Saturday’s Den: Doing some studying for the NCAA tournament……

Did some research today, which means:
a) It was really cold out.
b) There weren’t any good movies on TV.

I looked at the 40 teams who made the Elite 8 over the last five years, trying to find any common threads to teams who got to a regional final.

I’ll pull this list out the day after the brackets come out and see if we can identify a team or two that could surprise and make the Final Four. Here is what I found:

13) 2017 South Carolina is one of the weirdest Final Four teams ever; they started season 8-0, but went 12-6 in the SEC, lost their first SEC tourney game. On Selection Sunday, Gamecocks had lost six of their last nine games, but they got a 7-seed, so they were comfortably in the field of 68, but no one was picking them to advance very far.

Carolina’s eFG% was #304, which is bad (there are 353 teams); their experience was #233, but they played great defense (#15 eFG%) and were #5 in forcing turnovers.

It is South Carolina’s only NCAA appearance since 2004, and they made the Final Four. 

12) Over the last five years, 16 of 40 teams (40%) who made the Elite 8 won their conference tournament; 8 of the 40 teams (20%) lost their first conference tourney game.

11) 32 of the 40 teams (80%) were in the KenPom top 20 on Selection Sunday; last year, all eight of the Elite Eight were in the top 15.

10) Strong defense is important; 24 of 40 teams (60%) were in top 50 in top 50 of eFG% rankings (FG% where a 3-pointer counts as 1.5 hoops).

9) Forcing turnovers? Not as important. Only 8 of 40 Elite 8 teams (20%) were teams that ranked in top 50 in forcing turnovers. Teams that do well in that category are generally bully teams who beat up on stiffs, but in March, there aren’t too many stiffs still playing.

8) Three of last four years, a team that went 9-9 in conference play but made the Elite 8:
— 2016 Syracuse, a 10-seed
— 2017 Xavier, an 11-seed
— 2018 Florida State, a 9-seed

7) Getting easy baskets is important; 22 of 40 Elite 8 teams (55%) ranked in top 50 in eFG% on offense; 53 of 60 teams (88.3%) were in the top 100. 


6) How important is experience? Not so much. Talent means more.

Only 6 of 40 Elite 8 teams (15%) were in the top 100 in experience; the most talented teams have kids who bolt school early.

5) You can make the case that continuity is more important than actual experience; maybe a team has a nucleus of sophomores who played together for two years.

12 of 40 Elite 8 teams (30%) were in top 100 in minutes continuity.

4) Does playing a hard non-conference schedule help you in March, Unless your name is Mark Few, not really.

Only 5 of 40 Elite 8 teams (12.5%) had a non-conference schedule that ranked in the top 50 nationally. Teams from the bigger leagues pad their power ratings with conference games; they pad their W-L record with pre-conference wins.

8 of 40 Elite 8 teams (20%) had a non-conference schedule outside the top 200.

3) As for overall strength of schedule, 33 of 40 teams (82.5%) ranked in the top 40- teams like 2019 Auburn, 2018 Kansas State, 2017 Oklahoma made the Elite 8 from Power 5 leagues, with Big East being the 6th Power 5 league.

2017 Xavier had a 5-game losing skid in February; 2018 Texas Tech had a 4-game skid.

2) How about teams who get a lot of their points outside the arc?

Only 10 of 60 Elite 8 teams (16.7%) ranked in the top 100, as far as getting their points on 3-point shots. 21 of 40 teams (52.5%) ranked outside the top 200 in that category.

1) Depth seems to be incredibly overrated; TV timeouts are longer in March and while I can’t prove it, I’m pretty sure refs call fewer fouls in March.

Only 6 of 40 Elite 8 teams ranked in the top 100 in bench minutes; 10 of 60 teams (16.7%) ranked outside the top 200.

Like I said, we’ll put this article out on March 16 as we examine the brackets.

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.