Sour 16: Not Everything Sweet About Regionals

by Vegas Writer

Wednesday, Mar 22, 2023
We all know the upcoming games on Thursday and Friday - the regional semifinals - are labeled with sweetness for the final 16 teams.

And as sweet as it is to see 11 different conferences represented, and seeds ranging from two top seeds to as high as a 15 still playing in this year's dance, it's important to recognize intangibles that work against every single team before investing in either side.

Leave it to me to point out the SOUR SIXTEEN, 16 focal points for the remaining teams that you may or may not know, but definitely should factor into your wagering before Thursday and Friday.


Florida Atlantic vs. Tennessee

FAU - In playing a defensive-minded team like Tennessee, the aggressiveness could often send the Owls to the free-throw line in this one. Problem for them is they're not a good free-throw shooting team. Florida Atlantic ranks 206th in the country in making an average of 12.4 free throws per game, while they're 202nd in the country attempting 17.4 complimentary shots per contest.

TENNESSEE - The Volunteers may be known for their defense, but their offensive efficiency leaves a lot to be desired. Against a balanced team like the Owls, it's a cause for concern when the Vols rank 232nd in the nation with a 43.6% shooting clip. Tennessee's effective field-goal percentage ranks 216th at 50.2%.

Michigan State vs. Kansas State

MICHIGAN ST. - There are three important areas in basketball that help teams on offense, and the Spartans rank terribly in each category. First of all, their 9.94 forced turnovers per game rank 339th in the nation. If they can't get the ball away from the opportunistic Wildcats, it'll pose problems. They also struggle on the offensive glass, ranking 261st with 8.91 per game. Second-chance opportunities are a must by this point in the tournament. Finally, they average 11.6 made free throws per contest, which is 272nd.

KANSAS STATE - The Wildcats rank in the lower half of the country when it comes to 3-point shooting, be it attempts or made treys per game. I don't have a problem with that, because it means they don't live or die by the three. But they went from averaging 20.2 3-pointers per game through their first 24 games, but there's been an uptick to 22.3 over their last nine games - including 24.3 per contest over their last three. And, they're hitting just 24.4% from 3-point range in the tournament.


Arkansas vs. Connecticut

ARKANSAS - The Razorbacks struggle with their long-range game, ranking 305th in the nation in 3-point percentage (31.6). And while Arkansas draws fouls at a high rate, it fails to convert at the charity stripe, ranking 282nd in free-throw percentage (69.2%). Also, Arkansas ranks 236th in assist rate (48.7%). The biggest area of concern is depth, as the Razorbacks rank 293rd in bench minutes percentage (25.9%)

CONNECTICUT - This might be one of the most complete teams left in the dance, statistically, as the Huskies check the boxes all around, at both ends of the court. The one area I see being a problem since Arkansas draws a lot of fouls, is where the Huskies rank 262nd with 18.0 fouls per game. While Razorbacks may not convert their free-throw opportunities well, the last thing UConn needs to do is give them so many chances.

Gonzaga vs. UCLA

GONZAGA - Is this the matchup where the Bulldogs' propensity for being lax on defense hurts them? The Zags’ defense is currently ranked the worst since 2006, as it's sometimes been rather soft, mainly because it answers the bell at the other end. If they don't defend the perimeter better, the Dogs will become vulnerable against a team like the Bruins, who can hit from long-range when given space.

UCLA - The Bruins aren't aggressive enough on the defensive glass, and they cannot afford to give Gonzaga second-chance opportunities. It's one thing to rely on 15.67 turnovers forced per game (23rd nationally), and a +1.44 assist-to-turnover ratio (18th), but when you're snatching 24.17 defensive boards per game (233rd), a team like Gonzaga will hurt you. Guys like Timme and Strawther don't need second chances.


Miami, Florida vs. Houston

MIAMI, FL - When you're facing a team like Houston, you better hope your defense can be as strong. The Hurricanes will need their best effort at the defensive end of the floor, and I'm not so sure the efficiency will be there. The 'Canes ranked 222nd, allowing 71.6 points per game on 44.7% shooting (244th). Sure, that offense can score some points. But this is the best defense the Hurricanes will have faced, and they'll need their best effort to slow the Cougars.

HOUSTON - The Cougars are a guard-oriented team, but if they want to get to the regional final, they're going to need to get elite play in the paint. The Cougars rank 190th with their 62.4% 2-point rate against fellow D-I teams. And as defensive as this team gets, you'd think the Cougars would score more on the break, but average only 11.08 per game.

Xavier vs. Texas

XAVIER - This one may seem odd, but I'm going to turn to chemistry. Two Xavier players got into an on-court shouting match during a comeback win over Kennesaw State in the opening round. Guards Souley Boum and Adam Kunkel appeared to yell at each other on the court before coaches got in between the two near the bench. This is the regional semifinal, and the Longhorns are going to cause frustration. The Musketeers need to keep it together.

TEXAS - The Longhorns struggle beyond the arc, ranking 171st in 3-point percentage (34.1). They also do a terrible job in drawing fouls, as they rank 166th in foul rate (31.9%). Match those with being an undersized team - the 'Horns are 268th in average height and play smaller at times - and this could be trouble against the Musketeers, who ranked 11th in the nation with 81.2 points per game.


San Diego State vs. Alabama

SAN DIEGO ST - The Aztecs have always had defensive prowess. They don't back down from anyone. Then there are times they meet their match, and they don't know how to react. In facing the overall No. 1 seed in the event, the Aztecs can't afford to be bullied and pushed around. When another team instills fear first, the Aztecs have been known to wilt. This could be one of those times.

ALABAMA - Off-court distractions, aka the media. There aren't many flaws with this team. But with all talks over the off-court controversy surrounding this team, it falls on coach Nate Oats to keep his troops focused on the task. There will be plenty of trash-talking, and the Tide players have to block the outside noise and play their game.

Princeton vs. Creighton

PRINCETON - One of the biggest surprises to this point, the Tigers have a very good chance at knocking off Creighton. They just have to be better defensively. Princeton’s greatest weakness when you delve into metrics is forcing turnovers, with a defensive turnover percentage that ranks 349th out of 363 Division I teams in the country.


- Defensive rebounding and creating turnovers were two issues the Blue Jays needed to address during the off-season. They're now ranked seventh in the nation with 28.66 defensive boards per game. Problem is, they rank 296th with just 8.34 offensive rebounds per contest, and still only force 9.89 turnovers per game (340th). Against a scrappy Tigers team, you need to create more second-chance opportunities, and you need to force turnovers to move in transition.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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