#1 Gonzaga Bulldogs
Best Player: F Rui Hachimura
(19.7 pts, 6.6 rebs, 1.6 asts, 1.0 stls, 0.7 blks)
Biggest X-Factor: F Killian Tillie
(6.7 pts, 4.1 rebs, 1.6 asts, 0.8 stls, 0.7 blks)
Scoring Offense: Mark Few’s Gonzaga team has fat and away been the best scoring offense in all of college basketball this season. The Zags score 88.6 points per game, which easily ranks first in the nation. They have an adjusted offensive efficiency of 125.6 in the KenPom, which ranks first in the nation as well. The Bulldogs can score from anywhere on the court, and their balanced attack should scare every single Sweet 16 team.
Experience: Gonzaga is one of the most experienced teams year in and year out, and this year proves to be no different. The Zags players have an average experience of 2 years. Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, and Killian Tillie are all juniors with previous NCAA Tournaments under their belt. Josh Perkins is a fifth-year senior with plenty of experience playing in the Big Dance. Experience has long proved capable of upending superb talent, and I believe the same is possible with this Gonzaga team.
Fouling: It is hard to find outlying weaknesses for a team that does everything as good as Gonzaga has. Fouling could be considered one of them. They average about 16.3 fouls per game, which is a number that ranks 152nd in Division I. If one of the Bulldogs superstars gets into foul trouble, teams will have to capitalize when he sits on the bench. This will be an interesting trend to watch for as Gonzaga continues their tournament run.
Offensive Rebounding: Gonzaga struggles to get second-chance points and it’s due to their sometimes hapless struggles getting offensive rebounds. They have grabbed an average of 9.7 offensive rebounds per game, which ranked 141st in the nation. This also is one of the lowest marks amongst remaining tournament teams. Gonzaga will have to body up and get physical in order to stay strong on the offensive glass, and I’m confident in their ability to do so.
#2 Michigan Wolverines
Best Player: F Ignas Brazdeikis
(14.8 pts, 5.2 rebs, 0.9 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.5 blks)
Biggest X-Factor: F Isaiah Livers
(8.2 pts, 3.9 rebs, 0.7 asts, 0.7 stls, 0.6 blks)
Defense: Michigan has always been a better defensive team than an offensive one. The same concept applies to John Beilein’s squad this season, as they’ve made yet another Sweet 16. They have an adjusted defensive efficiency of 85.8 in the KenPom, which ranks 2nd in the nation. They hold their opponents to a 39.6% field goal percentage and a 29% three point clip. They allow an average of 58.2 points per game, which is a great number that ranks 2nd in the entire country.
Limiting Turnovers: Compared to other remaining teams, Michigan is one of the best in terms of their ability to limit turning the basketball over. The Wolverines are extremely protective of the ball, and it helps them play the game at the pace they want to. They only average around 8.8 turnovers on a nightly basis, which is a tremendous number that ranks 5th in the nation.
Stagnant Offensive Tendency: I mentioned earlier that Michigan doesn’t excel on the offensive end, and they certainly have endured their fair share of struggles on offense recently. They tend to become stagnant offensively, forcing up quick shots and getting away from their winning recipe. If they do this in the tournament, they could be tasked with an uphill climb to winning games. They score 70.3 points per game, which ranks 244th in all of Division I. That’s certainly not a good number, but they’ve won plenty of games with it, so there’s no reason to doubt their ability now.
Free Throw Shooting: Michigan isn’t very good at getting to the charity stripe, and they aren’t very good at shooting free throws when they do get there. The Wolverines have shot 562 free throws this season, which is a number that ranks 266th in the nation. They also make free throws at a 70.3% clip, which isn’t ideal for a team that doesn’t get there enough. Down the stretch, Michigan’s road will be a lot easier if they can get to the free throw line and convert on these chances.
#3 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Best Player: G Jarrett Culver
(18.8 pts, 6.5 rebs, 3.8 asts, 1.4 stls, 0.5 blks)
Biggest X-Factor: F Tariq Owens
(8.9 pts, 5.7 rebs, 0.8 asts, 0.4 stls, 2.4 blks)
Defense: The Texas Tech Red Raiders are the best defensive team in all of college basketball, and that’s an absolute fact. They have an adjusted defensive efficiency of 85.3 in the KenPom, which ranks 1st in the nation. They only allow about 59.2 points per game, ranking 3rd in the nation. They are also one of the best shot-blocking teams in the nation, often due to the presence of premier defending big man Tariq Owens (2.4 BPG). Opponents struggle to score against Texas Tech, and that will be their recipe for success down the stretch in March.
3-Point Shooting: Texas Tech isn’t overly excellent in terms of three-point shooting, but it is one of their biggest ways of scoring offensively. Davide Moretti, Matt Mooney, and Jarrett Culver are all excellent from beyond the arc. As a unit, the Red Raiders hit their three-pointers at a 36.7% clip, good enough to rank 66th in the nation. If they get hot from three, this team is undoubtedly good enough to beat anybody left in the field.
Rebounding: Texas Tech isn’t very good at rebounding the basketball. This could prove to be a fatal flaw as they go deeper into March. The Red Raiders average 34.3 total rebounds on a nightly basis, which ranks 163rd in all of Division I. With other teams in the field that excel at rebounding, Texas Tech will undoubtedly have to step their game up on the glass if they want any chance at getting to Minneapolis.
Passing: The Red Raiders offense, while solid, isn’t their bread and butter as I said earlier. This can explain why they rank outside of the top 100 Division I teams in terms of their assists. They average 13.4 assists per game, which is a number that ranks 133rd in the nation. They also average 12.3 turnovers per game, which can be somewhat attributed to their struggles moving the ball. If they don’t move the ball around to find the open man, Texas Tech could struggle to find any sort of consistency offensively.
#4 Florida State Seminoles
Best Player: F Mfiondu Kabengele
(13.4 pts, 5.9 rebs, 0.3 asts, 0.6 stls, 1.5 blks)
Biggest X-Factor: F Phil Cofer
(7.4 pts, 3.5 rebs, 0.8 asts, 0.1 stls, 0.1 blks)
Defense: Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles are rolling as of late, and a lot of that is in part due to their exceptional defense. FSU ranks 10th in the KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency at 90.9. They force opponents to turn the ball over 14.3 times per game, which ranks 34th in the country. They are also ranked top 40 in both steals and blocks per game. They allow opponents to score 67 points per game, which hovers around average, but Florida State has plenty of size and athleticism that allows them to wreak havoc on the defensive end.
Rebounding: Florida State is one of the better rebounding squads in the nation, grabbing around 39.8 total rebounds on a nightly basis, which ranks 17th best in all of Division I. They are physical, long, and athletic, which allows them to dominate the glass against many of their opponents. The Seminoles could gain a significant boost from attacking the glass, grabbing offensive rebounds, and racking up second chance opportunities.
Turnovers: While the Seminoles strength is forcing their opponent into turnovers, they struggle in protecting the basketball and limiting turnovers of their own. Florida State turns the ball over an average of 13.2 times per game, a mark that ranks 310th out of 353 Division I programs. If they can’t hold on to the basketball, they could be in for a tough time against elite offensive teams like their Sweet 16 opponent, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Fouling: Florida State’s other outstanding weakness is their tendency to commit bad fouls and get into foul trouble. They commit an average of 19 fouls per game, which ranks 340th in Division I. Yikes! If some of the most important Seminoles get into foul trouble, great basketball teams will take advantage of them being on the bench.