Quick, before it’s too late, get yourself ready for the tsunami of wall-to-wall March Madness college basketball.
Don’t try to do scouting reports on all 65 teams in the men’s NCAA tournament, which begins Tuesday with the ever-peculiar play-in game. There’s no time for that, especially if you’re trying do your “research” at the office. Instead, we offer this grab-bag of relevant facts to enhance your viewing enjoyment of the best three weeks on the American sports calendar.
Syracuse looks the most vulnerable, having lost its last two games, including the quarterfinal of the Big East Conference tournament, but the Orange were rewarded for their “body of work,” meaning their overall 28-4 record.
The Tar Heels are sitting this one out in a rare off year. If misery loves company, North Carolina can take solace in the fact UCLA and Indiana also missed out, the first time since 1974 that these storied programs have all been left out in the cold in the same year.
Most improved team in the tournament
- Kentucky (+11, factoring in both wins and losses)
- Murray State (+9.5)
- Georgia Tech (+8.5)
- Wofford (+8)
Worst-record teams in the tournament
Teams with the longest current winning streaks
- Butler (20 games)
- Wofford (13 games)
North Texas (11 games)
Teams with the highest share of in-state players
- University of California, Santa Barbara (85.6 percent)
- San Diego State (77 percent)
- Morgan State (77 percent)
There is no known advantage in recruiting locally, and, in fact, for some schools removed from the basketball hotbeds, it can be a disadvantage. Still, for the fans, a team loaded with homegrown talent can be a lot more satisfying to root than for team of out-of-state ringers.
Teams with most foreign players
- St. Mary’s College of California (5) all from Australia
- Vanderbilt (4), from Nigeria, Australia, Cameroon, and Sweden
- Temple (4), from Argentina, Israel, Virgin Islands, Nigeria
Highest scoring teams
- Brigham Young, 83.5 points per game (second best in the nation after VMI)
- Villanova, 82.5 ppg
- Kansas, 82.2 ppg
Highest scoring players
- Aubrey Coleman of Houston, 25.9 points per game (national scoring champion)
- Luke Harangody of Notre Dame, 22.8 ppg
- "Big Game" James Anderson, Oklahoma State, 22.6 ppg
Only seven players in the entire tournament averaged 20 points or more, a clear indication that scoring balance is a hallmark of most tournament teams.
Best free-throwing-shooting teams
- Brigham Young, 78.4 percent (best in the country)
- Utah State, 76.5 percent
- St. Mary’s College of California, 76.4 percent
Worst free-throw-shooting teams
- San Diego State, 60.8 percent (ranks 329th among 334 Division I teams)
- Texas, 63.4 percent (312th)
- Old Dominion, 64.5 percent (294th)
Teams that clang the iron from the free-throw stripe don’t win championships, although they sometimes come close. Memphis in 2008 perfectly illustrates this. A notoriously weak free-throw shooting team, the Tigers led Kansas by nine points with 2:12 left but weren’t able to hold off a furious Jayhawk finish, missing 3-of-4 foul shots in the last 10 seconds, forcing the game into overtime, when they lost.
Stingiest defensive teams
- Northern Iowa, 54.3 opponent points per game
- Wisconsin, 56.1
- Temple, 56.8
States with the most teams in the tournament
Texas, 7 (Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Sam Houston State, North Texas, UTEP,
- Pennsylvania, 5 (Pitt, Villanova, Temple, Lehigh, Robert Morris)
- California, 4 (Cal-Berkeley, Cal-Santa Barbara, San Diego State, St. Mary’s)
Conference with the most teams in the tournament
- Big East, 8 (of 16 in the conference)
It’s conceivable that the league could monopolize the Final Four, with Syracuse, Georgetown, West Virginia, and Villanova the teams with possibly the best chances to play in Indianapolis April 3 and 5. In 1985, the Big East sent three teams to the Final Four.
Smallest school in the field
- Wofford College, an independent liberal arts school in Spartanburg, S.C.
Wofford is not to be confused with Winthrop, which is also in South Carolina. The latter school enrolls roughly 6,500 undergraduates and has made several NCAA tournaments, but this is the first time for tiny Wofford (enrollment 1,500).
Teams with the most 7-footers
- Gonzaga, 2
- Baylor, 2
- Wake Forest, 2
Teams with the most players under 6 feet
- Gonzaga, 3
Teams with the longest-serving head coaches
Number of teams with previous championships
Team with the longest tournament appearance streak to miss making the field
After 25 straight years, the Wildcats, who went 16-14 this season, have been forced to sit this one out. Only North Carolina , with a 27-year run that ended in 2001, enjoyed a longer stretch of making the tournament.