Sweet 16 2014: Upset Meter for Every Game

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 24, 2014

Sweet 16 2014: Upset Meter for Every Game

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    In the second and third rounds of the 2014 NCAA tournament, the lower-seeded team pulled off the upset 27.1 percent of the time. We're expecting more of the same in the Sweet 16.

    Over the next eight slides, we'll break down each game, identify some potential X-factors and assign an "Upset Meter Reading" on a scale from 0 to 10 to numerically express how inevitable we think an upset is, based on what we've found. Higher numbers in the Upset Meter Reading means a greater likelihood of the lower seed advancing.

    Whether you choose to side with our analysis or completely go against it based on the dreadful predictions in the round of 32 is entirely up to you. But I've got a feeling we'll do better this round.

    The following slides are listed in chronological order of projected tipoff time.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com or KenPom.com (subscription required). All betting lines are courtesy of Odds Shark.

No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 10 Stanford

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    When: Thursday at 7:15 p.m. ET (CBS)

    The Betting Line: Stanford -3

    The Challenge: Stopping Stanford's Chasson Randle

    Save for Saint Joseph's Langston Galloway scoring 31 points against them in the A-10 tournament, the Dayton Flyers have done a pretty good job this season of frustrating their opponents' assertive guards.

    Massachusetts' Chaz Williams shot 5-of-17 against Dayton. Syracuse's Tyler Ennis was 7-of-21 Saturday.

    And there's no good reason for you to know that Fordham's Branden Frazier and Jon Severe ranked in the top five in the A-10 in scoring this year, but they shot a combined 20-of-69 (29.0 percent) in two games against Dayton (for sake of comparison, Fordham's duo shot 14-of-26 for 52 points against Syracuse and 22-of-39 for 60 points against Harvard).

    Randle has averaged 18.7 points on 12.5 field-goal attempts per game this season. If Dayton can do to him what it did to those other guards, the Flyers should be in great shape.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    Each of the 16 teams left standing ranks in the top 21 of Ken Pomeroy's Pythagorean formula.

    That is, except for these two teams. Stanford ranks 34th, while Dayton checks in at 43rd place. Neither has scored more than 60 points yet in a tournament game, even though they both averaged just over 73 points per game during the season.

    The number I'm most intrigued by in this game, however, is the one that usually gets ignored in the box score: blocked shots.

    Stanford ranks fourth in the nation in percentage of two-point attempts blocked on offense, while Dayton ranks 310th. Dayton isn't much better on the defensive end, ranking 273rd in percentage of opponents' two-pointers blocked. Stanford ranks 98th.

    Thus far in the tournament, Stanford has "out-blocked" its opponents by a 9-4 margin, and Dayton has been out-blocked 11-4. If Stanford's bigs (Stefan Nastic, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis) can stay out of foul trouble, Dayton's guards will have all sorts of trouble getting to the rim.

     

    The X-factor: Stanford's three-point shooting

    In the round of 32, Syracuse was 0-of-10 from three-point range against Dayton, and Stanford was 0-of-9 against Kansas. The chances of that trend continuing that drastically are pretty slim, especially considering Stanford shot better than 50 percent against New Mexico and 37 percent for the season.

    But if the Flyers can hold Randle and Anthony Brown in check from long range, it'll greatly improve their chances.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 3.5/10

No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 2 Wisconsin

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    When: Thursday at 7:47 p.m. ET (TBS)

    The Betting Line: Wisconsin -3

    The Challenge: Forcing turnovers

    If Baylor plans on shooting 63.8 percent from the field again like it did Sunday night against Creighton, there won't be any challenge here.

    Short of that, though, the Bears are going to need some help against the fourth-most efficient offense in the country, and it doesn't look like they'll be getting it in the form of turnovers. Wisconsin ranks second in the country at avoiding turnovers on offense, and Baylor ranks 315th in forcing turnovers on defense.

    Between their first two games, the Badgers committed a total of 15 turnovers and grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Baylor will need to both limit second-chance opportunities and occasionally find a way to prevent Wisconsin from even attempting a shot in the first place.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    In addition to the turnover numbers mentioned above, the pace of the game will be an interesting aspect to watch. Believe it or not, Baylor plays at an even slower tempo than Wisconsin. So if you hear any announcers in this game talking about Wisconsin needing to slow Baylor down or the Bears trying to speed up the Badgers, try to ignore that fallacy.

