Stats & Info: College Hoops

ACC, Big 12 close in best conference debate

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23

Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesVirginia and Duke are two top-five teams that highlight a top-heavy ACC in college basketball this season.
One of the hottest topics to debate in this or any college basketball season is which conference is the best.

Most would agree that the argument comes down to the Big 12 and ACC. The Big 12 could potentially place eight of its 10 teams in the NCAA tournament, while the ACC could have four top-three seeds.

So which is the better conference? The answer depends on whether you’re looking for the deeper conference or the one with more potential to win it all.

Deepest Conference

The Big 12 is undoubtedly the deepest conference from top to bottom. Eight of its 10 teams rank in the top 50 of ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, and the conference has the highest average BPI ranking in the nation.

Sixty percent of the Big 12 is currently ranked in the AP poll (the highest percentage of any conference), and by the end of the season, two other teams could have an argument for inclusion. Even TCU, which lost its final 19 games last season, entered conference play undefeated (thanks in large part to a very weak nonconference schedule).

In nonconference games, the Big 12 has the best record in the nation but lacks a marquee nonconference win from a team other than Kansas.

The question surrounding the Big 12 is whether it has an elite team. No team in the Big 12 is ranked in the top eight of the AP poll or BPI.

Strongest At Top

Unlike the Big 12, the ACC has strength at the top, but the bottom of the conference has significant holes.

The ACC has four teams in the top 10 of the latest AP poll; no other conference has more than one.

This imbalance is captured in BPI. The ACC possesses five of the top 13 teams; the average BPI rating of those five teams is four points higher than any other conference’s top five. Put another way, the ACC’s fifth-ranked team in BPI -- Louisville -- ranks 13th overall. No other conference’s fifth-ranked team has a ranking higher than 20.

Even accounting for the fact that the ACC has five more teams than the Big 12, the average ranking of the top third of the conference is significantly higher for the ACC.

A case can be made that Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville or Notre Dame could win it all; all five of those teams were projected as top-four seeds in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology.

Combining It All

So the question remains: How do you balance conference depth with conference strength at the top?

ESPN Stats & Information has released weekly conference power ranking for college football the past few years (for a detailed description of the methodology, click here). In short, the system equally weights the ratings from ESPN’s Football Power Index (conference depth) and the AP poll (power at top) to determine the best and worst conferences in the country.

This formula has been adapted for college basketball with one change. Because such a lower percentage of college basketball teams receive AP votes, the weighting for these rankings is 25 percent AP voting and 75 percent BPI.

In a fairly anticlimactic ending, the Big 12 and ACC are tied atop the rankings. For those needing an answer, the Big 12 holds a 0.013 point edge over the ACC. The next three conferences are closely bunched, with the Pac-12 ranking third on the strength of its top two teams -- Arizona and Utah -- ranking in the top 12 of the AP poll.

Though not pictured, the bottom three conferences in the rankings are the SWAC, MEAC and WAC.

BPI viewers guide to weekend action

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
The college football season is over, which means it’s time for college sports fans to shift their attention to college basketball.

This weekend is chock-full of great games, and using ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, we will break down the top-five games of weekend.

The games are ranked by Matchup Quality, a metric that ranks games (on a 0-to-100 scale) based on how good each team is and how close the game is expected to be. The games ranked highest in matchup quality will be competitive games between highly ranked teams in BPI. Based on this metric, the five “can’t miss” games of the weekend are:

Utah (6th in BPI) at Arizona (9th in BPI): Saturday, 7 PM ET on Pac-12 Network
BPI Projection: Arizona, 63 percent likely to win
Matchup Quality: 88.1

Utah and Arizona are the only Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 40 in ESPN’s BPI and the gap between the two teams is slim. On a neutral court, assuming an average pace, these teams are separated by 0.5 points.

Led by Delon Wright, Utah is one of three teams that ranks in the top 15 of both offensive and defensive efficiency (Virginia and Ohio State are the others). The Utes lead the Pac-12 in both of those categories followed closely by Arizona.

Duke (13th in BPI) at Louisville (10th in BPI): Saturday, 12 PM ET on ESPN
BPI Projection: Louisville, 68 percent likely to win
Matchup Quality: 87.0

For the first time since March 1996, Duke lost consecutive games by double digits, and its defense has been to blame. The Blue Devils allowed 88.5 points per game, including 19 points per game off of turnovers, in those losses.

Louisville thrives off opponents mistakes, forcing turnovers at the fourth-highest rate among major conference schools (25 percent) and averaging 16.9 points per game off of those turnovers.

There will be plenty of stars to watch on Saturday -- Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier all are on the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list. The biggest stars, however, may be on the bench as Coach K seeks his 998th win against fellow Hall of Famer Rick Pitino.

