2016 NCAA West Team Capsules

2016 West Region

(1) Oregon (28-6)
Oregon is a dangerous team that plays their best against other good teams. The Ducks lost 5 games this season to teams ranking outside of my top 40 but they were an impressive 8-1 against top-40 teams with the only blemish being a 20 point loss in Berkeley. Oregon beat Arizona twice (once in Tucson) and Utah 3 times and there doesn’t seem to be a blueprint to beating the Ducks. The team that played Oregon the best was Cal, who not only beat the Ducks by 20 points at home but only lost by 3 points in Eugene despite the Bears’ 0 for 12 3-point shooting, which is extremely random. Oregon depends on getting shots near the rim and stealing the ball on defense (7th in the nation in steal percentage) but Cal ranks #1 in the nation in 2-point defense and 44th in avoiding steals on offense. So, perhaps a team with height (Cal is the 2nd tallest team in the nation) and good interior defense that doesn’t turn the ball over much is the type of team that will give Oregon trouble in the tournament. But, that doesn’t explain losses to Stanford, Colorado and Oregon State. Losses to UNLV and Boise State were before big man Jordan Bell was in the rotation, as he missed the first 8 games. If Oregon isn’t getting the love they deserve from the public then you might consider advancing the Ducks to the Final Four.

(2) Oklahoma (25-7)
Oklahoma is a really good team and I have them ranked in my top 10 but the Sooners are flawed. Oklahoma relies heavily on their great 3-point shooting (42.6% ranks #2 in the nation) but the Sooners rank 203rd in 2-point field goal shooting so they are susceptible to being upset if their 3-point shots aren’t falling. Oklahoma made just 36% of their 3-point shots in their last 11 games and went just 6-5 and they won’t go too far in this tournament unless they’re making 40% or more from long range. Overall, Oklahoma was 7-4 against my top-25 teams, with 2 of those losses coming to #1 Kansas, so the Sooners are certainly capable of making a run to the Final Four if their outside shots are falling at their normal rate.

(3) Texas A&M (26-8)
I can’t remember another circumstance of a team losing 5 conference games in a row and still winning their league, but that’s what Texas A&M did this season. That slump took play from late January through mid-February but the Aggies righted the ship and ran off 8 consecutive wins before losing in overtime to Kentucky in the SEC tournament championship game. The Aggies also beat Kentucky in overtime at home and have wins over good teams Baylor, Iowa State, Gonzaga and Texas. Most of A&M’s losses were against borderline NCAA Tournament teams (Syracuse, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, LSU) or lesser teams (Arizona State, Arkansas, and Alabama), which makes the Aggies a tough team to forecast. A&M could lose in the early rounds but they’re also good enough to beat good teams and they have an advantageous seed – although I think they were over-seeded. There is nothing particularly telling about A&M’s statistical profile, as there are no obvious weaknesses, and they do have a pretty easy bracket to navigate with only Texas (who they already beat) and Oklahoma as threats before they get to the Elite 8.

(4) Duke (23-10)
Duke’s chances of repeating as champs isn’t too good unless the Blue Devils suddenly get much better on the defensive side of the floor. There’s nothing wrong with the Duke offense, which ranks among the nation’s elite, but the Blue Devils don’t guard that well (44.5% FG allowed), which has led to losses against a handful of good but not great teams (Clemson, Notre Dame twice, Syracuse, and Pitt). The Blue Devils are also capable of beating really good teams, as evidenced by their wins over #1 seeds Virginia and North Carolina. However, overall Duke is just 4-9 against my top 50 rated teams without C Amile Jefferson, who was injured after 9 games. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if coach K got his team to play better defense and the Blue Devils made a run but a bad shooting night would likely end their tournament because their defense isn’t good enough to overcome that.

(5) Baylor (22-11)
Baylor is an athletic team that once again is among the nation’s best offensive rebounding teams (#3) but the Bears aren’t good defensively unless they’re creating turnovers and that can be a problem against teams that take care of the ball. Baylor does rank 15th in the nation in steal percentage but they’re 230th in effective field goal percentage allowed and going for steals often leads to wide open outside shots, which is part of the reason the Bears’ opponents have combined to make 37.1% of their 3-points shots. Baylor is a flawed team that should be beaten by a superior team, as the Bear are just 2-9 against teams that rank in my top 25. Baylor’s low volume of 3-points shots taken (which lowers variance) and good rebounding (less extra possessions for the opponent) are characteristics of a team that isn’t likely to be upset and all of Baylor’s 11 losses this season were against NCAA caliber teams. First round opponent Yale is not an NCAA Tournament caliber team but the Bears could win a 2nd round game against Duke but that’s about as far as I’d go with this team.

