The NCAA Tournament is down to its last four teams after unbelievable upsets by South Carolina and Oregon, a beatdown by Gonzaga, and a heart-stopping finish by the University of North Carolina (UNC). (Those last fifteen seconds of the North Carolina and Kentucky game will not be forgotten anytime soon.) Which team will “cut the net” in each semifinal matchup and emerge into the NCAA championships? Let’s take a closer look at each matchup using data:
Gonzaga (1) vs South Carolina (7)
Experience: This is a matchup between two teams that will participate in the NCAA semifinals for the first time. Experience in the semifinal stage may not be a factor, but it still is important to consider that the Bulldogs have 15 more appearances in the NCAA tournament from 1985 to 2016 than the Gamecocks. A slight edge in experience goes to Gonzaga.
Defense: At this stage of the tournament, it is often the best defensive team that wins the NCAA championship. On the road to the semifinals, both Gonzaga and South Carolina used their defense to stifle their foes. The matchup is an interesting one between two teams ranking first and second in defensive efficiency throughout the tournament, with Gonzaga ranking first and South Carolina ranking second. Again, a slight edge goes to Gonzaga.
X-Factor: Despite the actual and defensive rankings, the X-factor going into the matchup is South Carolina’s momentum. Compared to Gonzaga, one can argue that South Carolina faced higher quality opponents than Gonzaga. South Carolina had to go through second-seeded Duke, third-seeded Baylor, and fourth-seeded Florida in order to win its regionals. On the other hand, the highest ranked opponent that Gonzaga faced was fourth-ranked Western Virginia. The X-factor goes to South Carolina. Will South Carolina’s giant-slaying continue or will Gonzaga finally stop the Gamecocks in their tracks?
UNC (1) vs Oregon (3)
Experience: UNC is the only team among the last four teams which has semifinal appearances in the last 30 years. UNC appeared in 10 semifinal matchups from 1985 to 2016 and won it all three times. UNC’s pedigree will be difficult to ignore. A significant edge in experience goes to the Tar Heels in this matchup.
Defense: Like the other semifinal matchup, this is a matchup between two closely-ranked teams in terms of defensive efficiency. UNC ranks 18th in defensive efficiency while Oregon ranks 19th. While their ratings may not be as impressive as Gonzaga’s or South Carolina’s, the defensive skills of the Tar Heels and the Ducks have been enough to get the job done. Still, a slight edge goes to UNC.
X-Factor: Both teams faced difficult opponents in their quarterfinal matches. UNC faced second-ranked Kentucky while Oregon faced top-ranked Kansas. However, Oregon has three players that can catch fire, especially during clutch time. First, Oregon’s star player, Jordan Bell. Jordan Bell is a versatile player that can change the complexion of a game. He is an efficient player who thrives on dunks, layups, and second-chance points. In a close matchup, the little things can make a huge difference. By the way, Bell also swatted away eight shots by Kansas in their quarterfinal matchup. Second, Tyler Dorsey has been on fire throughout the tournament. He is averaging 24.5 points on an unbelievably efficient 67% shooting. Finally, their “third” best player, Dillon Brooks, is a 6-foot 7-inch wingman who can score from anywhere on the court. Brooks has been clutch making two buzzer-beating game winners during the season. The X-factor goes to Oregon. However, will Oregon’s stars shine during the semifinals or will UNC’s own stars outshine them?
More Data Means Better Informed Decisions
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