One Key Stat for Every Sweet 16 Team in the NCAA Tournament

7 min readMar 24, 2022

Alright, the Sweet 16 is here. 16 teams have made it to the second weekend all wishing to extend their season one game longer. Some schools we’ve expected to be here, but we’ve also had some huge surprises in this year’s bracket. We have an insane 4 double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16, including 15 seed Saint Peter’s. Only two 2 seeds and two 3 seeds remain after the first weekend, and №1 Baylor saw their season end early after a second round loss to North Carolina. This year’s tournament has been full of upsets, and I think every single bracket on Earth is busted. Now, let’s dive into some key stats for these remaining schools and what makes them stand out in the crowd.

Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji celebrates a bucket as he gets back on defense.

(1) Gonzaga Bulldogs

1st in Offensive Efficiency, PPG, effective FG%, 2PT%.

Alright, this is a bit more than one stat, but I have to emphasize just how dominant the Gonzaga offense is. There’s a reason they’re the Overall №1 Seed in the tournament, and stopping this high-octane offense is a tall task for anybody. Gonzaga will try and utilize their offensive catalysts like Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard to power through №4 Arkansas.

(4) Arkansas Razorbacks

301st in Offensive Efficiency over previous 3 games.

The Razorbacks have been struggling on the offensive end of the floor recently, and it will hurt them today if they can’t fix their struggles. Their terrible offensive efficiency as of late was clearly evidenced in their 2nd round game against New Mexico State, where they posted a measly 53 points. Arkansas faces Gonzaga tonight, and will find themselves packing if they don’t remedy their recent issues on offense.

(2) Villanova Wildcats

#1 Power Rank in Recent Games. (per TeamRankings)

Nova has won their last 7 consecutive games, and are looking like a team in strong form at the most crucial time. The Wildcats handled their first two games in the NCAA Tournament without too much of a struggle, and will look to use their momentum to come out with a victory over Michigan tonight. They own a better off. and def. efficiency than Michigan and are better at forcing turnovers than the Wolverines. We’ll see tonight if the Wildcats can close the book on Michigan’s Cinderella story and advance to the Elite Eight.

(11) Michigan Wolverines

46.8% Opp. Effective FG% over last 3 games. (3.1% less than season average)

I couldn’t find anything too out of the ordinary for Michigan, they’ve pulled off great upsets but in terms of efficiency, shooting, defense, nothing stands out to me too much. They are starting to tighten the screws on defense however, as you can see with the lower Opp. eFG. I should also mention their offense also started to click in their 2nd-round upset of Tennessee, as they managed to score 76 points on a Volunteer team ranking 7th in defensive efficiency.

(2) Duke Blue Devils

4th in 2PT% over last 3 games.

Duke can pummel you on the inside, and are a great physical team. C Mark Williams is a monster in the paint, and actually ranks 2nd in the country in FG%. Duke is also great in offensive efficiency (5th), but I don’t want to keep highlighting offensive efficiency otherwise this article would get pretty boring. The Blue Devils will try to dance into the Elite 8 against a tough Texas Tech team tonight.

(3) Texas Tech Red Raiders

1st in adjusted defensive efficiency. (per KenPom)

Texas Tech lives by the defense, and it shows in the numbers. They have so many great defensive stats, but this caught my eye. Their defensive prowess and ability to deny opponents good looks will try and lead them past Coach K and the Blue Devils tonight. The Red Raiders are faced with a very potent Duke offense, and it will be interesting to see if their stout defense can put the brakes on the rolling Blue Devils in San Francisco.

(1) Arizona Wildcats

5th in adjusted tempo. (per KenPom)

The Wildcats play fast, and they score fast. This fast tempo is the highest out of the remaining teams in the field, even beating out Gonzaga. The Wildcats play fast, and this allows for them to capitalize on opposing defenses if they aren’t set. Their offense is Top 10 in off. efficiency and eFG%, showcasing the success their swift possessions bring. Arizona’s speedy basketball will hope to overrun Houston tonight.

(5) Houston Cougars

1st in Offensive Rebound %.

The Cougars crash the glass, and these second chance opportunities boost their offensive potency and scoring. This Houston team is one I feel was snubbed this year, the numbers show they are a team way better than a 5 seed. Their offense owns the boards, allowing for the Coogs to dominate second-chance opportunities, and their defense stops the opposition by forcing turnovers and making it hard to find open looks. They meet a very good Arizona team, in what should be a super exciting game to watch.

