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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | March 16, 2022

Why Indiana is the First Four team most likely to go on a run in the 2022 tournament

Predicting the entire 2022 men's bracket, line by line

This story has been updated to reflect No. 12 seed Indiana's 66-58 win over No. 12 seed Wyoming on Tuesday.

Since the NCAA men's basketball tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011, at least one school that started the tournament in the First Four has won a game in the Round of 64 almost every single year. The 2019 NCAA tournament was the only time it didn't happen, but the mark has been achieved in nine of the last 10 NCAA tournaments, First Four teams have combined for 18 wins in the NCAA tournament after the First Four, including VCU and UCLA's Final Four runs in 2011 and 2021, respectively.

So, which of the at-large teams in the First Four of the 2022 NCAA Tournament โ€” No. 11 seeds Notre Dame and Rutgers, and No. 12 seeds Wyoming and Indiana โ€” is the most likely to win a first-round game, let alone potentially advance to the second or third weekend?

Here's what the data say. Advanced stats are courtesy of kenpom.com.

No. 12 seed Indiana is arguably the First Four participant that best fits the profile of a potential dark horse team. While the Hoosiers were among the final at-large teams chosen for the field because of their resume, their predictive metrics, namely those of kenpom.com, suggest that they're a stronger team than their double-digit seed would suggest at face value.

At the time of the selection show, Indiana was ranked No. 36 on kenpom.com, 28 spots higher than fellow First Four team Rutgers, for example. As shown in the scatter plot below, which graphs the NCAA tournament seeds and the pre-NCAA tournament kenpom.com rankings of the top 50 teams in the selection committee's overall seed list, Indiana's ranking on the site was better than three of the five No. 11 seeds, half of the No. 10 seeds, three No. 9 seeds and half of the No. 7 seeds.

Due to the similar rankings of New Mexico State and Richmond, they're labeled as "N" and "R," respectively, on the scatter plot. Notre Dame has been shortened to "ND."

As Indiana showed in the Big Ten tournament with wins over Michigan and Illinois, and a last-second loss to Big Ten tournament champion Iowa, the Hoosiers can compete with, and beat, better teams.

Here's a closer look at what makes the Hoosiers a top-40 team in the eyes of kenpom.com's metrics.

The Big Ten's best defense

Within conference play, Indiana's defense ranked first in efficiency, allowing 100.8 points per 100 possessions, per kenpom.com. For reference, the national average across DI men's basketball this season is 103.1.

(Here's the complete history of how teams in the First Four have fared.)

The Hoosiers' 13.3-percent block rate โ€” which means they blocked roughly two out of every 15 2-point shots opponents attempted โ€” also ranked first during Big Ten play. Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis' individual block rate nearly doubled year over year, from 4.8 percent to 8.8 percent, as he has blocked a career-high 2.4 shots per game in the first season of coach Mike Woodson's tenure. Reserve forward Jordan Geronimo's seven-percent block rate ranks second on the team.

Both forwards had standout performances in Indiana's win over Wyoming in their NCAA tournament debuts. Jackson-Davis had 29 points on 10-for-16 shooting and nine rebounds. Geronimo came off the bench to add a season-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

Overall, Indiana's defense ranked No. 21 nationally in efficiency prior to the NCAA tournament and in our analysis of dark horse NCAA tournament teams, meaning teams seeded No. 7 or worse that have made the Elite Eight or further, 15 of the 22 dark horse teams ranked in the top 30 nationally in offensive or defensive efficiency prior to the NCAA tournament.

Indiana certainly checks that box.

A surging point guard

Another one of the qualities of NCAA tournament dark horse teams is having a go-to bucket-getter, typically a high-usage and highly efficient guard or wing.

