Final Four Power Rankings: Louisville team to beat in Atlanta
Ranking the Final Four teams in order of most to least likely to cut down the nets in Atlanta ...
1. Louisville (Midwest Regional Champ)
After creating turnovers on 35.9 percent of their defensive possessions during the tournament's first weekend, the Cardinals' production waned in Indy, bringing them down to 26.1 percent overall in the tourney ... which is still the highest of the remaining teams.
All 71 of Louisville's forced turnovers were charted -- with credit assigned to (or split between) individual players -- for this Team Turnometer:
Russ Smith's personal TO percentage of 8.3 is still excellent; combine that with his tournament-leading 104 points scored and you have a clear leader for Most Outstanding Player. What also stands out is that Kevin Ware was the Cardinals' second-best turnover creator, at 6.1 percent. His scoring numbers were limited before his horrific injury against Duke, but his 20 minutes off the bench will be sorely missed in the Final Four.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)
2. Michigan (South Regional Champ)
After mapping out freshman Nik Stauskas' past 107 three-point attempts -- everything that was available on video from Big Ten games and the NCAA tournament -- we can get a clear sense of where he likes to shoot:
Leave him open in the Stauskas Corner (aka the left corner) and he'll shred you. Stauskas is 23-of-42 from that zone and 18-of-65 from everywhere else. Somehow, Florida wasn't wise to this in the Elite Eight: The Gators let him go 6-of-6 from long range ... and five of them came from the Stauskas Corner.
3. Syracuse (East Regional Champ)
Next up for Stauskas: The three-point-killing zone of Syracuse, which has held opponents to just 14-of-92 (or 15.2 percent) from long range in the NCAA tournament.
All 92 of Orange opponents' three-point attempts are charted on the 3Map below, and also flagged as to whether they were challenged or unchallenged shots*:
(*If a Syracuse defender made a respectable close-out on the three, it was considered challenged. Walk-bys or late lunges were not considered respectable closeouts.)
Syracuse has held its tourney opponents to just 3-of-16 from the Stauskas Corner, but it's liable to give up a handful of unchallenged treys in that spot and (especially) at the top of the key. Overall, the Orange challenged 64.1 percent of opponents' long-range attempts, and didn't allow a single unchallenged trey from the right corner.
4. Wichita State (West Regional Champ)
If a Final Four game comes down to one possession after a timeout, which team is most likely to score? For the following chart, each team's after-timeout efficiency numbers were taken from Synergy Sports Technology and then adjusted for defensive strength of schedule:
The samples are reasonably big at this point in the season -- between 450-500 possessions for each team. The gap between Louisville and Wichita State is a sizable 0.130 points per possession, and the gap between Michigan and Syracuse is even larger, at 0.204 PPP. The Power Rankings isn't picking a Louisville-Michigan final solely on the basis of ATO efficiency, but the fact that they both excel in that department could give them an edge in a tight game.