March Madness predictions: Analytics reveal the strongest lineups for each Final Four team
HOUSTON - Expect to see Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu together for long stretches when Villanova plays Oklahoma in the Final Four tonight. The inside-outside tandem has been terrific when sharing the floor during March Madness. That isn't conjecture -- the numbers back it up.
That's according to information provided by Clinch software and by Chris Mast, CEO of Lean Basketball Analytics. The recent Georgia Tech graduate developed the basketball analytics suite to help coaches identify their strongest lineups across a variety of metrics. Six Division I teams subscribed to the service this season, including Oakland, which won seven more games than it did last season. Mast hopes to expand that to 50 next season.
The data shows Villanova has outscored opponents by 77 points in the 92 minutes Arcidiacono, a point guard, and Ochefu a center, shared the court during this NCAA tournament.
Villanova shot 58 percent from the field and 51 percent on 3s when seniors Arcidiacono and Ochefu played together. Their impact was also strong on the defensive end, where teams scored only 0.60 points per possession against the Wildcats. For example, Kansas which had the nation’s 10th best offense (1.18 ppp) according to Ken Pomeroy, mustered only 0.71 ppp when the dynamite tandem was on the floor.
Here's a look inside the other Final Four teams using data provided by Clinch.
The focus of Villanova’s opponent is star Buddy Hield, one of the best shooters in college basketball in recent memory. By now everyone knows about his backcourt mates Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins as well. But coach Lon Kruger’s X-factor during the NCAA tournament has been Dante Buford, a 6-7 freshman who averages just 3.6 points per game.
Buford and Hield are part of the Sooners’ three most effective three-man combinations during the NCAA tournament. Buford has only played 45 minutes in the four games, but he’s helped the Sooners increase or regain the lead during each stretch. Buford, Hield and Woodard are Kruger’s lethal trio. They’ve outscored teams by 32 points in 33.6 minutes together.
In the nightcap, Justin Jackson is a difference maker for North Carolina. The 6-8 forward always seems to be in the right place. Earlier this week, an opposing coach described Jackson as an “elite scorer at the college level.” He has a long, explosive first step is an above-average passer, finds openings along the baseline and at 6-8 is a solid defender on the wing. Another coach said Jackson could produce 20-plus points per night, if necessary.
Although he rarely lands in the headlines, in the last five games - the ACC championship game defeat of Virginia and the NCAA tournament - Jackson has made a host of winning plays. He’s played an integral role in the Tar Heels’ late-season surge.
Jackson, Joel Berry and Brice Johnson played 117 minutes together during that stretch, or 195 possessions. The Tar Heels outscored opponents by 43 points in those games, and ripped off 1.20 points per trip. Jackson is also part of UNC’s most explosive offensive trio, teaming with Marcus Paige and Theo Pinson to generate a staggering 1.91 points per possession over 37 possessions during that same five-game window.
For Syracuse to win tonight, its talented but thin frontcourt has to provide punch against the Tar Heels’ formidable quartet of forwards.
And the starting lineup that’s introduced might not be coach Jim Boeheim’s best bet - or most frequently used five. In the four tournament games, the starting lineup has only played half as many minutes as the most-played lineup - which is the four starters and rangy freshman Tyler Lydon inside rather than DaJuan Coleman.
The lineup with Lydon has outscored the starters by .44 points per possession. Lydon has played half of his tournament minutes in this lineup. They’ve outscored opponents 141-92 in 63 minutes of NCAA tournament action.
When paired with Syracuse’s best two players - Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson - Lydon has helped destroy opponents. That trio has been on the floor for 102 minutes and the Orange has outscored its victims 201-142 during that span.
Lydon, 6-8 and long, is probably Syracuse’s best candidate to find UNC forward Brice Johnson in the zone and try to bother his shot.