2017 NCAA Tournament: Stats, facts to know to fill out a March Madness bracket

Download the CBS Sports App today and get instant tournament news and alerts, plus play Brackets!

Let’s cram some more information into that head of yours and really make you all the more confident about your NCAA Tournament picks.

Which of course will be brutalized by Thursday night.

Still! People love to have stats, trends and perspective when filling out their brackets. I totally get it. That’s why I love putting together this post every year. Now, this information is guaranteed to help you finish near the top of your pool, so it can’t hurt (OK, it definitely can hurt).

For example, last year Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders was the worst foul-shooting team in the field and  Michigan State Spartans was the best 3-point shooting team in the field.

And then Middle Tennessee utterly handled Michigan State. So who knows. 

Here we go.

  • Highest-scoring team: UCLA Bruins (90.4 points per game).
  • Lowest-scoring team: Virginia Cavaliers (66.6 points per game).
  • Fastest team: UCLA (72.8 possessions per game).
  • Slowest team: Virginia (58.5 possessions per game).
  • Best free-throw shooting team: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (79.9 percent).
  • Worst free-throw shooting team: Seton Hall Pirates (64.3).
  • Best 3-point shooting team: Marquette Golden Eagles (43.0).
  • Worst 3-point shooting team: Texas Southern Tigers (29.6).

Most efficient offenses, adjusted points scored per 100 possessions:

  1. Oklahoma State Cowboys (124.8)
  2. Villanova Wildcats (122.8) 
  3. UCLA (122.7)

Most efficient defenses, adjusted points allowed per 100 possessions:

  1. Virginia (87.0) 
  2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (87.7) 
  3. South Carolina Gamecocks (88.5)

If you want a chance to win, you need a top-40 per-possession defense heading into the tournament. Guard play is also pivotal. To wit: 

  • Best scorer: South Dakota State’s Mike Daum (25.3)
  • Best rebounder: Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado (13.1)
  • Best assist man: UCLA’s Lonzo Ball (7.7)

79: This is the 79th NCAA Tournament. Thirty-five programs have won a national title dating to 1939, when Oregon Ducks , a No. 3 seed in the Midwest in this year’s field, won its only championship. That first Final Four and national title game, coincidentally, was hosted by ... Northwestern Wildcats . The Wildcats, finally making their Big Dance debut, are seeded eighth in the West.

1: The Gonzaga Bulldogs are the highest seeded team in the field without a national title.

5/1: Duke’s odds, as a No. 2 seed, to win the national championship. The Blue Devils are the favorite. It is almost unheard of that a second seed is Vegas’ top choice (see all teams’ title odds here).

17.9: The percentage of brackets at CBSSports.com that have Villanova winning it all, the most popular pick.

14.2: According to our Bracket Voodoo, that’s North Carolina Tar Heels ’s chances, the highest of any team, of winning the national title. For perspective, last year’s Kansas Jayhawks team team was slated at 29 percent at the start of the tournament. In 2015, then-undefeated Kentucky Wildcats started the tournament at 41 percent. This year is more much wide open. Duke Blue Devils , despite being the favorite in Vegas, ranks eighth here.

Here are the nine most likely teams to reach the Final Four. Notice that Virginia, a No. 5 seed, is in this cluster.  

champ-win-prob-table.jpg

1: Only three times has the No. 1 overall seed won the NCAA Tournament since the selection committee began ranking the No. 1s in 2004: Florida Gators (2007), Kentucky (‘12) and Louisville Cardinals (‘13). Villanova is this year’s No. 1 overall seed and only the second since ‘04 to win a national championship and return the next year atop the seed list.

15: Villanova has 15 wins against teams in the field, the most of any participating. Teams with no wins against 2017 tournament teams: UC Davis, Kent State, New Mexico State, North Dakota.

O-fer: Infamously, no team has lost its first conference tournament game and then won a national title. This year, you should be suspicious of Kansas, Louisville, Baylor Bears and Purdue Boilermakers , among others.

16: We know who has the most wins and fewest losses (Gonzaga at 32-1). But the most losses? South Dakota State Jackrabbits (18-16), which fittingly will play Gonzaga. 

21: Vermont’s winning streak is the longest of any tournament team. The last time the Catamounts lost was Dec. 21, to Butler Bulldogs . Vermont Catamounts is the No. 13 seed in the Midwest and faces Purdue on Thursday night.

-22.5: Gonzaga’s 22.5 line against South Dakota State is the biggest of the first round. There are no pick-ems. Here’s every line for every Thursday and Friday game.

9: Coaches with top-four seeds to never have made a Final Four:

  1. Mark Few (Gonzaga)
  2. Sean Miller ( Arizona Wildcats )
  3. Steve Alford (UCLA)
  4. Scott Drew (Baylor)
  5. Chris Holtmann (Butler)
  6. Mike White (Florida)
  7. Matt Painter (Purdue)
  8. Dana Altman (Oregon) 
  9. Leonard Hamilton ( Florida State Seminoles )

58: Combined NCAA tourney wins from Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski and John Calipari over the past seven seasons. Izzo, Krzyzewski, Dean Smith and Lute Olson are the only coaches to make 20 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. 

Krzyzewski-izzo-2015-final-four.jpg
These dudes win a lot in the NCAAs. USATSI

24.7: Average margin of victory for No. 1 seeds over No. 16s in the modern tournament. No. 1 seeds are 128-0. I’m a member of a small club, the club that roots against the 16s versus the 1s every single year

2016: The last time all four No. 1 seeds reached the Elite Eight. Before that, it was 2009.

2008: Famously, the only time all four No. 1s reach the Final Four. But since 2010, only eight of the 28 Final Four appearances have come from No. 1 seeds.