    Offensive rebounding will be key for Baylor. The Bears rank third in the nation by grabbing 40.6 percent of their own misses, but Wisconsin ranks 11th by limiting its opponents to just 27.0 percent on the offensive glass.

    There was a game Sunday for which there was a similar disparity. Kentucky (42.0 percent) grabbed 34.4 percent of the available offensive rebounds, almost exactly splitting the difference with Wichita State (26.0 percent) in one of the best tournament games of all time.

     

    The X-factor: Brady Heslip

    During the season, teams didn't shoot very many three-pointers against Wisconsin. The Badgers rank 11th in defensive three-point attempts per field-goal attempt, limiting opponents to roughly three two-point attempts for every three-pointer.

    But Oregon attempted 18 three-pointers against Wisconsin and made 44.4 percent of them. Baylor attempted 18 three-pointers against Creighton and made 61.1 percent of them. If Heslip can get some open looks, it could be curtains for Wisconsin.

    If Heslip isn't getting open looks, though, he might as well not even be on the court. Per 40 minutes, Heslip averages 1.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 0.75 steals. If he's not scoring, he isn't doing much else to help.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 6.7/10

No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 1 Florida

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    When: Thursday at 9:45 p.m. ET (CBS)

    The Betting Line: Florida -4.5

    The Challenge: Contending with Florida's bigs

    Patric Young doesn't put up mind-blowing numbers, but he commands the paint as well as anyone in the country. Against Pittsburgh on Saturday, Young had seven points, eight rebounds and four blocksand Pittsburgh's Talib Zanna is a significantly better post player than anyone on UCLA's roster.

    Comparing the Wear twins in the paint against Young and Will Yeguete is laughable. But if they can hit some mid-range and three-point shots to stretch Florida's defense, it would open up all sorts of opportunities for Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Norman Powell to do their thing.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    Multiplying UCLA's offensive efficiency by its tempo yields a score of 81.6not much unlike its 81.8 points per game average on the season. However, multiplying Florida's defensive efficiency by its tempo yields a score of 56.0. That's a pretty significant contrast if ever I've seen one.

    Since Nov. 18, Florida has not played in a game that had 70 or more possessions in regulation (the overtime game against Arkansas had 77 total). The Gators have played 13 games this season with 60 or fewer possessions.

    During the regular season, UCLA didn't play in a single game with fewer than 66 possessions. The Bruins rank 15th in the country in average possession length on offense, and Florida ranks 350th on defense. One of those things has to break.

    Before you assume that the tortoise will beat the hare, though, keep in mind that UCLA forced Arizona to play in two of its six fastest-paced games of the year. Arizona's defensive efficiency multiplied by its tempo is a very Gator-ish 56.3, but the Bruins scored 75 in each game against the Wildcats.

     

    The X-factor: Turnovers

    UCLA ranks fourth in the country in steal percentage, and Anderson does a pretty fine job of avoiding turnovers of his own. Thus far in the tournament, UCLA has committed just 13 turnovers while forcing 24.

    Florida creates a lot of steals in its own right but isn't exactly immune to committing turnovers. As lauded a leader as he may be, Scottie Wilbekin just barely has a 2.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 2.9/10

No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Arizona

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    When: Thursday at 10:17 p.m. ET (TBS)

    The Betting Line: Arizona -6.5

    The Challenge: Scoring points

    Even against the country's most efficient offenses, Arizona has done just fine on defense.

    Duke currently ranks No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency, but the Blue Devils scored just 66 points against Arizona. Michigan sits at No. 3, and the Wolverines were limited to 70 points on their own court. Oregon ranks 11th and was held to 65 points in one game against Arizona and 64 points in the other.

    Way down the list in 104th place is San Diego State. The Aztecs scored 60 in mid-November against Arizona. A lot has changed since thenArizona lost Brandon Ashley, and Dwayne Polee II didn't play a second in that game for San Diego Statebut the Aztecs offense is still essentially Xavier Thames and not much else.

    JJ O'Brien scored a season-high 19 points in that first meeting against Arizona but has just 29 points total in his last six games.

    San Diego State will have at least a snowball's chance in Anaheim if it can hold Arizona under 60 points, but that has only happened twice all year to the Wildcats.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    This one is all about the defense.

    Arizona ranks No. 1 in adjusted defensive efficiency, and San Diego State ranks No. 7. Hopefully there won't be as many turnovers as there were in the Louisville (No. 4 in defensive efficiency) vs. Saint Louis (No. 8) game, but this could be tough to watch if you like points.