In the last month, senior point guard Xavier Johnson, a transfer from Pittsburgh, fits that bill. In Indiana's last eight games, Johnson averages 18.1 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds on 45.5-percent 2-point shooting, 45.2-percent 3-point shooting and 89.6-percent free-throw shooting with an average offensive rating per game of 117.1, which is higher than his season-long average of 103.6 and the national average of 103.1. He earned the game MVP honors from kenpom.com in three of those eight games, as his play in the last month is that of an all-conference player.

๐Ÿ”ฎ CRYSTAL BALL: Every first-round game in the NCAA tournament, picked

For the season, Johnson has the team's highest usage rate, 27.8 percent, which means when he's on the floor for the Hoosiers, more than a quarter of the team's offensive possessions end in Johnson making a shot, Johnson missing a shot that's rebounded by the defense or Johnson committing a turnover. The ball is in his hands more than any other Indiana player and lately, that's led to a lot of productive results, as Johnson is arguably playing the best basketball of his career, when you consider the competition, the stakes and the quality of his team.

Jackson-Davis, who averaged 25.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game on 66.7-percent shooting in Indiana's three Big Ten tournament games, is the team's leading scorer and presumably the focal point of opponents' scouting reports because of his singular talent that allows him to take over a game. But Johnson's visible passion and recent play has made him integral to how far Indiana advances in the NCAA tournament.

Indiana's track record against tournament teams

Indiana went 5-10 in its 15 games against teams that made the NCAA tournament. Its last four losses to that group of teams each came by three points or less, and two others by a five-point margin. At the very least, Indiana is typically competitive against quality opponents. It took this insane shot from Jordan Bohannon and this clutch one from Ron Harper Jr. for the Hoosiers to fall in two of their last three losses.

Two of Indiana's fairly infrequent blowout losses โ€” to Michigan by 18 and Illinois by 17, both at home โ€” came against opponents that the Hoosiers have since beaten on a neutral floor in the Big Ten tournament.

Indiana's first-round opponent is No. 5 seed Saint Mary's, which is 5-5 against NCAA tournament teams, which includes a win over No. 16 seed Texas Southern.

Play the official Bracket Challenge Game

Here's the case for the other First Four teams

Indiana isn't the only team assigned to the First Four that college basketball fans could be optimistic about, so here are the cases for the other three.

Notre Dame

There are certainly some positive aspects to Notre Dame's profile as a potential dark horse, as the Fighting Irish rank No. 29 nationally in offensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, which meets the aforementioned top-30 cutoff of dark horse candidates. They make 37.7 percent of their 3-pointers and roughly 43 percent of their total shot attempts come from behind the arc, so they're a high-volume and highly accurate 3-point shooting team, which can certainly be critical in pulling off an upset or two in March.

This is Notre Dame coach Mike Brey's 13th NCAA tournament appearance at the school, so perhaps you value teams with a veteran head coach when you fill out your NCAA tournament bracket. The school made back-to-back Elite Eight runs in 2015 and 2016. Six of the team's seven rotation players are upperclassmen and the one true freshman, guard Blake Wesley, is arguably the most talented player on the team. Every rotation player is at least 6-foot-3 and all but one are 6-foot-5 or taller.

Notre Dame is 4-6 against NCAA tournament teams, with one of the wins coming against No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Rutgers

Not only is Rutgers the only one of these four schools that made the NCAA tournament last season, when the Scarlet Knights ended a decades-long NCAA tournament drought and an even longer streak without winning a game in the Big Dance, but they're also 8-6 against NCAA tournament teams this season.

Five of the team's last eight wins have come by three points or fewer, as have seven of its 18 wins on the season, which could cut both ways in a glass half-empty or glass half-full scenario. Does Rutgers "know how to win close games," or some other trope or cliche about a team with success in competitive games, or do the Scarlet Knights, which rank No. 289 in tempo and No. 107 in offensive efficiency, just operate with relatively small margins for error?

