. Look for them to get by Missouri (16.9 ASM), although it may be a game for awhile. Upset risk: low.
- Xavier (19.3 ASM) and Pitt (28.0 ASM) should be a pretty good game. Both teams were efficient in their opening round games and dominated the other team. Either way, a 3 vs. 6 doesn't really qualify as upset-worthy, so no risk here.
- Cornell (21.1 ASM) could pull off the upset against Wisconsin (11.8 ASM) who struggled in their first game, only pulling off a 4 point win against Wofford. The question is, were the Badgers' shooting woes their own fault, or the result of Wofford's defense? Upset risk: moderate.
- Texas A&M (29.2 ASM) looks like a solid pick against Purdue (17.6 ASM), especially considering Hummel's injury. Seed difference isn't big enough to call it an upset though.
- Gonzaga (14.8 ASM) doesn't look to have enough ammunition against Syracuse (28.4 ASM) who dominated Vermont in convincing fashion. Upset risk: near zero.
- Duke (28.4 ASM) might get a game from California (21.1 ASM). Make no mistake, the Bears are a dangerous team and they played very well in their first game. Digger Phelps just called this one on ESPN. Upset risk: moderate.
- Michigan State (3.7 ASM) survived New Mexico State with a gutsy win, but didn't look good at all doing it. Maryland (15.6 ASM) performed much better against a fiesty but overmatched Houston squad. Look for Maryland to prevail, not an upset-type game though.
- Ohio State (18.9 ASM) looks pretty good against Georgia Tech (10.8 ASM). But, then again, it is the Midwest region. Upset risk: low.
So, if you're looking to impress by calling some upsets tomorrow, I'd go for Cornell or California. Duke had a road that looked pretty easy, but now it looks like they'd have to get by two of the hottest teams in the tournament - California and then Texas A&M. If WVU keeps it up, they'll be setting up an epic match of titans in the East final, where they would probably match up with Kentucky.