Kansas (11th in BPI) at Iowa State (22nd in BPI): Saturday, 9 PM ET on ESPN
BPI Projection: Iowa State, 54 percent likely to win
Matchup Quality: 84.7

After a one-point loss at Baylor on Wednesday, Iowa State is looking to bounce back at home. Meanwhile, the Jayhawks are the only undefeated team in Big 12 conference play and are looking to build a two-game lead over Iowa State.

Watch to see if the Cyclones can get to the paint. They are averaging a Big 12-high 36.3 points per game in the paint, but in their three losses, they averaged 12 fewer paint points than in their wins.

West Virginia (7th in BPI) at Texas (29th in BPI): Saturday, 6:15 PM ET on ESPN
BPI Projection: West Virginia, 57 percent likely to win
Matchup Quality: 84.2

West Virginia and Texas are two of seven ranked teams from the Big 12, but it is West Virginia that BPI rates higher. In fact, the Mountaineers are the highest ranked Big 12 team in BPI because of their 4-2 record against BPI top-50 opponents.

Conversely, Texas is 2-4 against top competition, including losses in its last two games. One thing to watch is whether West Virginia can create turnovers; the Mountaineers lead the nation in opponent turnover rate (31 percent) and points per game off of turnovers (24.8). Texas turns the ball over at the third-highest rate in the Big 12.

Kentucky (1st in BPI) at Alabama (52nd in BPI): Saturday, 4 PM ET on ESPN
BPI Projection: Kentucky, 89 percent likely to win
Matchup Quality: 83.9

After Kentucky’s 86-37 thrashing of Missouri on Wednesday, are the Wildcats back? We will find out on Saturday in what is projected to be Kentucky’s fifth-hardest remaining game of the season.

What everyone will be watching the remainder of the season is if Kentucky can finish the season undefeated. According to BPI, Kentucky has an 80 percent chance to win each of its remaining scheduled games and a 30 percent chance to enter conference tournaments undefeated.

Kentucky's 'D' great in every way

December, 27, 2014
Five stats to know from No. 1 Kentucky's 58-50 win over No. 4 Louisville.

1. Kentucky held Louisville to 25.9 percent shooting from the field. That's the worst single-game field-goal percentage for Louisville in the shot-clock era. The Cardinals were 8-of-24 from inside the paint. Montrezl Harrell was 4-of-7. The rest of the team was 4-of-17.

Louisville was also 2-of-13 on its second-chance opportunities. The Cardinals had averaged 19 second-chance points-per-game in the previous three games.

2. Louisville had 15 baskets, but managed only one assist. We have 19 seasons worth of game-by-game data on ranked teams. The one assist is the fewest by any ranked team in that 19-season span and the fewest by Louisville in the shot-clock era.

3. Since joining Kentucky in 2009-10, John Calipari has led the Wildcats to seven wins in eight games against Louisville, including three straight. Calipari is 12-9 against Rick Pitino. This was the 15th meeting of the two teams in which both were ranked in the AP Top 25. Kentucky is 14-1 in those games, 2-0 when both are ranked in the Top 5.

4. Kentucky did have one streak stopped. The Wildcats had won each of their first 12 games by double figures, the first time they had done that in school history.

5. According to BPI, Kentucky has a 33 percent chance to win out through the end of the regular season. Its toughest remaining game is at Georgia on March 3. The Wildcats have an 83 percent chance to win that one. They are not scheduled to face another ranked team this season.

Kentucky is No. 1, according to BPI

December, 16, 2014

Mark Zerof/USA TodayESPN’s BPI recognizes how powerful Willie Cauley-Stein and Kentucky have been this season.
The college basketball season is about a quarter of the way complete and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) has gathered enough information to rate the 351 NCAA Division I teams.

BPI is ESPN’s rating system that accounts for scoring margin, game location, pace, strength of opponent and key players missing. A full breakdown of BPI can be found here, but below are some quick comparisons of BPI to other systems. All of these systems account for outcomes of games, location (home/road/neutral) and quality of opponents, but BPI has at least one feature that differs from each.

SOS beyond opponents’ W-L
RPI is the most notable ratings system and has aided the NCAA’s tournament selection committee for years. It is the simplest of all of the systems and accounts for whom you play, where you play them and who won.

One major drawback of RPI is that it measures strength of schedule purely by opponent win-loss record. As of Dec. 16, Green Bay (5-2 vs D-1 teams) ranks fifth in RPI, largely because it ranks No. 5 in its SOS rankings. Green Bay’s schedule is deemed the fifth-hardest because opponents including Evansville and Florida Gulf Coast had strong records against lower-level competition.

Meanwhile, as of Dec. 16, Green Bay ranks 90th in BPI with the 161st-ranked schedule.

Scoring margin (with diminishing returns for blowouts)
A win is a win, but how a team wins can tell a lot about team strength. Beating Duke by one point is not as impressive as beating the Blue Devils by 40. RPI sees those wins as equal, but BPI and most other ratings systems account for scoring margin.

BPI, however, decreases the value of a blowout; a 30-point win is about 20 percent better than a 15-point win, not twice as good, which is how other methods can value it.

Four of the top five teams in scoring margin – Kentucky, Duke, Ohio State and Notre Dame – rank in the top 5 of BPI.

Pace of game matters
BPI takes score differential one step further by accounting for pace of play. Net efficiency (offensive efficiency - defense efficiency) in each game is captured before adjusting for other factors such as game site, scoring margin, opponent strength and missing key players.

All wins are better than losses (before opponent adjustment)
To capture the value of winning, all wins in BPI receive a game score above 50 on a 0-to-100 scale, and all losses are below 50. Once the opponent and site adjustments are implemented, however, a loss can be more valuable than a win.

Let’s look at an example. Wichita State lost by one point at Utah in overtime Dec. 3. The Shockers had a raw game score of 48 (out of 100), but after adjusting for the fact Utah ranks 11th in BPI and the game was on the road, the Shockers’ adjusted game score rose to 90. Conversely, North Dakota State won by one against Division II’s Minnesota-Crookston and received an adjusted Game Score of 9.

De-weighting games with missing key players
A key differentiating feature of BPI when compared with other systems is that it de-weights games in which key players are missing. Last season, Arizona began the season 21-0 before losing to California in a game where its best player - Brandon Ashley – suffered a season-ending foot injury after two minutes. Should Cal (and future Arizona opponents) receive full credit for beating the No. 1 team in the nation when it was not at full strength? Similarly, should Arizona be fully penalized? BPI accounts for key players based on minutes played and adjusts the importance of games when those players are not [are missing or are not missing.

Ultimately, BPI gives us a tool for rating teams that is more in-depth than other systems. BPI was not designed to be predictive, but in tests, it performed as well if not better than other systems in predicting NCAA tournament games.

Scoring and fouls per game increase

April, 11, 2014

Getty Images, AP PhotoCoaches didn't always agree with referees interpreting block-charge calls differently.
Much was made this past off-season about the focus to increase scoring in college basketball.

Referees were instructed to interpret block-charge calls differently, while cracking down on defensive hand-checking. The theory went that this would help increase scoring after a season that saw the lowest nation-wide scoring average since 1981-82.

So how did it work out?

Scoring up, possessions down
Scoring increased by more than five percent this season compared to last, despite the fact that teams averaged about one fewer possession per game.

One of the reasons for the rise in scoring could be the increased trips to the charity stripe.

Free throw attempts per game increased by nearly 14 percent this season compared to last.

Overall the percentage of points from field goals decreased by 2.3 percentage points compared to last season, while scoring from free throws increased by nearly nine percentage points.

Tourney time
The NCAA Tournament was a bit different, however. Scoring during the tournament was down by more than six percent compared to November and December of this season.

During the tournament, teams averaged 3.5 fewer free throw attempts per game than during the first two months of the season.

But when comparing this season's NCAA Tournament to last year, the trend was consistent with the regular season.

Scoring during the tournament this season was up nearly four percent compared to last season. Again, this occurred despite the fact that teams averaged more than two fewer possessions per game.

Top stats to know: Another title for UConn

April, 8, 2014

Shabazz Napier made big shots every time Connecticut needed them.
The unlikeliest champions of them all are the Connecticut Huskies, the first No. 7 seed to win a men’s basketball championship.

Connecticut always seems to find a way, and once again on Monday night it did, led by the best player on the floor in point guard Shabazz Napier.

The history
Connecticut has won four national titles, tied with Duke for fifth most all-time (trails UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana).

Connecticut is 4-0 all-time in national championship games, the best undefeated record for any school. Connecticut’s four-game national championship winning streak is tied for third longest in NCAA tournament history.

The Huskies are also now 6-0 in Final Four games in the state of Texas.

Kevin Ollie is the 12th coach to win a national championship at his alma mater (the first since Roy Williams in 2005 and 2009).

Ollie is the first coach to win a national championship within his first two seasons as a Division I head coach since Michigan's Steve Fisher in 1989.

Connecticut is the first team to win the national championship without winning its regular season or conference tournament title since Arizona in 1997 and the first team to win the title despite not playing in any postseason tournament the previous season since NC State in 1974.

