Happy Second Weekend! While today doesn’t have the same Christmas like-feel as the opening Thursday of the tournament, I still consider it a quasi holiday. In honor of the Sweet 16, I decided to rehash the five key statistics pre-tourney story specifically for the remaining field. As a reminder, the five areas I looked at were:

  • Zone defense schematics
  • Rebounding differential
  • Free throw percentage
  • 3-point shooting splits
  • Turnovers per possession

Below, I will point out some of the most glaring mismatches in either this round or potential future mismatches later in the tourney. Let’s get to it.

Know Your Zones

It wouldn’t be an NCAA tournament analysis this decade without a look at zone defenses. Just look at Syracuse, which finds itself in the Sweet 16 again as a double digit seed. Its zone sent Michigan State packing in a shocking upset last weekend. As a result, we get a battle of 2-3 zones on Friday between Duke and Syracuse.

Zone metrics are especially important in the tournament, when there is less familiarity with teams and quick turnarounds. A unique scheme can carry a team far in a tourney setting. The first column in the chart below lists the tournament teams that spent the most time in zone during the 2017-18 regular season. Each of the four were among the top 15 teams in the entire field. The second column lists the type of base zone defense each respective team plays. I also included a list of the four most efficient zones left in the Sweet 16.

  • Of the fifteen worst zone offenses that made the tournament, only Syracuse remains in the field. In fact, Syracuse had the second worst zone offense in the entire field (305th nationally). That spells disaster against the length of Duke’s zone defense.
  • Keep in mind that Villanova had the No. 1 zone offense during the regular season. That could play a huge role in a potential Final Four showdown with Duke (or Syracuse).
  • Kentucky ranked in the top 10 among all tournament teams in regards to percentage of time spent playing zone defense. Given the makeup of its team, Nevada (a potential opponent next round if Kentucky advances) had a zone offense ranked in the top 20 during the regular season.

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