    In particular, San Diego State's two-point field goals will be an adventure. The Aztecs rank 303rd in two-point percentage on offense, and Arizona ranks No. 2 defensively. In the earlier game between these teams, Thames was just 3-of-12 inside the arc against the Wildcats' sequoias in the paint.

     

    The X-factor: Dwayne Polee II

    Polee didn't score more than 12 points against a D-I opponent this season until Feb. 11, but he has done so seven times since then, including each of the last four games. Averaging 28.3 minutes and 15.5 points per game since March 14, Polee has emerged as a Robin to Thames' Batman heroics.

    If he can match that scoring average while Thames scores 25 of his own, San Diego State could advance to the Elite Eight.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 2.5/10

No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 2 Michigan

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    When: Friday at 7:15 p.m. ET (CBS)

    The Betting Line: Michigan -2

    The Challenge: Slowing down Jordan Morgan

    Last February, Mitch McGary was a nobody. He had one double-double during the regular season and barely accomplished that with 10 points and 11 rebounds in a 93-54 win over Eastern Michigan. But as you may recall, he became an overnight sensation in March.

    Enter Jordan Morgan. Morgan had zero double-doubles until March 8 but has three since then, including two in the NCAA tournament. Like McGary last year and Brian Zoubek in Duke's 2010 title run, the senior has developed into a pleasantly reliable source of production after 3.5 years of basically just taking up space.

    Of course, Jeronne Maymon and Jarnell Stokes are no ordinary blokes in the paint. The Vols destroyed Mercer in the paint Sunday night. The Bears had 19 total rebounds; Stokes had 18 by himself.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    Tennessee has to be the most efficient No. 11 seed in the history of No. 11 seeds. The Volunteers rank 16th in offensive efficiency and 17th in defensive efficiency.

    However, they rank 139th in three-point field-goal defense, even though the SEC ranks 28th out of the 32 conferences in three-point percentage.

    The SEC's best three-point shooting team was South Carolina. The Gamecocks rank 51st in the country but shot a dismal 7-of-30 (23.3 percent) in two games against Tennessee. Aside from Sunday's game against Mercerthe Bears rank 24th in three-point percentage and shot 36.4 percent against TennesseeSouth Carolina was the best long-range team Tennessee faced all season.

    Michigan ranks sixth in three-point percentage and relies pretty heavily on those triples, averaging 8.6 made three-pointers per game. With four players on Michigan who shot better than 40 percent and averaged at least one three-pointer per game, Tennessee's guards better be ready to defend as soon as the Wolverines cross midcourt.

     

    The X-factor: Josh Richardson

    As if I don't reference his stuff enough, Ken Pomeroy tweeted this Sunday night, "Josh Richardson turning into Gary Harris this week was a surprising development."

    Richardson did have his share of 15-point performances during the season, but they were pretty unpredictable—most notably his 20-point game against Virginia.

    But the junior guard has averaged 19.3 points per game thus far in the tournament. Maymon, Stokes and Jordan McRae are more than enough for Tennessee to be dangerous. If Richardson keeps up this hot streak, the Volunteers will remain unstoppable.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 6.1/10

No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 3 Iowa State

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    When: Friday at 7:27 p.m. ET (TBS)

    The Betting Line: Iowa State -1

    The Challenge: Defending Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane

    A lot has been said and written about Iowa State's loss of Georges Niang, but the Cyclones are still putting a pretty respectable product on the court without him.

    North Carolina certainly hadn't been playing great defense in the games leading up to its showdown with Iowa State, but Kane (24 points) and Ejim (19 points) led the way as a "short-handed" team put up 85 points in the round of 32.

    Naz Long and Monte Morris stepped up to fill the offensive void left by Niang. Those guys won't be the focus, though. Slow down Ejim and Kane, and you have a shot.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    Iowa State's efficiency numbers over the course of the season are pretty hollow now. The Cyclones were one of the best two-point shooting teams in the nation, but Niang led the team in two-point attempts. They averaged 10.5 turnovers per game during the season but committed 14 against North Carolina on Sunday.

    It's tough to say what this team is really going to look like in its current situation.

    Connecticut hasn't changed, though, and the Huskies already had one of the best two-point defenses in the country. Led by Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels, Connecticut averaged more than six blocks per game during the season.

    The Huskies are also an excellent three-point shooting team. They have four players shooting better than 37.5 percent on the year, including Niels Giffey's unreal 51.9 percent clip.