Most Outstanding Player: Shabazz Napier
Napier finished with 22 points. He scored 37 percent of the Huskies’ points for the game, the third-highest percentage by a player in a national championship win in the past 30 seasons (surpassed only by Glen Rice in 1989 and Danny Manning in 1988).

Napier put himself in elite college basketball company, as noted in the chart above.

Difference-Maker: Free Throw Shooting
Connecticut became the first team to shoot 100 percent from the free throw line in a national championship game, making all 10 of its foul shots.

Kentucky was 13-for-24 from the free throw line. It was a situation reminiscent of Memphis’ struggles at the free throw line in the 2008 championship game under John Calipari, when it made 12 of 19 foul shots in a loss to Kansas.

Connecticut finished 101-115 (87.8 percent) on free throws for the tournament, the best free throw percentage by a team in a single NCAA tournament (minimum three games).

The previous record was 87 percent by St. John's in 1969.

The other side
This was Kentucky's fourth loss in a national championship game (tied with Ohio State and North Carolina for fourth most all-time, including vacated games) and its first title game loss since 1997 (versus Arizona).

Kentucky’s past two NCAA tournament losses have come against Connecticut (2011 Final Four, 2014 national championship).

Indicative of how this wasn't Kentucky's night-- the Wildcats had only 26 attempts in the paint. They averaged 43 in their past two games.

Kentucky had a tournament-low 24 paint points and tied its tournament lows in second-chance points (7) and points off turnovers (10).

Kentucky averaged 0.871 points per possession, its second-worst offensive efficiency of the season (0.870 vs. Arkansas on Feb. 27).

Top stats to know: UConn vs. Kentucky

April, 7, 2014
The seven-seed Connecticut Huskies and eight-seed Kentucky Wildcats are set to meet in the men’s basketball National Championship Monday. It’s the highest combined seeds ever in a National Championship.

UConn is trying to become the first seven seed to win the National Championship and the only team to be 4-0 in National Championship games. Kentucky is trying to become the second eight seed to win it, matching 1985 Villanova as the lowest seed to win the title.

Here are some of the top statistical storylines heading into Monday night's National Championship.

Performing in the clutch
Kentucky is plus-21 in the NCAA Tournament when the score is within three points in the final three minutes, after being minus-16 in that situation during the regular season.

Kentucky is shooting 60 percent on field goals, including 5-of-6 on 3-pointers, when the score is within three points in the final three minutes in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats shot 29 percent on field goals in those situations in the regular season.

The Wildcats are holding opponents to 25 percent field goals, including 0-for-8 on 3-pointers, in those situations in the NCAA Tournament.

The Harrisons
Led by Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Kentucky could be the first team to play seven freshmen in a National Championship game.

Kentucky is plus-34 in the NCAA Tournament when the Harrison twins are both on the court together, and minus-16 when at least one of them is on the bench.

Aaron Harrison is shooting 56 percent on 3-pointers in the NCAA Tournament after shooting 31 percent on 3-pointers in the regular season.

The Tweak
Kentucky's offense has improved since John Calipari's "tweak" entering the SEC Tournament. Since then, Kentucky is averaging three more points per 100 possessions, shooting 10 percentage points better on 3-pointers, and playing at a slower pace -- six fewer possessions per game.

The difference is even more drastic in the last four games -- 12 more points per 100 possessions, 12 percentage points better on 3-pointers, seven fewer possessions per game, compared to the first 35 games.

53 percent of Kentucky's points have been in the paint over the last four games, compared to 46 percent in its first 35 games.

UConn is shooting 60 percent on pick-and-roll ball-handler plays in the NCAA Tournament (pick-and-rolls in which the guard makes a play).

UConn is the most efficient team on pick-and-roll ball-handler plays among teams that have played at least three games in the NCAA Tournament.

The Huskies are averaging 11.2 points per game on pick-and-roll plays (18 percent of their half-court offense) in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky ranks 55th of 68 teams in points per play allowed on pick-and-roll ball-handler plays in the NCAA Tournament.

Shabazz Napier is shooting 56 percent on pick-and-roll plays in the NCAA Tournament and is creating 13.4 points per game (including passes) on such plays.

A battle down low
Kentucky is scoring 37 points per game in the paint, which makes up 52 percent of the points it has scored, in the NCAA Tournament.

UConn is allowing 24 points per game in the paint, which makes up 36 percent of the points it has allowed in the NCAA Tournament.

The Wildcats rank second in offensive rebound percentage this season, grabbing 42 percent of their missed shots, whereas UConn ranks 206th in offensive rebound percentage (30.5 percent).

The Huskies rank 247th in defensive rebound percentage (67 percent) this season.

