The short sample size of NCAA Tournament play can create some statistical oddities.
A team that has struggled to rebound all season can suddenly dominate on the boards for a game or two. A role player can see his minutes increase or have a major scoring surge just in time for the postseason. Players and entire teams can heat up or fall into shooting slumps.
Here are some unusual NCAA Tournament statistics we’ve discovered involving teams whose national title hopes are still alive:
Syracuse has a negative rebound margin this season and ranks 14th out of 15 Atlantic Coast Conference teams in that category. But the Orange outrebounded Dayton 48-28 and Middle Tennessee 37-35 in its first two NCAA Tournament games. Syracuse faces a much tougher task on the boards against Gonzaga, which ranks 20th among all Division I teams in rebound margin. Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis is averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds in two tournament games.
Scoring outbursts for Miami’s Rodriguez, Texam A&M’s Caruso
Miami’s Angel Rodriguez scored 24 points against Buffalo and had a career-high 28 against Wichita State. Rodriguez, a senior guard and team leader, averages 12.6 points per game and didn’t score 20 or more in any game the entire regular season. Texas A&M’s Alex Caruso is coming off a 25-point performance in a double-overtime victory over Northern Iowa. Caruso, who is Texas A&M’s career leader in steals and assists, averages 8.1 points per game and had scored in double figures just once in the eight games leading up to the Northern Iowa game.
Matchup for hot-shooting teams
Iowa State ranks third among all Division I teams in field-goal percentage (50.3 percent) and Virginia ranks seventh (49.1 percent), but both teams have taken it to another level in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa State shot 56.6 percent from the floor in its second-round victory over Little Rock. Virginia shot 55.2 percent against Hampton and 55.8 percent against Butler. The Cavaliers hadn’t shot as high as 55 percent in a game since making 57.8 percent of their shots Jan. 30 against Louisville. Virginia shot 73.1 percent in the second half against Butler. The teams meet Friday in a Midwest Region semifinal.
Notre Dame G Matt Farrell’s minutes
Notre Dame’s first and second round games have been the first two career starts for sophomore Matt Farrell. The 6-foot-1 guard has played 26.5 minutes per game in the NCAA Tournament, which is more than twice his season average of 12.3. Farrell didn’t play at all in eight games this season. Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey says he wanted to have an extra ball handler on the floor to help out star guard Demetrius Jackson. Having an additional ball handler helps settle a team that became uncharacteristically turnover prone late in the season.
Wisconsin G Bronson Koenig’s rebounding
Koenig got Wisconsin into the Sweet 16 by sinking a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Xavier, but this exceptional shooter also has had seven rebounds in each of Wisconsin’s first two NCAA Tournament games. The 6-4 junior averages only 2.8 rebounds per game. Before this tournament, Koenig never had recorded seven or more rebounds in a college game. Wisconsin next faces a Notre Dame team that realizes how critical it is for guards to help out on the boards. The Irish edged Stephen F. Austin 76-75 thanks to guard Rex Pflueger’s tip-in with 1.5 seconds left.
Maryland’s long-range troubles
Maryland advanced to its regional semifinal without getting much of a 3-point attack. The Terrapins are 10 of 41 from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament, but they’re making 67.3 percent of their shots from inside the arc. In a second-round victory over Hawaii, Maryland was 1 of 18 on 3-pointers and 21 of 30 from two-point range. Maryland has made 36.7 percent of its 3-point attempts this season.
While Maryland has cooled off from 3-point range, Villanova has heated up. The Wildcats have made 48.9 percent of their 3-point attempts (23 of 47) in two NCAA Tournament games, well above their season percentage of 35.1 percent. Ryan Arcidiacono has shot 6 of 9 from beyond the arc. Villanova is sizzling from all over the floor, as the Wildcats shot 57.9 percent against UNC Asheville and shot 59.3 percent against Iowa.
Kansas G Frank Mason III’s shooting slump
The NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed needs Mason to solve his recent shooting woes. Mason has shot 3 of 15 overall and 0 of 6 from 3-point range in the tournament. He has averaged 12.8 points per game this season while shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. Mason has helped in other ways by averaging 4 assists per game and shooting 11 of 12 from the free-throw line during the tournament.
Gonzaga G Eric McClellan’s late-season surge
McClellan’s scoring surge actually encompasses the whole month of March rather than just the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 20.3 points in three West Coast Conference tournament games to give Gonzaga an automatic NCAA berth. After scoring nine points in an NCAA first-round victory over Seton Hall, he had 22 against Utah. McClellan, who averages 10.9 points per game, has at least 20 points in three of his last five contests.
Indiana F OG Anunoby’s emergence
Anunoby has scored 10.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament, more than double the freshman’s season average of 4.9. He had 14 points against Chattanooga and seven more against Kentucky. He also had three blocks against Kentucky and made two steals in each of the Hoosiers’ first two NCAA Tournament games. Indiana hopes his athleticism can make a difference when the Hoosiers face North Carolina.