Every team, from the favorite to a No. 16 seed, has its strengths and weaknesses. But a few NCAA tournament teams really stand out from the crowd this year.
Villanova is a favorite to win it all, thanks to its fearsome offense, which averages 122.7 points per 100 possessions, the best figure in Division I. That is also the highest offensive rating since 2009-10, when College-Basketball-Reference began keeping the stat. Six Villanova players average at least 10 points a game, led by the third-year guard Jalen Brunson and the swingman Mikal Bridges, and forward Eric Paschall is shooting 64 percent from the floor. Villanova has scored 100 points four times this season, and at least 90 in 10 other games.
Worst: Wright State, the No. 14 seed in the South Region, is averaging 102.3 points per 100 possessions, better than more than 100 Division I schools but worst among those that made the tournament.
Cincinnati gave up a mere 86 points per 100 possessions this season while racing to a 30-4 record.
“Up until now, it’s probably the best defensive team that’s probably played at Cincinnati, ever,” coach Mick Cronin told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re not relying on playing one defense. Contrary to popular belief, we play more than one defense. We just don’t talk about it.”
College-Basketball-Reference rates Bearcats forward Gary Clark as the best defensive player in the country and has three other Cincinnati players in the top 20.
Worst: Texas Southern, the only team in the tournament with a losing record (15-19), allows 109.1 points per 100 possessions.
— 3-Point Shooting
Purdue shot 42 percent from the 3-point line, although Villanova made the most total 3s. Guard Dakota Mathias made 46 percent of his attempts, the best figure of any player in the tournament, with three other starters hitting at 39 percent or more.
Worst: Texas is not filled with sharpshooters this year, hitting only 32 percent of its 3-point attempts.
— Defending the 3
Penn’s opponents shot only 29 percent from outside the 3-point line. Top-seeded Kansas (40 percent on the season) will test that in the first round.
Worst: Surprisingly, North Carolina struggled to defend the 3, allowing 38-percent shooting to opponents. Virginia shot 53 percent (9 for 17) against the Tar Heels in the ACC title game.
Bring your oxygen tanks when playing Lipscomb, a No. 15 seed that likes to run. The team averaged 77 possessions per game this season. Oklahoma and Marshall are close behind.
Slowest: For the third year in a row, Virginia was the most methodical team in the nation, averaging 60.5 possessions. It worked, as the Cavaliers’ 31-2 record attests. The team never gave up more than 68 points in a game. If it meets the defensive wizards from Cincinnati in the regional final, consider betting the under.
— Passing, Rebounding, Shot Blocking
Michigan State, a No. 3 seed, looks good from a lot of analytic angles. The Spartans lead the nation in assist percentage (Cassius Winston averages 7 per game), rebound percentage (Nick Ward and Miles Bridges, 7 per game), and shot-blocking percentage (Jaren Jackson Jr., 3 per game). Those numbers have prompted a lot of prognosticators to see the third-seeded Spartans as a top contender to win the tough Midwest bracket.
Worst: Passing, College of Charleston; rebounding, Marshall; shot-blocking, South Dakota State.
— From the Line
Davidson makes 80 percent of its free throws. But its most famous graduate is unimpressed. Stephen Curry made 88 percent in college and is at 90 percent for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Worst: Trailing New Mexico State late? Consider fouling. The Aggies shoot only 64 percent from the line as a team.
— Getting to the Line
Drawing fouls is a skill, and often an underrated one. Cal State Fullerton managed 0.44 free throw attempts for every field goal attempt, with guard Kyle Allman getting to the line an average of eight times a game.
Worst: Though Davidson usually makes its free throws, it does not draw that many, just 0.25 for every field goal attempt.
— Protecting the Ball
Of all the teams in the NCAA field, it was 12th-seeded South Dakota State that took care of the ball better than any other, surrendering it just 12.2 times per 100 possessions.
Worst: Missouri, by contrast, was a little sloppy, averaging 18.2. Seven of its players had 1.5 turnovers per game or more.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.