It's hard to pinpoint what Rutgers is great at from an analytical perspective. Nearly 59 percent of its made baskets are assisted and it ranked first in Big Ten play with a 10-percent steal rate defensively, but the Scarlet Knights are simply above average in a lot of statistical categories. They benefit from the coaching of Steve Pikiell and the play of seniors Harper, Geo Baker and Caleb McConnell, plus the athletic Clifford Omoruyi, who's among the nation's leaders in dunks.

Rutgers is almost the opposite of Notre Dame: the results are there, even if its advanced statistics don't jump off the screen.

Here's the schedule for the tournament โ€” click or tap on each game to go right to that live stream.

2022 March Madness schedule, livestream links

Click or tap on any of the games below to be taken directly to that live stream or box score.

GAMES TIME TV CITY Venue
National Championship โ€” Monday, April 4
No. 1 Kansas 72, No. 8 North Carolina 69 9:20 p.m. TBS New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome
RESULTS TIME NETWORK CITY SITE
First Four โ€” Tuesday, March 15
No. 16 Texas Southern 76, No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 67 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 12 Indiana 66, No. 12 Wyoming 58 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Four โ€” Wednesday, March 16
No. 16 Wright State 93, No. 16 Bryant 82 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 11 Notre Dame 89,ย No. 11 Rutgers 87 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Round โ€” Thursday, March 17
No. 11 Michigan 75, No. 6 Colorado State 63 12:15 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 Providence 66, No. 13 South Dakota State 57 12:40 p.m. truTV Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 9 Memphis 64, No. 8 Boise State 53 1:45 p.m. TNT Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 1 Baylor 85, No. 16 Norfolk State 49 2 p.m. TBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 3 Tennessee 88, No. 14 Longwood 56 2:45 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 12 Richmond 67,ย  No. 5 Iowa 63 3:10 p.m. truTV Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 1 Gonzaga 93, No. 16 Georgia State 72 4:15 p.m. TNT Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 8 North Carolina 95, No. 9 Marquette 63 4:30 p.m. TBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 12 New Mexico State 70, No. 5 UConn 63 6:50 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 15 Saint Peter's 85, No. 2 Kentucky 79 (OT) 7:10 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 5 Saint Mary's (CA) 82, No. 12 Indiana 53 7:20 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 9 Creighton 72, No. 8 San Diego State 69 (OT) 7:27 p.m. truTV Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 4 Arkansas 75, No. 13 Vermont 71 9:20 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 7 Murray State 92, No. 10 San Francisco 87 (OT) 9:40 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 UCLA 57, No. 13 Akron 53 9:50 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 1 Kansas 83, No. 16 Texas Southern 56 9:57 p.m. truTV Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
First Round โ€” Friday, March 18
No. 7 Ohio State 54, No. 10 Loyola Chicago 41ย  12:15 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Auburn 80, No. 15 Jacksonville State 61 12:40 p.m. truTV Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 3 Texas Tech 97, No. 14 Montana State 62 1:45 p.m. TNT San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 3 Purdue 78, No. 14 Yale 56 2 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 2 Villanova 80, No. 15 Delaware 60 2:45 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 68, No. 7 No. 7 Southern California 66 3:10 p.m. truTV Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 11 Notre Dame 78, No. 6 Alabama 64 4:15 p.m. TNT San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 6 Texas 81, No. 11 Virginia Tech 73 4:30 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 