Furman is participating in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980
Last year, I think I was the only person on the internet who sang the praises of St. Peter’s Basilica before the NCAA tournament. And then it shocked the nation by beating the no at the time. Kentucky with 2 seeds. And the Peacocks won two more games before ending their season just a step behind the Final Four. I’m back this year to make a similar prediction. I’m not going so fancy for this season’s showcase. No team that gets a #14 seed or below really bounces off the March Madness side. Do you know who does this? The Paladins!
Hand me Furman to the Sweet 16 and defeat a Virginia team without the ingredients for a deep tournament run. And whichever team wins this coin-toss 5-12 game between San Diego State and the College of Charleston won’t make it into week two of The Big Dance. I think that’s where the paladins’ luck will stop. Even with all of that Alabama extrajudicial drama, the Crimson Tide has a playground to the Elite Eight and probably the Final Four. It will be a sneaky test starting week two of the tournament for Nate Oats’ team. Let me tell you why.
The data to back it up
If you follow college basketball and don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of it by now KenPom, although that’s no excuse either, as you can still get WiFi under the boulder of your choice. It’s been floating around the internet that every national champion has belonged to two categories since 2004: Top 40 in KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, which is a fancy way of describing the number of points a team scores per 100 ball possessions, adjusted to account for opponent quality. The second group is an ultra-exclusive club that is a top-22 squad in adjusted defensive efficiency. It’s the flipped offensive formula, where the points allowed depend on how well each team plays an offensive. Furman belongs to one of these two groups. Paladins are #33 in the adjusted offense category. Virginia belongs to neither.
The Cavaliers barely miss the cut in defensive efficiency, ranked 25th in Division I and a whopping 0.3 points off the cutoff at 22nd Seton Hall. The weaker category for both teams looks devastatingly worse for the Paladins, who rank 183rd on the defensive end, almost exactly college basketball’s median team. Virginia’s No. 74 attack isn’t a bad mark, but it’s not great either, and with the style Tony Bennett’s side enjoys playing, it’s hardly a needlemaker. If Furman’s offense can continue to score like it has for most of this season and trouble Virginia’s defenders better than those of middle-class ACC schools, the Cavaliers are in big trouble because their offense isn’t good enough to save them, even against an average DI defense.
Most of this Furman team was returning from last year’s team, which was a 30-foot buzzer beater from qualifying for the NCAA tournament. The Paladins watched as Chattanooga headed to The Big Dance, in a place they believed rightfully belonged to them. And after defeating those same Mocs in this year’s SoCon tournament finals, Furman is entering the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980. Imagine waiting to return to March Madness for the first time since Jimmy Carter left office. And think directly about the painful loss for over a year. The Paladins used that chip on their shoulder all season to dominate their league, while Virginia scoring 75+ points in a game is a small miracle.
All-time No. 13 seeds are 31-117 in the NCAA tournament since the tournament field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The most recent No. 13 sets to defeat the No. 4 were North Texas and Ohio, who defeated Purdue and Virginia, respectively, in the 2021 Indiana-only tournament. Wait, is Virginia prone to upset the 4-13? Yup, and this Furman team is stylistically similar to the Bobcats team from two seasons ago. The Paladins have a seasoned veteran core that can shoot out lights from anywhere on the ground. That’s why Furman is the fifth-best low-major offensive team in the country. And Virginia won’t be able to stop this barrage.
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https://deadspin.com/ncaa-tournament-mens-basketball-furman-virginia-1850225381 Furman is participating in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1980