Top stats to know: Final Four games

April, 4, 2014
The Final Four is finally here, and to get you ready we have broken down the key matchups in each of Saturday’s games.

Florida Gators vs Connecticut Huskies
You can expect a low-scoring, low-possession game, as both these teams rank in the top 10 adjusted defensive efficiency and are in the bottom third in adjusted tempo, according to

Both teams have played well against slower teams, too, with UConn going 10-1 this season against teams that rank outside the top 200 in adjusted tempo and Florida winning 17 of 19 games against those teams.

One key in this game is how UConn will handle Florida’s press defense. Florida utilizes a press defense on 17 percent of its defensive plays, and holds opponents to 38 percent shooting against its press.

The Huskies have been able to score efficiently against the press this season, leading the American Athletic Conference with 46 percent shooting in those situations.

Another important matchup is how Florida will defend All-American Shabazz Napier. Nearly a third of Napier’s plays this season have involved a ball screen, and his 210 points scored as the pick and roll ball handler this season rank fourth in Division I.

Against Michigan State in the Elite 8, Napier either scored or went to the line on all four of his pick and roll plays, totaling nine points including free throws.

Both Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill have struggled to defend the pick and roll. Opponents have made 46 percent of their shots when defended by either Wilbekin or Hill, scoring nearly a point per play as the ball handler on these screens.

Wisconsin Badgers vs Kentucky Wildcats
Much has been written about the mystery “tweak” that John Calipari made just before the SEC tournament. No one knows for sure what that cryptic remark means, but what is real is the fact that Kentucky’s perimeter shooting is much improved.

Since the start of the SEC tournament, the Wildcats have made 41.2 percent of their 3-pointers, nearly 10 percentage points better than their performance during the regular season.

Aaron Harrison has found his range in the NCAAs for Kentucky, making 14 of 27 long-distance shots, after entering the tourney as a 33 percent 3-point shooter.

Wisconsin held opponents to 33 percent on 3-point attempts in its first 30 games but is allowing opponents to shoot 38 percent on 3-pointers in its last seven games.

Perhaps the most important matchup in this game will be the ability of Wisconsin to keep Kentucky off the offensive glass. Kentucky ranks first in the country in offensive rebound percentage, grabbing 42.5 percent of its missed shots.

Wisconsin counters with a defensive rebound percentage that ranks 12th in the country, and is 8-1 this season against teams ranked in the top 50 in offensive rebound percentage.

One other stat to keep in mind: Wisconsin and Kentucky both have faced Florida, Baylor, Michigan and Michigan State this season. Wisconsin is 4-2 against those teams, while Kentucky is 1-5 against those teams.

Katie Sharp contributed to this post

Keys to victory: Kentucky 75, Michigan 72

March, 30, 2014
Kentucky made it two low seeds in the national semifinals by beating Michigan, 75-72 on Sunday.

The Wildcats became the fifth No. 8 seed to make the Final Four since the tournament expanded in 1985. The only No. 8 to win a national title was Villanova in 1985.

Kentucky joined Connecticut as teams that beat three top-4 seeds to get to the Final Four. Prior to this year, only three teams had ever done that: 1986 LSU, 2000 Florida and 2011 Butler.

The key to victory for Kentucky was the performance of its freshmen. Aaron Harrison made the big shot, a game-winning 3-pointer, but that was only part of the story.

Star Watch: Julius Randle leads the freshmen
Kentucky freshman Julius Randle led the Wildcats with 16 points and 11 rebounds. He became the second freshman in NCAA Tournament history to have a double-double in each of his first four games. The other was Gene Banks for Duke in 1978.

Kentucky became the first team to start five freshmen in an Elite 8 win since Michigan's "Fab 5" in 1992.

The Wildcats’ freshmen have scored 254 points, a total that trails only that Michigan team for the most by freshmen through the Elite 8.

Kentucky controls the paint,
limits Michigan outside the paint

Kentucky attempted 43 of its 58 field goal attempts in the paint (74 percent), the second-highest percentage in the 2014 Men’s Basketball Championship and third-highest in the last five.

Michigan scored 25 points outside the paint Sunday, its fewest in 11 tournament games the last three seasons. The Wolverines entered the game averaging a tournament-high 39.3 points per game outside the paint.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
Kentucky is the first team in tournament history to eliminate both the defending champion and defending runner-up from the NCAA Tournament and the first to eliminate three teams from the previous year's Final Four.

Keys to victory: UConn 60, Michigan St. 54

March, 30, 2014
Connecticut is headed back to the Final Four, and once again it will be there in unlikely fashion.

The Huskies are the second No. 7 seed ever to reach the national semifinals. Virginia made it in 1984 and lost to Houston.

What were the keys to the win on Sunday?

Star Watch: Napier reminiscent of Walker
The last two players to lead their team to a Final Four while scoring or assisting on at least 45% of their team’s points in the tournament are Shabazz Napier and Kemba Walker, both from Connecticut.

Napier scored 25 points and was 9 for 9 from the free-throw line. The last player to score that much and shoot that well at the free throw line was Christian Laettner for Duke against Kentucky in the game in which Laettner was perfect from the field and free throw line and hit the buzzer-beating game-winner.

Huskies limit Spartans in the paint
Michigan State scored six points in the paint, 14 fewer than its previous season low and the second fewest for any team in the last five Men’s Basketball Championships (Butler scored two vs Connecticut in 2011).

The Spartans’ eight field-goal attempts in the paint are the fewest for any team in the last five tournaments.

Branden Dawson scored two points in the paint on 1-of-2 shooting. Entering Sunday, he was leading the tournament with 48 points in the paint.

Michigan State’s half-court offense did not have a good day. . In half-court offense, the Spartans had four more turnovers than they had field goals.

Huskies make their free throws
Connecticut was 21 for 22 from the free-throw line, including 7 for 7 in the final five minutes.

For the tournament, the Huskies are 55 for 60 (92 percent) at the free throw line in the final 5 minutes of the second half/overtime.

Connecticut is currently 81-92 (88 percent) from the free throw line in the tournament. The team record for free-throw percentage in a single NCAA tournament (minimum three games) is 87 percent by St. John's in 1969.

Better Fab Five: Michigan or Kentucky?

March, 30, 2014
The Kentucky Wildcats are starting to resemble a rather famous group of freshmen that made noise in the NCAA tourney. That’s right, the Fab Five.

The numbers show these two squads are more similar than you would think. Making it even more fitting is Kentucky will face Michigan on Sunday with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

The question left is if the Wildcats freshmen will be able to finish what those Wolverines couldn’t and win a national title.

Both Kentucky's Fab Five and Michigan's Fab Five started exactly 15 games together as a unit. Kentucky is 11-4 when all five freshmen start (Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, James Young, Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson), while Michigan finished 12-3 when the Fab Five started together.

Kentucky's Fab Five has been slightly more productive and efficient in terms of scoring, largely because of the 3-point line. The Michigan Fab Five was more dominant on the boards and shot a much better percentage from the floor.

Wildcats power forward Randle has comparable numbers to Chris Webber’s freshman season. Both were top-three recruits and averaged roughly 15 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor during their first seasons.

The similarities don't end with just the players. The teams as a whole are near-mirror images in the tournament:

• Both Kentucky this year and Michigan in 1992 were underdogs according to seeding, with the Wildcats an 8-seed and the Wolverines a 6-seed. Kentucky entered the tourney with 10 losses; Michigan entered with eight losses.

• Both teams had to beat a No. 1 seed during their run. Kentucky took out undefeated Wichita State in the round of 32; Michigan beat an Ohio State team that had swept it in the regular season.

• Not only did they have to beat top seeds, Michigan and Kentucky also had to beat their rivals. The Wolverines beat hated Ohio State and Kentucky defeated Louisville for the second time this season.

• Michigan and Kentucky both were not dominant in the tournament. The 1992 Wolverines won their first five games by an average of six points per game, with just one double-digit win. The Wildcats have outscored their first three opponents by 4.7 points per game, and their largest win was by seven points.

Katie Sharp contributed to this post.

Top stats to know: Sunday's Elite 8 games

March, 30, 2014
The Elite Eight continues Sunday with two more games. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be following.

No. 7 Connecticut Huskies vs. No. 4 Michigan State Spartans
The winner of this 2009 national semifinal rematch will head to the Final Four in North Texas next weekend.

To reach their first Final Four since 2011, the Huskies will have to slow down the Spartans fast-break offense. Michigan State averages 18.5 transition points per game (16th in country) and has scored 54 points on the break in three tournament games.

Connecticut excelled in transition defense during the regular season, holding opponents to just 11.4 transition points per game. However, its three opponents in the tourney have averaged 14.7 points per game in transition, including a total of 37 points in the last two contests.

Both teams can light it up from beyond the arc, ranking among the nation’s top 20 in 3-point percentage this season.

The Huskies are 13-0 when making at least eight 3-point shots; the Spartans are 13-1 when making at least 10 3-pointers.

So which team will be able to defend the perimeter better? It appears to be a toss-up. The Spartans and Huskies both allow teams to make a third of their 3-point shots for the entire season, and both teams have been worse than that lately, with opponents shooting 36 percent from distance in March.