(6) Texas (20-12)
This team is not a typical Shaka Smart team, as his teams at VCU played aggressive defense, forced turnovers and shot a lot of 3-pointers. This Longhorns’ squad ranks 260th in defensive steal percentage and doesn’t shoot the ball very well (33.9% 3-pointers and 66.5% FT) but they also don’t hurt themselves (22nd in offensive turnover percentage. Texas doesn’t look that great on the stat sheet, as they make 43.1% of their shots on offense and allow 41.8% shooting but the Longhorns faced the nation’s toughest schedule and have a decent 8-10 record against NCAA Tournament caliber teams. Texas is not likely to beat themselves but they’re also not good enough to beat a good team that’s playing well.

(7) Oregon State (19-12)
Oregon State making the tournament was questionable in my opinion but getting a #7 seed makes the Beavers the tournament’s most over-seeded team. Oregon State is just 5-9 against NCAA Tournament caliber teams (their win over Tulsa was not included in that and a loss to Valparaiso was included) and I rate the Beavers as the 63rd best team in the nation. The Beavers are capable of beating better teams when they make their outside shots and force turnovers but Oregon State ranks 239th in 2-point offense and 210th in 2-point defense so they’re very reliant on the 3-point shooting going their way. The Beavers have played about the same in 4 games since losing #2 scorer Tres Tinkle but it’s unlikely the freshman Derrick Bruce, who’s getting increased minutes, will continue to make 54% of his 3-point shots (19 of 35). Oregon State got a good draw with VCU, who has just one quality win all season, and Gary Payton II is a player that can dominate a game so the Beavers could get an opening game win before reality sets in.

(8) St. Joseph’s (27-7)
St. Joseph’s has an impressive 27-7 record but the best team that the Hawks have beaten is VCU, a team whose only win over a top 60 team is against St. Joseph’s. A couple of wins over Dayton are notable but there is really nothing about St. Joe’s that inspires confidence in me other than they aren’t likely to beat themselves (#4 in the nation in not turning the ball over). Cincinnati is beatable in round 1, although I’d favor the Bearcats, but advancing the Hawks to the Sweet 16 would be risky.

(9) Cincinnati (22-10)
Cincinnati relies on their good defense to be competitive because the Bearcats can have trouble scoring consistently against good teams. Cincy has made just 42.7% of their shots this season and that goes down to 40.2% against mediocre or good teams but the Bearcats put together a respectable resume because of a defense that is #2 in the nation in 2-point defense (40.9% 2-pointers allowed) and not coincidentally #2 in the in blocked shots percentage. Cincinnati is not good defending the perimeter (35.6% 3-pointers allowed is 234th in the nation) so teams that can make jump shots and don’t need to challenge Cincinnati’s great interior defense should have an advantage. Cincinnati also rebounds a lot of their many missed shots (20th in offensive rebounding) so a good defensive rebounding team should also match up well with the Bearcats. First round opponent St. Joseph’s is a good defensive rebounding team but the Hawks are a terrible outside shooting team, so that will be an interesting game. However, if the Bearcats get by St. Joe’s they have a decent shot at beating Oregon, who does most of their scoring inside the arc and allows a lot of offensive rebounds (256th in defensive rebound percentage).

(10) VCU (24-10)
VCU maintained their defensive aggressive nature in the first season without Shaka Smart leading them and the Rams were #4 in the nation in defensive steal percentage. The Rams are mediocre in offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage (128th on offense and 124th on defense) so they need to win games by giving themselves more shots with their positive turnover margin and by rebounding the basketball, which they are pretty good at. However, relying on turnovers and rebounding is not going to work so well against better teams that can match the Rams’ athletically and VCU was just 1-7 against teams that rank in my top 60 (a 3 point win over St. Joseph’s). I don’t see anything wrong with taking VCU to get past Oregon State (and I see nothing wrong with taking the Beavers in that game either) but there is no way I’d take the Rams to advance to the Sweet 16 given their horrible record against good teams.