(3) Purdue Boilermakers

2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency. (per KenPom)

The Boilermakers’ offense is clicking together right now, and they come into the Sweet 16 with one of the best offensive units in the country. They’ve scored 78 and 81 points in the first and second rounds of the tournament, respectively. Those 81 points came against a stout Texas defense with top ranks in many defensive categories like turnover % and efficiency. This Purdue offense is red-hot, and will be fighting for a spot in the Elite 8 tomorrow against St. Peter’s.

(15) Saint Peter’s Peacocks

5th in Opp. Effective FG%.

What a story Saint Peter’s has become. What was supposed to be a one and done run in the tournament, has turned into a Sweet 16 and possible Elite 8 campaign by the Peacocks. They don’t have a shining offense, but their strength lies in the hands of the defense. They have a great ability at limiting their opponent’s potency, holding opposing teams to lower effective FG% than other defensive powerhouses like Texas Tech and San Diego State.

(1) Kansas Jayhawks

5th in KenPom overall rankings. (lowest of all 1 seeds)

I found this very intriguing, I saw KenPom and said to myself, “Huh, why is Kansas the lowest out of all the 1 seeds? What makes them not as good?” I went deeper into the numbers and was surprised to see that even though they are an incredibly talented team, nothing really stood out. Their defense isn’t top 10, their offense isn’t top 10, they’re just solid. All-around great, but you can see they aren’t immortal. Creighton gave them a good run for their money, a team they shouldn’t have allowed to stay so close. (212th in offensive efficiency, 302% in TO%) The Jayhawks will try and avoid an upset to Providence tomorrow in Chicago.

(4) Providence Friars

1st in Luck Rating, +.182 (per KenPom)

How do I not pick this, come on. I didn’t even know luck was an actual calculated stat outside of role-playing games, but here we are. Providence is the apparent luckiest team in the country, but as of late didn’t seem to need their luck. They bounced South Dakota State in the first round by 9 and absolutely pummeled Richmond by 28 in the second round. They are playing solid, not allowing more than 60 points in any of their last 3 contests. They get a tough Kansas team in the Sweet 16 that could displace Providence’s good fortune.

(4) UCLA Bruins

3rd in TO%.

The Bruins take care of the ball, and maximize the worth out of their offensive possessions. They only commit on average 9 turnovers per game, which proves they can score without being careless with the rock. Their defense gets the job done on the other end and the combination of responsible offense with stout defense makes them a very potent team. They draw the Tar Heels in the Sweet 16, who are coming off their huge upset win over 1 seed Baylor.

(8) North Carolina Tar Heels

3rd in Opp. Offensive Rebound %.

The Tar Heels don’t necessarily own a top-tier defense, but they do rebound well. They prevent opponent’s from scoring on second chance opportunities, making sure that once they force a miss, they can start up an offensive possession right after. Junior Armando Bacot leads this solid rebounding squad with a stellar 12.5 boards per game, good for 3rd in the nation.

(11) Iowa State Cyclones

3rd in Opp. TO%.

The Cyclones’ swarming defense has allowed for them to make a Cinderella run into the Sweet 16 this year. They force turnovers like crazy, and have held the opposition to an extremely low 48.0 PPG. Iowa State kept Wisconsin to just 49 points in the second round. Let’s see if they can keep up their stout defense against Miami tomorrow night.

(10) Miami Hurricanes

6th in TO%.

WOW, this is huge. We’ve got an unstoppable force meeting an immovable mountain tomorrow in Chicago. The Hurricanes take care of the ball, allowing them to run their offense consistently and confidently. (26th in efficiency, 30th in eFG%) Will they be able to keep this up against an Iowa State team that lives by causing havoc on defense? Or will they weather the cyclone (get it?), and emerge out of the Sweet 16 into the Elite 8?

Alright, there it is. One key stat for every team in this year’s Sweet 16. Man, that took longer than I expected, who knew one stat could take such effort? I know I’ll be looking forward to some epic games this weekend, I’m especially stoked for that Arizona-Houston game tonight on TBS. It’d be sick if Saint Peter’s somehow knocked off Purdue, and we’d get a 15 seed in the Elite Eight. Well at least we’re guaranteed one double-digit seed in the next round, I think Iowa State’s moving on. Thanks for reading everyone, and let’s enjoy some awesome college basketball this weekend.

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