No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 2 Michigan Wolverines
The Wildcats' talented group of freshmen appears to be peaking at the right time as Kentucky goes for its third Final Four berth in the last four seasons. What has made Kentucky look like the team it was expected to be when it was picked as the preseason No. 1?

Kentucky has won its last two games because it has executed down the stretch in "clutch time."

In the last five minutes and the score within five points, Kentucky outscored Louisville and Wichita State by 12 points. During the regular season, Kentucky was outscored by 13 points in those situations.

In their last two games, the Wildcats are shooting 56 percent and haven't committed a single turnover in clutch time.

Another key has been the improved play of the Harrison twins -- Andrew and Aaron -- in the NCAA tournament. With both Harrisons on the court, Kentucky has outscored its opponents by 29 points. With at least one of them off the court, they have been outscored by 15.

Kentucky’s offense the entire season has been built on its ability to grab offensive boards and draw fouls down low. The Wildcats rank second in the country in offensive rebound percentage and average 29.5 free throw attempts per game, fifth in the country.

The Wolverines have been susceptible on the boards this season, ranking 105th in defensive rebounding percentage. Yet Michigan does a good job of defending without fouling, allowing the fewest free throw attempts per game in the country (14.8).

Consider these stats: Michigan has allowed 18 or fewer free throw attempts in 11 straight games heading into this game; Kentucky has attempted fewer than 18 free throws only once this season, and the Wildcats lost that game against LSU.

Katie Sharp contributed to this post.

Top stats to know: Gators reach Final Four

March, 29, 2014
The Florida seniors have finally gotten over the hump, advancing to the Final Four after three straight losses in the Elite Eight round. The Gators will play in the national semifinals for the first time since 2007, which was the second of their back-to-back national titles.

With the victory, Florida also extended its win streak to 30 games, matching Auburn (1957-59) for the second-longest win streak by an SEC team. The only longer streak was when Kentucky won 32 games in a row in 1954-55.

So how did the Gators get to this point, as the hottest team in the country and just two wins away from its third national championship?

Keys to victory
Patric Young was a key part of Florida's dominance on offense and defense. The Gators outscored Dayton by 20 points in 31 minutes with Young on the court. Young scored 10 points in the paint, two fewer than the Flyers had as a team when he was on the floor.

Florida's press defense disrupted Dayton’s offense all game. The Flyers were held to 18 percent shooting from the field on possessions that started with a full-court press, compared to 51 percent on all other possessions.

Florida outscored Dayton 13-1 on second-chance points, including 5-0 in the second half. The Flyers did not have an offensive rebound after halftime. Late in the second half, the Gators had back-to-back possessions that lasted over a minute, grabbing six offensive rebounds in those two possessions.

Looking ahead
To win the title, the Gators will have to reverse a few trends. No team has entered the tournament averaging fewer than 72 points per game and gone on to win the national championship since the tourney expanded in 1985. The Gators' scoring average was 70.7 points per game two weeks ago.

Florida is the 12th team to go undefeated in conference play, win its conference tournament and then receive a No. 1 seed. None of the previous 11 went on to win the title, including Wichita State Shockers this year.

Florida is the fourth team since seeding began in 1979 to be riding a 30-game win streak entering the Final Four. None of the previous three teams went on to win the title.

However, the Gators do have some history on their side. The only other time they were a No. 1 seed was in 2007, which ended with the team hoisting the national championship trophy in Atlanta.

Florida won its Round of 64, Round of 32, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games by double digits. Five of the past six teams to win each of those four games by double digits went on to win the national championship.

The Gators also entered the tournament as one of five teams ranked in the top 25 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency (17th) and adjusted defensive efficiency (5th). The past 11 national title winners have all been ranked in the top 25 in both categories.

Top stats to know: Saturday's Elite 8 games

March, 29, 2014
The Elite 8 gets underway this evening with two games. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be following.

11 Dayton vs 1 Florida
If Dayton is going to advance to its second Final Four in school history (1967), the Flyers will have to find a way to score against a stout Florida defense. The Gators rank ninth in the country in defensive efficiency and have held 10 straight opponents below their season average in offensive efficiency.

The Flyers are 18-0 this season when they’re above their average in offensive efficiency compared to 8-10 when they’re below their average in that category.

The Flyers will also need to find a way to shut down the Gators offense. In Florida's five least efficient offensive performances this season, the Gators went 3-2. It was their only two losses of the season (at Wisconsin, at Connecticut).

The Flyers have held their three NCAA Tournament opponents -- Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford -- to an average of 14.1 points per 100 possessions below their average offensive efficiency.

