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Inside the Numbers: The Rest of the West

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Where do the Wolverines stack up against the other teams advancing to the West regional semis?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Baylor vs Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating the Florida Gators with a strong defensive effort in the second half, the Wolverines advance to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. In 2017, Michigan lost a heartbreaker against the Oregon Ducks, falling just short 69-68. Last year, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman and Moritz Wagner led a complete and thorough demolition of the Texas A&M Aggies. Mo-squared scored a combined 45 points in a 99-72 route.

This year’s regional semifinal includes a diverse cast of characters including Gonzaga, Florida State, and and Thursday’s opponent Texas Tech (9:39 p.m. EST, CBS). Going into the week, let’s take a quick look at some of the defining numbers that make up these clubs. First, we’ll look over the offensive numbers, then defensive, and followed by a few play-style figures. Finally, we’ll look how they’ve played in the tournament.

Offensive Numbers

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Baylor vs Gonzaga Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

To examine the offense, I picked six categories: points per game, adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, turnover percentage, and offensive rebounding percentage. Paired together, they create three sub categories: production, shooting, and opportunity creation.

Production:

  1. Gonzaga - oRTG 125.1, ppg 88.8
  2. Michigan - oRTG 115.5, ppg 70.4
  3. Florida State - oRTG 113, ppg 74.9
  4. Texas Tech - oRTG 112.7, ppg 73.1

Shooting:

  1. Gonzaga - eFG 59.6%, 3FG 36.5%
  2. Texas Tech - eFG 53.7%, 3FG 36.8%
  3. Michigan - eFG 52.1%, 3FG 35%
  4. Florida State - eFG 50.7%, 3FG 33.6%

Opportunity Creation:

  1. Gonzaga - TO 14.5%, oREB 30.6%
  2. Florida State - TO 19.2%, oREB 33.1%
  3. Michigan - TO 13.5%, oREB 24.5%
  4. Texas Tech - TO 18.2%, oREB 28.7%

Gonzaga clearly has the best offense remaining in the region. They’re more productive, they shoot better, and they do a better job of managing and creating scoring opportunities than anyone else they could face on the road to the Final Four. They have four guys scoring in double figures including a pair of 6’8 junior forwards capable of taking games over in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke.

Both the Wolverines and Gonzaga rank near the top of the country in turnover percentage. Simply put, their guards and ball handlers do a great job of taking care of the ball. Michigan specifically ranks third nationally.

Texas Tech is the best shooting team remaining in the region from distance, sitting at 61st in the country. They have three guards who all average more than 10 points per game while shooting above 30% from deep. Sophomore Davide Moretti shoots 45% on more than four attempts per game.

Finally, the Seminoles excel at hounding the offensive boards. Led by three guys averaging more than two offensive rebounds a game - Terance Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele, and Christ Koumadje - Florida State sits at about 60th across the country in offensive rebounding.

Defensive Numbers

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Texas Tech vs Buffalo Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, we did basically the same thing as the offense. Took some numbers and combined them into sub categories to break down how good these teams are at preventing scoring, contesting shots, and managing opportunities. This is where this bracket shines.

Defensive Production:

  1. Texas Tech - dRTG 85.9, PPG 59.3
  2. Michigan - dRTG 86.1, PPG 58.6
  3. Florida State - dRTG 90.4, PPG 67.1
  4. Gonzaga - dRTG 92.3, PPG 65.1

Shooting Defense:

  1. Texas Tech - eFG 42.8%, 3FG 30.1%
  2. Michigan - eFG 44.1%, 3FG 28.9%
  3. Gonzaga - eFG 44.2%, 3FG 30.9%
  4. Florida State - eFG 47.3%, 3FG 32.6%

Opportunity Management:

  1. Texas Tech - oTO 23%, dREB 71.5%
  2. Florida State - oTO 20.3%, dREB 73.1%
  3. Michigan - oTO 18.3%, dREB 74.5%
  4. Gonzaga - oTO 18.9%, dREB 72.9%

All four remaining programs rank among the top-20 teams in college basketball in adjusted defensive efficiency. If you believe the rule of thumb that winning a national title requires both a top-20 adjusted offense and defense, the West has two contenders in Michigan and Gonzaga.

Between the Wolverines and Red Raiders, the West has the two best defensive teams in the country. Texas Tech is going to play a hyper-aggressive style that wears you down and causes chaos. They rank 11th in the country in forcing turnovers with their three double digit scorers - Moretti, Matt Mooney, and Jarrett Culver - all also averaging over a steal per game.

Michigan’s defense plays a different style but is equally effective. The Wolverines don’t force turnovers often but they rank in the top 15 in 2pt FG%, 3pt FG%, and quality of shots. The Raiders tear you apart, Michigan grinds you down.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have very good defenses in their own right yet neither jumps out in any particular category. Florida State is at their best when they can funnel opposing ball handlers into their mountains at the rim.

Style of Play

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Michigan vs Florida Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The three metrics presented here are pace, percentage of shots at the rim, and percentage of shots in transition. Two of those may seem redundant, but there are subtle differences. Take a look at Gonzaga who plays fast, but not absurdly when it comes to pace. However, their transition field goal numbers are high. This makes sense if you realize that Gonzaga doesn’t turn the ball over nor force turnovers. Most possessions are ending in shots.

Pace

  1. Gonzaga - 70th (69.8 possessions)
  2. Florida State - 135th (68.3 possessions)
  3. Texas Tech - 226th (66.5 possessions)
  4. Michigan - 320th (64.4 possessions)

% Shots at the Rim

  1. Gonzaga - 91st Percentile
  2. Florida State - 67th Percentile
  3. Texas Tech - 45th Percentile
  4. Michigan - 41st Percentile

% Shots in Transition

  1. Gonzaga - 94th Percentile
  2. Florida State - 59th Percentile
  3. Michigan - 48th Percentile
  4. Texas Tech - 11th Percentile

It really is impressive how good Gonzaga’s metrics are. As stated in the header for this section, their pace and transition shots don’t entirely add up because of how efficient they are. They don’t have to play as fast as other teams to create easy looks early in the shot clock. Their default speed is fast and efficient. Their forwards and wings are elite at finding their spots and picking them. When they want to get to the rim, they get there quickly.

The rest of the teams in the region all play relatively slow with Texas Tech and Michigan unsurprisingly ranked near the bottom third of teams in overall pace. Tech’s struggle with turnovers hurts their overall efficiency on offense.

Tournament Performance

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round- Florida State vs Murray State David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to small sample size theater. There’s not a lot to be gained in the big picture from each team’s tournament performance, but I think that they do help complete the picture.

You see the strength of Texas Tech and Michigan’s defenses via both teams covering their spreads while failing to reach the over in each of their first two games. Michigan absolutely ground the Florida Gators to the ground while the Red Raiders swarmed and overwhelmed an overmatched Buffalo team. Buffalo went into that game averaging more than 80 points per game, and they couldn’t do a damn thing against Tech’s aggression.

Gonzaga’s offense has been doing what it has done all season scoring early and often. Their defense has stepped up to the level of competition. Meanwhile, they’ll face off against a long, athletic Florida State team capable of completely taking away the paint with their size. Once Murray State’s threes stopped falling and Ja Morant cooled off a bit, the Seminoles rolled.

This is a tough region that will force Michigan to be somewhat more flexible than they’ve been. Texas Tech will require them to attack the rim more than they’ve done in the past, Florida State would require them to shoot better, and the Bulldogs would likely push the pace out of the Wolverines’ comfort zone with their efficiency. You have to love the way Michigan is playing, but it’s a long road ahead.