How are you picking your bracket? Colors and mascots are just as viable a picking method as anything else, but if you want to get a bit more analytical, here are a few statistics that might help.
It’s easy to say that if a team gets hot, they’ll make a run to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond. If a team stays hot, especially from 3-point range, they could be especially dangerous. To me, a team like Marquette fits that bill. They hit the most 3-pointers of any team in the field of 68 (fifth in the country), averaging 10.5 per contest. They’re not just chucking threes for the sake of chucking threes too, as they lead the country in 3-point field goal percentage, making 43% of the shots they take from deep. Live by the three and die by the three, sure, and teams will certainly game-plan to defend this, but the 10th-seeded Golden Eagles could have a chance to put together a little run if players like Markus Howard are effective from deep.
Other teams that fit this bill: Purdue, SMU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, Saint Mary’s
When it comes to simply putting the ball in the basket, no one does it better than UCLA. The Bruins lead the country in both points per game (90.4) and field goal percentage (51.9) which means that they not only score a lot, they do it efficiently too. In my mind, a team like UCLA is less susceptible to a bad-shooting night knocking it out of the tournament. A team that plays in a similar fashion, Kentucky, just so happens to be alongside the Bruins in the loaded South regional, but I think the winner of that UCLA-Kentucky Sweet 16 game (if it happens) has a great shot of getting all the way to the title game.
CLUTCH FROM THE CHARITY STRIPE
It’s a list that you will find the Wisconsin Badgers nowhere near the top of, but believe it or not, it’s important to shoot free throws effectively in March. There are teams that simply find a way to the free throw line more than anyone (Kentucky, ETSU, New Mexico State, Wichita State), or the teams that make the most of their chances (Notre Dame, Villanova, Oklahoma State). A team like South Dakota State is among the leaders in the country at 77.6 percent shooting from the free throw line, but will that alone be enough to make the difference against a 32-1 Gonzaga team in a #16 vs #1 matchup tomorrow? I doubt it, but it could help a team like ETSU upset Florida or Wichita State put together another run.
You can take these into consideration, if you’d like, or you can throw them out the window. Either way is just as effective.