Odd Man Out – How did South Carolina Reach the Final Four?

It’s been an interesting tournament this year.  For the first time since 2007, we didn’t have a 13 seed or higher win a game in the opening round.  Bad on my wallet, as there were several prime candidates to pull off the upset (upset picks).  However, upsets are bound to happen, this tournament they just came later.  Particularly of note are Wisconsin dropping Villanova (not too much of a surprise given Wisconsin’s tournament prowess), and South Carolina’s second round defeat of Duke, a perennial favorite to win it all.  What is captivating here is not that a 7th seed upset a 2 seed, its how a team with below average shooting (the most important of the four factors) can pull off a string of victories against superior opponents, at least on paper.

There are a few defensive specialist teams that found there way into this years tournament.  Northwestern, South Carolina, and probably most notable “Press” Virginia.  The latter of which has gotten the most attention, and rightfully so for leading the nation in turnovers forced by a good margin.  However, following close behind them is South Carolina, with an almost equally stifling defense.  It has won them games all year, especially considering their offense is doing them little favors.  Their shooting percentages are towards the league bottom.   They make up for this by collecting offensive rebounds and getting to the foul line quite a bit, to only once again be average free-throw shooters.

So how did a team who lost 6 out of 9 games leading up to the tournament, with an average at best offensive, pull out 4 straight wins over superior opponents?  Lets take a look.

South Carolina consistently was on the boards getting rebounds after their misses.  They have done this all year, but in the tournament are averaging slightly higher than their season average in offensive rebounding.  Defensively they have not let up on forcing turnovers.  In the last four games, they have forced their opponents to turnover the ball over 23.3% of the time in every game, that’s almost 1 in every 4 possessions the opposition is not even getting a shot.  Again this is just slightly higher than their season averages.   So what really changed for South Carolina this year?  They found their shot.  Whether its a streak of good luck or stepping up at the right time, a team that has shot an average of 46% of 2 pointers on the season has stepped up to making just below 55% of them.  On par with the elite shooting offenses in college basketball.  4 games is a very small sample statistically, it could fall into the realm of random luck, or it could be the start of an uptick in shooting efficiency.  The question is how long it will their shooting touch last?  With two games to go, can they hold on to their touch, or will they fade away into final four history?

It call comes down to their next opponent.  Ironically enough Gonzaga has seen and beat the other notable defense-minded teams of Northwestern and West Virginia earlier this tourney.  They excel in shooting defense and have a potent offense of their own.  Odds are South Carolina regresses to their mean, especially against a team with excellent man coverage that hardly fouls the shooter, something the Gamecocks have come to rely on.  If they don’t find their shot, expect the Zags to have a similar performance as they did against Xavier, and turn this game into a blowout.

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March Madness Prop Bets

March Madness Prop Bets
After a thrilling Superbowl weekend, the thought crossed my mind, why don’t other sports offer more prop bets, particularly college basketball’s March Madness?  There are a lot of similarities.  Often times your team is not the one competing so another reason to root for something can be refreshing.  Sure, there is the argument that it is an amateur sport, and we shouldn’t be betting on kids, and the fear that some player may exploit it for profit.  However, how fun would it be to have readily available prop bets for March Madness?  You are throwing money down in your office pool, but once the opening weekend is done and you are all but eliminated wouldn’t it be fun to double down and have a little more action?  March Madness prop bets could be just the ticket.

Lets take a look at some possible examples:

What will be higher throughout March Madness?
+150 Grayson Allen Trips
-200 12 seed vs 5 seed upsets

Number of schools names mispronounced in the opening round?
-300 Over 2.5
+200 Under 1.5

Will Donald Trump fill out a bracket?
– 700 No
+500 Yes

Number of games decided by one point throughout March Madness?
– 110 Over 3.5
– 110 Under 3.5

Which conference will have more wins?
Pac 12  2/1
Big 10  3/2
WCC    2/1

Will the National Champion be a repeat winner?
– 200 Yes
+ 150 No

Will a 16 seed knock off a 1 seed?
Yes  20/1
No   1/20

What will be higher?
The number of games Gonzaga wins
The number of Kentucky players who declare for the draft

Other common types of March Madness prop bets are which seed will end up winning the tournament?  Or how many 1 seeds will reach the Final Four?  However, I particularly enjoy the offbeat comparisons style bets.  A would you rather of atypical scenarios, such as the Gonzaga example above.

So sure, you can find some prop bets in your favorite offshore casino.  However I would like to see a little more variety of prop bets come March in Las Vegas.  While to most, 68 teams competing for one title is probably more than enough action to bet on, some times you want to put a few bucks down on something stupid and have a little fun.  Whats the harm in that?   Any interesting prop bets you would like to see?