2008: Also the last time a Pac-12 team made the Final Four (UCLA). Many believe that drought ends this year. 

2007: You never wanna go all chalk at the top on Thursday and Friday. The last time we had an NCAA Tournament where the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seeds all won their first-round games was 2007. And in the expanded tournament era, since 1985, it has only happened five times. 

52 vs. 48: No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four 52 times. That’s more than the combined Final Four showings of Nos. 4-16 since seeding began (48). 

No. 2: Only one time in the past 20 NCAA Tournaments have all four No. 2 seeds made the Sweet 16. Simply incredible. And just four times since 1985: ’89, ’95, ’96, ’09. So which No. 2 will you pick to lose in the first or second round? 

11: In the 31 tournaments since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the average total number of the Final Four seeds. Last season was 15: North Carolina (1), Villanova (2), Oklahoma Sooners (2), Syracuse Orange (10). What’s your total? 

12: Every seed, from 1-11, has now made a Final Four. The next frontier is getting a 12 there. 

7: Though 7-10 games feel like 8-9 games, they’re not. The 10s have never swept the 7s with the exception of one year. 

59.8-to-1: Per bracketodds.com’s calculator, those are the chances we’ll have four No. 1 seeds reach the Final Four. A common Final Four this year: Duke (2), Kansas (1), Arizona (2), UCLA (3). The odds of that: 28.8.

9: The ACC’s nine bids lead all conferences. This is the first time a league not named the Big East has sent more than seven teams to the NCAA Tournament. The Big East and Big Ten sent seven apiece this season. 

11 of 19: In the past 19 years, 11 national champions won their conference tournament.

35: Clemson Tigers , the No. 35 team in KenPom, is the highest-rated club to not make the field. Last year, 34th-ranked Saint Mary’s owned that title. 

33: Illinois State’s 33 RPI means it is the highest-rated team in that dubious metric to not be included in this year’s tournament.

61: Marquette’s 61 RPI is the lowest of any at-large team in the field. For Syracuse fans, the Orange got left out at No. 84. Last year’s Syracuse team got in with a 72 RPI. 

marquette.jpg
Marquette’s RPI is hardly marquee. USATSI

6: In the past six years, a No. 7 seed or lower has cracked the Elite Eight. 

25: It has been 25 years since a sixth seed made the Final Four. That season, it was Chris Webber and the Fab Five at Michigan Wolverines .  

+.120: Texas Southern rates as the “luckiest” team in the field, per KenPom. In the past 15 NCAA Tournaments, the luckiest team in the field lost its first game 13 times.

27: Xavier Musketeers  has the most NCAA Tournament appearances (27) of anyone in the field to not make a Final Four.

2,619: The distance from the University of Rhode Island Rams to the Sacramento airport. The Rams have, by far, the longest opening trip of anyone in the tournament. 

13: A No. 13 seed has beaten a No. 4 in six of the past eight NCAA Tournaments. The most trendy pick is East Tennessee State over Florida.

14: A No. 14 has beaten a No. 3 in four straight NCAA Tournaments. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles over Florida State is the upset du jour for 2017.

11: Iona is making its 11th NCAA Tournament appearance, but has never won a game, the most fruitless run of any team. 

5: The number of teams making their debut in this NCAA Tournament: Northern Kentucky, North Dakota Fighting Hawks , UC Davis Aggies , Jacksonville State Gamecocks , Northwestern.

0 for 35: The Northeast Conference is still the only league that has never won a game in the first round. Mount St. Mary’s is highly unlikely to break the streak; the Mountaineers play No. 16 New Orleans Privateers in the First Four, then would have to face Villanova. 

28: Most consecutive NCAA tourneys: Kansas (28), Duke (22), Michigan State (20), Gonzaga (19), Wisconsin Badgers (19). KU coach Bill Self is coaching his 17th straight NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed or better. Incredible.

24: Combined national titles in the South, all from the top three seeds: UCLA (11), Kentucky (8) and North Carolina (5).

8: North Carolina has never not made the Elite Eight as a No. 1 seed under Roy Williams. 

8: Kansas is in its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. No other team has ever done this (John Wooden’s UCLA run was pre-seeding). 

2.91: Average seasons of playing experience for North Carolina Central Eagles , the most of any team in the field, followed by New Orleans, Iowa State Cyclones and East Tennessee State. Kentucky, at .95 years of experience, is last according to KenPom. The five least experienced teams are Kentucky, Southern California Trojans , Arizona, Michigan State and Maryland Terrapins .

43: A No. 12 seed has won 43 first-round games since the field expanded 1985. The 1988, 2000, ‘07 and ‘15 tournaments are the only ones since the field expanded in 1985 to not have a 12th seed win.

.840: Michigan State coach Tom Izzo’s win percentage in the second round and Elite Eight. He is 21-4 in those games (i.e., on two-day turnaround). If Michigan State beats Miami, it would then likely face Kansas, which has only made the Final Four once in six tries as a No. 1 seed under Bill Self. 

20-17: Since seeding the field began, No. 1 seeds have more national titles (20) than the rest of the seeds combined (17).

10-15: Pick at least one double-digit seed to reach the Sweet 16, because it has happened all but two years since ’85 (1995, 2007). And 15 times there have been at least three double-digit seeds who made the Sweet 16. 

7: Since 1980, there have been seven reigning champions who’ve made the Final Four the next season. Villanova will try to be the eighth. Florida was the most recent, the Gators winning back-to-back in 2006-07.

6 for 6: Since the First Four was initiated in 2011, every year has seen at least one team -- always one of the at-larges -- win at least one game once it gets to the field of 64. Who’s it gonna be this year: Wake Forest Demon Deacons , Kansas State Wildcats , Providence Friars or USC?

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories