Bubble Numbers to Know

With February nearly upon us and less than two months until Selection Sunday, talk about teams on the bubble is about to heat up.  So with that in mind, here are some numbers to know about nine bubble teams.  Some of these numbers may put these teams over the top, and some may wind up costing them key games down the stretch.

12 – Arkansas’ rank in SEC play for both OReb% and DReb%.  The Hogs have played better over the last month or so and have notched home wins against Mississippi State, LSU, and Michigan.  However, their inability to control the glass on either end is likely to bite them as they look to work themselves off of the bubble.  The early-season loss of Marshawn Powell dealt a huge blow to their rebounding ability, and while they rank first in defensive TO% in conference play, they have struggled in the other three key defensive factors.  On offense, they have made up for the lack of offensive rebounding by taking good care of the ball, getting to the free throw line with regularity, and hitting 38.8% from deep.  I’m just not sure how long they can keep that up, and it’s also worth noting all 14 of their wins have come on their home floor.

17.7 – Iowa State’s defensive TO%, which ranks 307th in the country.  Their overall defensive efficiency numbers aren’t terrible though, because they are eighth in opponents’ FTR and 23rd in DReb%.  The Cyclones also defend the three-point line very well.  They do struggle on two-pointers which will certainly be a challenge when they face Kansas this weekend.  However, led by Royce White’s impressive skill set, the offensive efficiency numbers are encouraging.  They shoot 43.1% of their shots from beyond the arc, but they make 38.1% from deep, led by Tyrus McGee (46.2%) and Scott Christopherson (40.7%).  Tuesday’s game starts a huge four-game stretch for ISU, who is in need of a signature win or two to enhance their profile.

24.6 – Northwestern’s OReb%, which ranks 335th in the nation.  It’s easy (and justifiable) to criticize the Northwestern defense, but this stat would indicate those woes aren’t the result of sending everyone to the offensive glass.  The Wildcats take 42.5% of their shots from beyond the arc, and not surprisingly, they don’t get to the line much.  So consequently, they are going to get crushed in games where they don’t shoot well since there is essentially no other way they can score.  Last week for example, Northwestern went 13-of-40 (32.5%) from deep and lost by a combined 43 points to Wisconsin and Minnesota.

30.9 – Assist rate from BYU guard Matt Carlino.  The UCLA transfer became eligible mid-season and immediately made an impact with 18 points against Baylor in his debut.  However, Carlino was held to just five points on 2-of-10 shooting in a disappointing loss to Loyola Marymount, and he failed to score in a win over Pepperdine while backup point guard Craig Cusick playing more minutes.  In the end Carlino has the skills to be the team’s best point guard, but shot selection has been an issue at times despite his 42.6% shooting from deep.  The team is also hoping to get Stephen Rogers back after battling a knee injury recently, which would give the team another good shooter as they step out of conference for a road trip to Virginia Tech this week.

43.0 – Marshall’s OReb%, which ranks third in the nation.  Juco transfer Dennis Tinnon has made a huge impact on the glass for the Herd, ranking in the Top 50 nationally in both OReb% (17.6) and DReb% (24.7).  Admittedly, the team’s poor shooting numbers have allowed for countless offensive rebounding opportunities, as Marshall ranks 325th in three-point shooting (28.7%) and 333rd from the line (60.4%).  As it stands, Marshall and Central Florida will battle it out for a potential third bid from Conference USA.

65.7 – Stanford’s free throw percentage.  Given that the Cardinal’s efficiency margin in conference play is a slim -0.01 ppp, this weakness could definitely come back to bite them at some point down the stretch.  Of the seven players who have attempted the most free throws, just two shoot over 65.7% from the line.  For the season, Stanford has a 39.1 FTR, but their struggles at the line have not allowed them to take advantage of getting to the stripe.  Interestingly, their opponents are shooting even worse from the line at a woeful 64.4%.  That should regress to the mean at some point, which isn’t great news for their tournament hopes.  The Cardinal have a critical game at Cal on Sunday as they look to break a two-game losing streak.

66.7 – eFG% for Oregon guard Garrett Sim, which ranks sixth in the nation according to KenPom.  Sim plays nearly 80% of Oregon’s minutes, but his usage rate is just 17.1.  However, given his 60.9% shooting from two-point range and his 47.6% from long range, the Ducks might be well served to get him a few more shots.  Perhaps not coincidentally, he has scored in double figures and taken at least seven shots in each game of Oregon’s current four-game winning streak.  The Ducks have a couple decent wins and no horrible losses, which in the Pac-12 is saying something.  And while people would love to believe the league will get just one bid, I think they end up with two, and Oregon is making a push for one of those spots.

93.9 – Saint Louis’ adjusted defensive efficiency in Atlantic 10 play, which ranks first in the league.  They rank first in TO%, second in opponents’ FTR, and third in DReb%, so they are excelling in multiple areas.  The one blemish is the fact they have allowed conference foes to hit 43.5% from beyond the arc.  The Billikens are Wisconsin-esque in their ability to slow the pace, limit turnovers, and hit three-pointers while playing solid defense.  That defense will be critical as they face a tough six-game stretch that starts with a road trip to Xavier on Wednesday, followed by games against UMass, St. Bonaventure, Dayton, Saint Joseph’s, and La Salle.  At this point, the Billikens don’t have a win over a tournament-caliber team, so playing well over the next three weeks is critical to their at-large hopes.

138.0 – ORtg for N.C. state guard Scott Wood, which currently ranks third on KenPom.  Like Sim, his usage rate is low at 14.9, but Wood continues to be an elite shooter.  He’s taken 117 of his 158 shots from three-point range and has canned 45.3% of them.  Wood is also a perfect 48-of-48 from the line, which places his TS% at a gaudy 70.0%.  The Wolfpack have a strong point guard in Lorenzo Brown, so they have a guy who has the ability to get Wood the ball a bit more frequently.  That said, his usage rate definitely has a ceiling with guys like C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, and Brown on the team, but even a slight increase could pay dividends as Mark Gottfried looks to get the team into the Big Dance in his first season.

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