Two basketball teams meet in a strange gym on short notice. The stakes are all or nothing. It’s called March Madness.
The madness of it is trying to project which team will survive and advance and which will go home.
There are more factors to consider than there are newcomers on the Florida Gulf Coast bandwagon. For today’s lesson, I submit 3-point shooting as a worthy one.
Shooting the long ball is high reward, but also high risk, even in December. NCAA tournament games are played in an unfamiliar arena under white-knuckle pressure.
From a shooter’s perspective, the rims are new and so is the background. Talk about an X factor.
Charting the 32 games played Thursday and Friday, the teams with the better 3-point shooting percentage went 23-9.
The details reveal more. The nine who advanced with a lesser 3-point figure included all four No. 1 seeds, a 2 (Duke) and a 3 (Marquette).
In short, in a mismatch, talent will prevail. Louisville was going to run North Carolina A&T out of town no matter how many 3s it made.
Kansas was going to beat Western Kentucky even if didn’t make a 3-pointer.
In fact, it didn’t. Kansas went 0-for-6 beyond the arc and won anyway.
But 3-point success weighs heavier in the closely seeded matches. Example: 8-seed North Carolina (52.4 percent) beating 9-seed Villanova (19 percent).
In the 32 opening-round games, Ole Miss was the only lower seed to pull an upset (over Wisconsin) despite shooting worse beyond the arc.
The biggest beneficiary was No. 14 seed Harvard (44.4 percent) knocking off No. 3 seed New Mexico (21.4).
Belmont, an 11 seed, had to light it up from long range to have a chance against Arizona. Alas, the Bruins were beaten at their own game, 53 percent to 29.
Moving to the round of 32 and fewer mismatches, 3-point accuracy was the golden rule.
Fifteen of 16 winners won the 3-point percentage duel. The exception was Marquette beating Butler.
La Salle’s 3-point superiority was crucial in a thriller against Ole Miss. Wichita State’s 14-of-28 barrage doomed Gonzaga. Oregon shot 72.7 percent (8-of-11) to overwhelm a good, but ice-cold, Saint Louis (14.3 percent) team.
When Iowa State got hot (48 percent, 12-of-25), Ohio State got hotter. Aaron Craft’s game-winner at the buzzer made it 50 percent from outside for the Buckeyes.
Now we reset for the Sweet 16.
Keep an eye on Los Angeles on Thursday night. After two rounds, Ohio State is hitting 48.5 percent of its treys, but will be challenged Arizona’s jaw-dropping 56.3 percent.
Oregon (48.5), which faces Louisville, and Miami (44.7) against Marquette are the other hot hands to watch.
As for Cinderella — aka Florida Gulf Coast — it was dunks more than treys that vanquished Georgetown and San Diego State. Still, the Eagles check in at a respectable 39 percent, right on par with its next opponent Florida (40 percent).
At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas is struggling at 25 percent. Michigan could be smelling an upset Friday.
Indiana-Syracuse will be interesting Thursday night. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense held Montana and California to a combined 15 percent beyond the arc.
In other words, the Hoosiers better be really rocking inside the 3-point line.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.