     

    The X-factor: Naz Long

    Long's role in the Iowa State rotation fluctuated throughout the season, but the Cyclones are 11-0 when he scores 10 or more points. In four of their seven losses, though, he was shut out entirely.

    If Shabazz Napier, Lasan Kromah and Ryan Boatright can keep a hand in his face on the perimeter154 of his 190 field-goal attempts this season were of the three-point varietyConnecticut should win. Given the defensive intensity those three guards have displayed all season, that shouldn't be a problem.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 8.3/10

No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 4 Louisville

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    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Friday at 9:45 p.m. ET (CBS)

    The Betting Line: Louisville -5

    The Challenge: Withstanding Louisville's pressure defense

    Turnovers were a bit of an issue throughout the season for Kentucky, and that hasn't gotten any better in the tournament. Andrew Harrison put up a nice scoring total with 20 points against Wichita State, but it was also his second consecutive game with six turnovers.

    Nothing says "Red flag!" quite like a primary point guard having his worst turnover totals of the season in back-to-back games before facing the second-most turnover-forcing defense in the country.

    The Wildcats committed just 11 turnovers in beating Louisville back in December, but the Cardinals enter this game averaging 12.0 steals over their last seven contests.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    Kentucky is 31-15 all time against Louisville and has won five of the last six meetings between the rivals.

    Just like a Duke vs. North Carolina game, this is one of those pairings where it really doesn't matter how each team has been performing up to that point in the season. The game will inevitably hinge on something crazylike a dominant Julius Randle getting injured in the first game to pave the way for the Harrison twins and James Young to shine.

     

    The X-factor: Rebounding

    Despite having big men Montrezl Harrell and Mangok Mathiang, Louisville is not a great rebounding team.

    That couldn't be further from the truth with Kentucky. And in the first meeting this season, Kentucky scored 17 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds. In the two-point win over Wichita State Sunday, the Wildcats had 16 second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.

    The real X-factor may be foul trouble, but that's considerably less predictable.

    Wayne Blackshear played just 12 minutes in the first meeting before fouling out. Russ Smith finished the game with four fouls. Meanwhile, Kentucky's only important player with four or more fouls was Willie Cauley-Stein, and he didn't even pick up his first foul until there were less than four minutes remaining in the game.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 4.3/10

No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 1 Virginia

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    When: Friday at 9:57 p.m. ET (TBS)

    The Betting Line: Michigan State -1.5

    The Challenge: Solving Virginia's halfcourt defense

    Unlike their Commonwealth brethren from Richmond, the Cavaliers defense isn't built on forcing turnovers. Virginia simply tries to make you take low-percentage contested shots and knows that it will keep you from getting many offensive rebounds.

    In the first half against Coastal Carolina, that wasn't working. The Chanticleers were hitting everything. But the Cavaliers didn't panic; they just kept doing their thing, knowing that the percentages would eventually swing back in their favor. Despite committing only four turnovers in the second half, Coastal Carolina scored just 19 points on 6-of-23 shooting before the final minute.

    Obviously, Michigan State is a better team than Coastal Carolina, but that doesn't mean the Spartans are unstoppable.

    They played eight games this season against teams in the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency (where Virginia currently ranks No. 5). They comfortably won three games against Northwestern but went 2-3 in the other five games against Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio Stateand they needed overtime to win one of those games against the Buckeyes.

     

    The Noteworthy Numbers

    Here's a number for you: Of the last 10 times that Tom Izzo's Spartans entered the NCAA tournament with 10 or fewer losses, they have advanced to the Final Four six times. That's pretty incredible.

    Then again, they went 2-5 versus ACC teams in those 10 tournaments.

    As far as this game in this season is concerned, don't expect Michigan State to spend much time at the free-throw line. The Spartans rank 316th in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt on offense, while the Cavaliers rank 32nd in the defensive equivalent of that category.

     

    The X-factor: Branden Dawson

    When Dawson scores seven or more points, the Spartans are 19-0.

    Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Keith Appling have been regarded as the key to this team's success throughout the season, but it's no coincidence that Michigan State started losing games when Dawson broke his hand.

    He has averaged 16.2 points over his last five games.

     

    Upset Meter Reading: 5.7/10 (Though Michigan State is the favorite in Vegas, this would still technically be an upset. Thus, this is our suggested likelihood of the Spartans winning.)

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.