(11) Northern Iowa (22-12)
Northern Iowa is an interesting team in that the Panthers have 9 losses against teams rated 100th or worse but have beaten North Carolina, Iowa State, and Wichita State twice. Further inspection of those 4 wins against very good teams reveals a common theme – the Panthers were lucky in that UNC, Iowa State and Wichita made a combined 17 of 90 (18.9%) of their 3-point shots in those 4 wins. The fact that Northern Iowa only won those 4 games by an average of 3.5 points given that degree of 3-point variance is an indication that those wins were complete flukes and it’s unreasonable to assume that any opponent the Panthers might face in this tournament would shoot that poorly. Beating Texas is not out of the question but Northern Iowa is not as good as those marquee wins make them appear to be.

(12) Yale (22-6)
Yale went 13-1 in Ivy League play to garner their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1962 but the best team the Bulldogs beat all season is Princeton, who ranks 95th in my ratings. Yale lost by only 2 points at SMU, which is impressive, but they also lost by 19 points at Duke and by 12 points at USC. Yale is among the best rebounding teams in the nation and keeping first round opponent Baylor off the offensive glass is paramount if they want any chance to upset the Bears, who rank 3rd in the nation in offensive rebound percentage. Yale is 7th in the nation is defensive rebounding, although against a weak schedule, but it would take limiting Baylor’s 2nd chance points and knocking down a high percentage of 3-point shots for Yale to advance.

(13) NC Wilmington (25-7)
NC Wilmington has a lot of wins but the best team the Seahawks have faced all season is Georgetown, who was not good enough to make the NCAA Tournament this season. Wilmington’s most interesting statistical characteristic is that they send opponents to the line at a rate that is 2nd most in the nation based on opponent’s free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts. First round opponent Duke is a better than average free throw shooting team (72.2%) and the Blue Devils get to the line more than an average team so expect a lot of easy points for Duke, whose worst loss was at Clemson – a team that is better than NC Wilmington. Duke may not be as good as they normally are but it’s very unlikely that the Blue Devils would lose to NC Wilmington.

(14) Green Bay (23-12)
Green Bay fires up shots faster than any team in the nation and the Phoenix are also aggressive defensively and rank 10th in the nation is steals percentage on defense. That style is not well suited to pull off a major upset, as the more possessions there are in a game the more likely the better team will prevail. However, the Phoenix only lost by 5 points at Wisconsin and they played well in two of three games against Valparaiso, winning in overtime in the Horizon League tournament and losing by just 2 points to the Crusaders at home. However, first round opponent Texas A&M faced a similar style team in UNC Asheville (#3 in defensive steal percentage) and only committed 9 turnovers in a 28 point win and I don’t see how Green Bay will be able to score consistently if they’re not getting easy baskets in transition after forcing a turnover.

(15) Cal State Bakersfield (24-8)
Bakersfield managed to beat New Mexico State 1 out of 3 times and it was the one that mattered. Coach Rod Barnes’ team plays really hard on the defensive side of the floor, ranking 10th in the nation in effective field goal percentage defense in 15th in defensive turnovers, but the Roadrunners actually rank 79th in compensated defensive efficiency, which takes into account the level of opposing offenses faced. Bakersfield’s offense is a bit worse than average on a national scale and Oklahoma would have to have a really bad shooting night to lose to this team. Bakersfield faced only one NCAA Tournament caliber team and that was a 35 point loss at St. Mary’s. The next toughest team the Roadrunners faced was Arizona State and they lost that game by 16 points. Those are not good omens.

(16) Southern (22-12)
Southern faced 3 top-100 teams this season and they weren’t that bad in those games. The Jaguars followed a season opening 18 point loss at Arkansas with an 86-82 road win at Mississippi State and only lost by 5 points at Memphis in mid-December. However, a possible meeting with #1 seed Oregon isn’t likely to go so well.

(16) Holy Cross (14-19)
Holy Cross is the only team to make the tournament with a losing record and there is absolutely no chance that the Crusaders would beat a #1 seed. Holy Cross actually already faced a #1 seed in the regular season and lost by 33 points in that game at Kansas.

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