4 Illinois 54, No. 13 Chattanooga 53 6:50 p.m. TNT Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Duke 78, Cal State Fullerton 61 7:10 p.m. CBS Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 11 Iowa State 59, No. 6 LSU 54 7:20 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 1 Arizona 87, No. 16 Wright State 70 7:27 p.m. truTV San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 5 Houston 82, No. 12 UAB 68 9:20 p.m. TNT Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 7 Michigan State 74, No. 10 Davidson 73 9:40 p.m. CBS Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 3 Wisconsin 67, No. 14 Colgate 60 9:50 p.m. TBS Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 9 TCU 69, No. 8 Seton Hall 42 9:57 p.m. truTV San Diego, California Viejas Arena
Second Round โ€” Saturday, March 19
No. 8 North Carolina 93, No. 1 Baylor 86 (OT) 12:10 p.m. CBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 1 Kansas 79, No. 9 Creighton 72 2:40 p.m. CBS Fort Worth, Texas Dickies Arena
No. 11 Michigan 76, No. 3 Tennessee 68 5:15 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 Providence 79, No. 12 Richmond 51 6:10 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 4 UCLA 72, No. 5 Saint Mary's 56 7:10 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
No. 15 Saint Peter's 70, No. 7 Murray State 60 7:45 p.m. CBS Indianapolis, Indiana Gainbridge Fieldhouse
No. 4 Arkansas 53, No. 12 New Mexico State 48 8:40 p.m. TNT Buffalo, New York KeyBank Center
No. 1 Gonzaga 82, No. 9 Memphis 78 9:40 p.m. TBS Portland, Oregon Moda Center
Second Round โ€” Sunday, March 20
No. 5 Houston 68, No. 4 Illinois 53 12:10 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Villanova 71, No. 7 Ohio State 61 2:40 p.m. CBS Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania PPG Paints Arena
No. 2 Duke 85, No. 7 Michigan State 76 5:15 p.m. CBS Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 11 Iowa State 54, No. 3 Wisconsin 49 6:10 p.m. TNT Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 3 Texas Tech 59, No. 11 Notre Dame 53 7:10 p.m. TBS San Diego, California Viejas Arena
No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 79, No. 2 Auburn 61 7:45 p.m. truTV Greenville, South Carolina Bon Secours Wellness Arena
No. 3 Purdue 81, No. 6 Texas 71 8:40 p.m. TNT Milwaukee, Wisconsin Fiserv Forum
No. 1 Arizona 85, No. 9 TCU 80 (OT) 9:40 p.m. TBS San Diego, California Viejas Arena
Sweet 16 โ€” Thursday, March 24
No. 4 Arkansas 74, No. 1 Gonzaga 68 7:09 p.m. CBS San Francisco, California Chase Center
No. 2 Villanova 63, No. 11 Michigan 55 7:29 p.m. TBS San Antonio, Texas AT&T Center
No. 2 Duke 78, No. 3 Texas Tech 73 9:39 p.m. CBS San Francisco, California Chase Center
No. 5 Houston 72, No. 1 Arizona 60 9:59 p.m. TBS San Antonio, Texas AT&T Center
Sweet 16 โ€” Friday, March 25
No. 15 Saint Peter's 67, No. 3 Purdue 64 7:09 p.m. CBS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center
No. 1 Kansas 66, No. 4 Providence 61 7:29 p.m. TBS Chicago, Illinois United Center
No. 8 North Carolina 73, No. 4 UCLA 66 9:39 p.m. CBS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center
No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 70, No. 11 Iowa State 56 9:59 p.m. TBS Chicago, Illinois United Center
Elite Eight โ€”ย  Saturday, March 26
No. 2 Villanova 50, No. 5 Houston 44 6:09 p.m. TBS San Antonio, Texas AT&T Center
No. 2 Duke 78, No. 4 Arkansas 69 8:49 p.m. TBS San Francisco, California Chase Center
Elite Eight โ€” Sunday, March 27
No. 1 Kansas 76, No. 10 Miami (Fla.) 50 2:20 p.m. CBS Chicago, Illinois United Center
No. 8 North Carolina 69, No. 15 Saint Peter's 49 5:05 p.m. CBS Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Wells Fargo Center
Final Four โ€” Saturday, April 2
No. 1 Kansas 81, No. 2 Villanova 65 6:09 p.m. TBS New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome
No. 8 North Carolina 81, No. 2 Duke 77 8:49 p.m. TBS New Orleans, Louisiana Caesars Superdome

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