My article yesterday looked at some surface statistics of the eight-seeded Colorado Buffaloes and the nine-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers. Today, I'll take a much deeper dive into some advanced statistics and what KenPom has to say about this matchup in the South Region.
Advanced Statistics - Positional Data:
There's a reason teams like to pack the paint against the Panthers. Six of their top-seven players in terms of FGA finish above 56% at the rim. In fact, senior forwards Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, along with sophomore guard Cameron Wright and freshman point guard Josh Newkirk, finish above 60% at the basket. The only one who doesn't is freshman forward Michael Young at just 50.8%.
The Buffaloes definitely don't want Pitt to live in the paint against them. They allow their opponents to take 36.3% of their attempts at the rim; teams convert at 56.2% overall. Like the Panthers, Colorado doesn't have a true rim protector, as they only deter 10.8% of shots around the basket. Of the 89.2% of attempts at the rim that go uncontested, an opposing team's field goal percentage rises to 62.6% - not ideal.
Conversely, the Buffaloes only have one player in their top-seven in terms of FGA (excludes Spencer Dinwiddie) that finishes above 60% at the rim, and it's their 7th guy based on total FGA, freshman forward Dustin Thomas. They do take 40.6% of all their attempts at the rim - the Division I average is 38.3% - but, finish at a rate of only 57.1%, which is below the D-I average of 60.9%.
The one thing this team exceeds the D-I average in is two-point jump shot field goal percentage. Their 37.1% conversion rate is slightly better than the average of 35.7%, but that won't be their plan against Pitt - as it shouldn't be against anybody, really.
The Panthers are only allowing teams to take 30.5% of their attempts around the rim. Like the rebounding issue I highlighted in my last article, whichever team successfully scores in the paint is going to have the advantage.
Colorado - ranks 64th on KenPom, 105.9 offensive rating (141st), 96.2 defensive rating (32nd).
Pitt - ranks18th on KenPom, 115.1 offensive rating (18th), 96.5 defensive rating (37th).
Clearly, KenPom thinks the Panthers are the better team. They have a much better overall rating and offensive rating; the defensive ratings are razor-thin close. Here's one last way to emphasize just how important rebounding the basketball and second-chance opportunities are going to be in this game.
The Buffaloes hold their opponents to only 26% in terms of offensive rebounding percentage, good for 7th in the nation. Pitt boasts a 28.9% (61st) when it comes to opponents offensive rebounding percentage, and like Colorado, they pull in a lot of offensive boards - 37.8%, which is 19th in the country. The Buffaloes are ranked 78th with a percentage of 34.3% on the offensive glass.
Whoever rebounds their own misses, while limiting their opponent on the offensive glass is going to have a distinct advantage.
Another battle is going to occur at the free throw line where the Panthers are 46% in terms of FTA/FGA. That mark puts them at 50th in D-I, but it isn't as good as the 48.3% that Colorado boasts - 34th in the country. The Buffaloes only allow 30.7% for the same metric on the defensive side of the ball, an impressive 15th in the nation. Pitt's 37% isn't too shabby, either.
Both teams like to get to the line, but neither sends their opponents there often. If one team can find a way to manufacture trips to the line, they'll be ahead of the game.
Something is going to have to give. From everything I've researched for this article and my last one, this is going to be a defensive battle with both teams trying to control the glass and the paint, while trying to get to the charity stripe. It might be the one player that gets hot from the outside that makes the difference. With that in mind, Patterson is the best player in this game by a reasonable margin, especially with Dinwiddie out.
Predicted outcome on KenPom: 68 - 63 in favor of Pitt with a 72% chance of winning.