Friday, March 18, 2011

March Madness Recap (Round 1, Day 1)

Faried denies Marra at the buzzer
If you haven't read by now--or for some ridiculous reason weren't watching basketball yesterday--there were a few mildly exciting games in the first day of the NCAA tournament. Morehead State beating Louisville was certainly unexpected, and the way it ended--a 3 for the lead by Demonte Harper with 4.4 seconds to go, followed by an epic block by Kenneth Faried (right) as time expired--was kind of a shame that it was only the first round. Butler/ODU and Temple/Penn State each featured last-second game-winning shots, as did Kentucky, needing a layup by freshman Brandin Knight with .4 seconds left to beat Ivy champ Princeton. Sure, the night games weren't as interesting, as a couple of blowouts by UConn (over Bucknell by 29) and Florida (over UC-Santa Barbara by 28) set the tone for a 15-point "upset" by Gonzaga over St. John's and an 18-point yawner victory by San Diego State over Northern Colorado. UCLA managed to nearly blow a 20+ point lead, squeaking over Michigan State by 2, and that was all the excitement for the nightcap. That's the obvious stuff. For the not-so-obvious stuff, hit the jump!

Like I've said countless times on the blog, we here at SportStatistics love comparisons. Without comparisons, how can you know if one thing is better than another? That seems like a ridiculous question, but think about it--one statistic means nothing. Compared with another statistic, it suddenly gives us a reference point to begin a realistic overall comparison.

Yesterday, teams that won the ball shot 46% from the floor, a noticeably better mark than the 40% the losing teams shot--no real surprise there. Florida and Gonzaga shot the best at 54.7% and 54.9% respectively, with the Zags also shooting the best from beyond the arc (9-15, or 60%). 16-seed UNC-Asheville was the worst shooting team, hitting only 30.9% of their shots against the #1 seeded Pitt Panthers.

The Bulldogs had a hard time keeping Pitt off the glass
Ball-handling was another big difference maker, as the average winning team posted a 1.31-to-1 assist to turnover ratio, compared with the 1.05-to-1 ratio posted by the teams that failed to advance. Richmond had a fantastic day taking care of the ball, dishing out 14 assists (or 54% of their made baskets) while only turning the ball over twice against Vanderbilt. Vandy's defense has been awful at forcing turnovers all season, coming in 305th in the country in steals, according to Ken Pomeroy. The only reason the Commodores were able to stay in the game despite the disparity in possessions was their high offensive rebounding rate, where they grabbed 47% of their misses--easily the best of any team that lost. The best offensive-rebound team yesterday was the Pitt Panthers, who grabbed 19 o-boards--over 56% of their missed shots! That's easy to do when UNC-Asheville only starts players 6'5" and shorter, sure, but still an impressive continuation of the Panthers' theme this season, where they finished second in the country at 43.1%.

We're here in Big East territory, and seeing as how 6 Big East teams played yesterday (Pitt, UConn, Cincinnati and WVU won, while St. John's and Louisville lost), I'll run by a few of their numbers as well. Obviously the conference had a 4-2 record overall, with teams making 48% of their shots, a number actually above the average for all teams that had won, while holding opponents to 39% overall. That number was certainly helped out by Pitt's efforts against UNC-Asheville, but it's still quite a large overall difference. The conference as a whole put up an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.34, so right around where we saw all day. So there you have it--a few interesting tidbits to start the day off with. After tomorrow we'll do a full Round 1 recap, and keep this up every day that games are played! 

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