Dayton is shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers in its last eight games, making seven 3-pointers per game during that span. Florida is holding opponents to 20 percent shooting on 3-point attempts over its last six games (since the start of the SEC Tournament). The Gators haven't allowed more than four 3-pointers made in any of their last eight games.

Dayton is averaging 16.7 transition points per game in its three NCAA Tournament games, including 20 against Ohio State and 21 against Stanford. Florida only allows 9.4 transition points per game this season, but allowed 24 against UCLA in the Sweet 16.

2 Wisconsin vs 1 Arizona
Offensive and defensive juggernauts collide when Wisconsin and Arizona meet tonight. Wisconsin ranks 11th in offensive efficiency, averaging 115.9 points per 100 possessions. Arizona is third in the country in defensive efficiency, allowing 89.9 points per 100 possessions.

The Badgers have played four games this season against teams ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, going 3-1 in those games (lost to Ohio State; defeated Florida, Saint Louis and Virginia).

The Wildcats have held opponents below their season average in offensive efficiency in 36 of 37 games this season. In its last six games, Arizona has held its opponents to 18.6 points per 100 possessions below their season average in offensive efficiency.

If there’s one area to focus on, it might be the 3-point line. Wisconsin is shooting 41 percent on 3-pointers in its last six games and Arizona's defense has been susceptible to 3-point shooting, allowing opponents to shoot 39 percent on 3-pointers in its last nine games.

Switching the tables, Wisconsin will be challenged by an Arizona team that has been hot on the offensive end lately. The Wildcats are averaging 19.1 more points per 100 possessions than their opponents' season average over the last six games.

Arizona has lost each of its three least-efficient offensive performances this season. In their eight least-efficient offensive performances, the Wildcats are just 4-4 with each win coming by five or fewer points.

Top stats to know: Friday's Sweet 16

March, 28, 2014
The Sweet 16 continues tonight with four games. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be following.

(11) Tennessee vs (2) Michigan
The Wolverines are trying to reach a second straight Elite 8 (lost in title game last year to Louisville). Tennessee has been to just one Elite 8 in its history, when it lost to Michigan State in 2010.

Michigan's hot outside shooting has carried the team in its first two wins. The Wolverines are 21 of 45 from beyond the arc and have made 50 percent of their jump shots, second-best among tournament teams.

Over its last nine games (during which it has gone 8-1) Tennessee has held its opponents to just 26.6 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 27 percent on jump shots.

(8) Kentucky vs (4) Louisville
Get ready for another epic showdown of these Bluegrass state rivals. This is the fourth time in NCAA Tournament history that the previous two national champions will play against each other in the NCAA Tournament.

In each of the three previous occurrences, the defending champion has defeated champion from the previous season.

There will be two key matchups to watch in this game.

The first one is on the offensive glass. The Wildcats rank second in the country in offensive rebound percentage and average 15.6 second-chance points per game, the best among major conferences.

Louisville is not a great defensive rebounding team, ranking 241st in the nation, and was outscored 17-6 in second-chance points by Kentucky in their meeting on Dec. 28.

The other key matchup is whether Kentucky can handle Louisville's pressure defense, which forces 17.4 turnovers per game, the second-most in the country. Louisville is 19-0 this season when forcing 17 or more turnovers; Kentucky is 16-2 when committing 11 or fewer turnovers.

(7) Connecticut vs (3) Iowa State
The only other time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament was in a Round of 64 win by the Cyclones in 2012. That was Jim Calhoun's final game.

With Georges Niang out for Iowa State and Connecticut lacking a dominant post offense, this game could come down to who executes better on the perimeter.

Iowa State ranks in the top 25 in 3-point attempts per game and 3-pointers made per game this season, while UConn ranks 22nd in the country in 3-point field goal percentage.

Both teams allow their opponents to make more than a third of their shots from beyond the arc, though the Huskies do a better job of limiting 3-point attempts (18.3 per game) than the Cyclones (21.2).

(4) Michigan State vs (1) Virginia
Virginia is hoping to avoid the fate of another recent first-place ACC squad. Last year Miami was the regular-season and postseason ACC champs, and they lost in the Sweet 16 vs Marquette.

The Michigan State seniors are trying to avoid making history as well. Every four-year player under coach Tom Izzo has reached the Final Four, and this is the last chance for Adreian Payne and Keith Appling to make it.

The key matchup to watch in this game will be whether Virginia can slow down the Spartans' fastbreak offense.

Transition makes up 21.9 percent of Michigan State’s offensive plays, the eighth-highest rate in the country, and the Spartans average 18.9 transition points per game, 14th-most in the nation. Virginia allows 7.4 transition points per game, third-fewest in the nation, and only 10.9 percent of Virginia’s defensive plays are transition, the fifth-lowest rate in the country.