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How Do You Like Your Basketball?

One of the great things about the NCAA Tournament is watching all sorts of teams we don't get to see throughout the year.  ESPN has helped to change this but it is still true for the vast majority of college basketball fans.  If you're a Kansas fan, you've probably seen a lot more Big East than you would like (thanks to ESPN for that, too).  But as far as watching multiple teams from the Big 10 or Pac 10, it just doesn't happen for most fans that don't follow teams from those conferences.  Teams from those conferences still play basketball, its just played differently sometimes. If you've read enough about the tournament, you've read that Wisconsin plays at a snail's pace.  That pace would definitely be a factor if they can get a matchup with Kentucky.  You might have also read about Missouri and Clemson being a great first round matchup because of the way their styles matches.  Both teams press full court and average about 70 possessions a game.  Some fans prefer to watch a deliberate, disciplined team pass the ball around and wait for the defense to make a mistake.  Other fans prefer to watch teams run up and down the court, taking shots all over the floor. 

Hopefully, I can help both fans find the games for them heading into the tournament.  Below you'll find a graph showing the average pace for the six BCS conferences and for the Missouri Valley and Mountain West (included because of a possible 2nd round match-up with Kansas).  Below the graph you'll find a table for each regional.  The table includes the match-ups and each team's pace.  If you're a fan of up and down hoops, try to avoid games that have two teams below 66.

*these numbers are from here and only include conference games.

The Big 12 teams played their conference games at the fastest pace, almost 69 possessions a game.  Texas, Kansas State, and Missouri are the top 3 teams with Colorado a surprising 4th.  Texas A&M and Nebraska tried to turn the Big 12 into the Big 10, averaging a little over 65 possessions each.  Speaking of the Big 10, they play really slow.  Wisconsin wins the Senior Citizen award for averaging 57.6 possessions per game in conference play.  For the last two conferences, the MVC's slowest team was Northern Iowa.  UNLV averaged 66 possessions a game in the Mountain West.

Tournament Games

Midwest Possessions West Possessions East Possessions South Possessions
Kansas 70 Syracuse 71 Kentucky 71 Duke 68
Lehigh 70 Vermont 68 East Tenn State 69 Play in Avg 68
UNLV 70 Gonzaga 70 Texas 74 California 69
Northern Iowa 60 Florida State 68 Wake Forest 72 Louisville 69
Michigan St 67 Butler 65 Temple 63 Texas A&M 67
New Mexico St 72 UTEP 71 Cornell 66 Utah State 63
Maryland 71 Vanderbilt 70 Wisconsin 60 Purdue 66
Houston 72 Murray State 69 Wofford 66 Siena 70
Tennessee 71 Xavier 72 Marquette 65 Notre Dame 65
San Diego State 65 Minnesota 67 Washington 73 Old Dominion 63
Georgetown 66 Pittsburgh 64 New Mexico 68 Baylor 68
Ohio 71 Oakland 73 Montana 64 Sam Houston 71
Oklahoma St 69 BYU 71 Clemson 70 Richmond 68
Georgia Tech 71 Florida 67 Missouri 72 St. Mary's 67
Ohio St 65 Kansas State 72 West Virginia 65 Villanova 73
UC Santa Barbara 68 North Texas 70 Morgan State 71 Robert Morris 68
Range 12 Range 9 Range 14 Range 10
Average 68.25 Average 69.25 Average 68.06 Average 67.69



Maryland and Houston should be an up and down game.  Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech should also be fairly fast paced, not to mention two teams that are pretty evenly matched.  This bracket shouldn't have many real snoozers unless Northern Iowa can control the tempo against UNLV.


If you're looking for a fast paced game, Kansas State and North Texas is a good bet.  The 2nd round could offer a great game between BYU and K-State, two teams that are both good and play an up-tempo game.  If Minnesota gets through the first round, them and Pittsburgh have the potential to play a low 60's possession game.


This is the bracket where different styles could really come into play.  Texas and Wake Forest in the first round looks like it should be a fast paced game, though it is also likely to be fairly sloppy.  Clemson and Missouri should be fun, both average 70+ possessions.  Washington will try to push the ball against Marquette.  Of course, Wisconsin will play in a way that makes it feel like you're watching basketball from the 1950's.  The 2nd round could feature Texas and Kentucky, both above 70 possessions per game.  Missouri or Clemson would try to speed up West Virginia.  Temple and Wisconsin could probably be played half-court and not change anything about the game. 


The South bracket doesn't offer a whole lot of variation, outside of Notre Dame and Purdue.  Notre Dame's pace has slowed to a crawl, their last two games were 49 and 50 possessions.  I'm not sure how much slower it can get with the shot clock. 

Possessions from Statsheet