The Best and Worst of the N.C.A.A. Tournament


They’re all good. But they have contrasting styles and abilities. Here are the best and the worst of the 68 teams in the N.C.A.A. men’s basketball tournament.

Best Offense

It’s no surprise that U.C.L.A., the team of Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and T. J. Leaf, has the most high-powered offense in the tournament. The Bruins average 90.4 points a game and have scored 100 nine times. They average 120.7 points per 100 possessions, best in Division I.

Worst: Mount St. Mary’s, a No. 16 seed that will start in a play-in game on Tuesday, averages only 99.2 points per 100 possessions. It’s quite a rarity for a successful team to average less than a point a possession, but Mount St. Mary’s won the Northeast Conference regular season and tournament.

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N.C.A.A. Bracket: Printable March Madness Schedule

Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina and Gonzaga are the top seeds in the field.



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Best Defense

A team effort led by guard Nigel Williams-Goss (1.8 steals a game) and a frontcourt of Johnathan Williams, Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins helped Gonzaga limit opponents to a stifling 86.2 points per 100 possessions this season. Its opponents shot only .368. The high point was holding San Diego to 38 in February.

Gonzaga’s director of basketball operations, John Jakus, credited “the ability to switch ball screens, Zach and Przemek and the rim protection, the guards’ willingness to guard bigs after switches and box out, ” according to The Spokesman Review.

Worst: For a tournament team, South Dakota State had a hard time stopping its opponents, allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions. And yes, it is playing Gonzaga in the first round. The spread on that game is 22, and a margin of that size does not look at all far-fetched.

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Katin Reinhardt shooting a 3-pointer for Marquette, which, as a team, makes 3s at 43 percent, best in Division I.

Credit
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Best 3-Point Shooters

As a No. 10 seed, Marquette is not expected to make a huge impact on the tournament. But no Division I team in the country made 3s at a higher rate: 43 percent. Three of its players made 60 or more treys: Sam Hauser (at 45 percent), Andrew Rowsey (45 percent) and Markus Howard (55 percent), who had a team-record nine against Xavier in February.

Worst: Texas Southern, a No. 16 seed, hit 3s at only 30 percent. The best shooter on the team, Kevin Scott, hit at just 35 percent, and Zach Lofton fired up from way outside 125 times, despite hitting at a 26 percent clip.

Fastest

Nobody races up the floor like Kentucky, which leads all tournament teams at 74.9 possessions per game. The speedy freshman Malik Monk is a big part of that.

Slowest: Virginia was 22-10 this season and finished fifth in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. The Cavaliers do a lot of things well. But, man, do they do those things slowly. At 60. 1 possessions per game, they are the slowest team in Division I. Their methodical style has paid off: They were 6-1 in games in which they scored in the 60s. (They did get in trouble if it dropped to the 50s or 40s, and a 65-41 loss in February at North Carolina was particularly ugly.)

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Best Passers

When Michigan State makes a basket, 65.9 percent of the time there was an assist involved, best in the tournament. The backcourt of Cassius Winston and Lourawls Nairn Jr. loves to pass the rock, and the freshman big man Nick Ward is often on the receiving end.

Worst: Mount St. Mary’s again. It recorded an assist on only 45.6 percent of baskets.

Best Rebounders

When the ball is up for grabs, North Carolina is there, grabbing 58.5 percent of available rebounds, best in Division I. Kennedy Meeks is there the most, averaging nine a game.

Worst: Sorry, Mount St. Mary’s. You got to only 44.6 percent of available boards.

Best From the Line

Notre Dame hit 80 percent of their freebies this season, not far off the record of 82.2 set by the 1984 Harvard team. Don’t foul Steve Vasturia down the stretch. He hits at 92 percent.

Worst: If ninth-seeded Seton Hall holds a small lead late, expect some fouling. The Pirates are shooting a tournament-worst 64.3 percent from the line.

Photo

Chris Boucher, right, and Tyler Dorsey, center, tried to block a shot by Arizona State’s Shannon Evans II last week in the Pac-12 tournament.

Credit
John Locher/Associated Press

Best Shot Blockers

Get that weak stuff out of here! Oregon blocked 226 shots this season, best in Division I, led by Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell. The Basketball-Reference statistic block percentage estimates that 18 percent of 2-point shots taken against the Ducks were blocked. But Boucher is out for the season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in the Pac-12 tournament, so the runner-up, Rhode Island, only a No. 11 seed, may be this tournament’s block king.

Worst: Purdue won the Big Ten regular-season title, but blocking shots isn’t its thing. Only about 6 percent of opponents’ 2s were blocked, and no player averaged a block or more per game.

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