Vitale noted there are a few key starting points to look at when filling out your bracket. If you find yourself debating teams, Vitale recommends asking a few key questions.
“You want to look at a few key things. Can a team hit threes? Do they have three-point shooters? How well do they hit free throws? Do they play any defense,” Vitale told Heavy.
We took Vitale up on his suggestions. Here is what we found out. Marquette has the best three-point shooting percentage in the country at 43 percent. The Golden Eagles are seeded 10th in the East and face No. 7 South Carolina in what is essentially a home game for the Gamecocks.
Wichita State, Purdue and SMU are all in the top five in three-point percentages. UCLA and Kansas also shoot the ball well from long range. What teams offer cause for concern?
Top seeded Villanova ranks just 79th in the country with a 37 percent three-point percentage. North Carolina, Butler, Florida, Louisville, Florida State, Baylor and Kentucky all struggle from behind the arc.
As Vitale points out, free-throw percentage is particularly relevant in close games. March Madness tends to have a number of close contests given it’s survive and advance format. Notre Dame and Villanova are the two top free-throw shooting teams in the country. Both teams shoot over 79 percent from the charity stripe.
Oklahoma State, Marquette and Vanderbilt are tournament teams who all rank in the top ten in free-throw percentage. There are a surprising number of teams that struggle at the free-throw line. Wichita State and Virginia Tech rank in the 70’s. A few high seeded teams could find themselves exiting the tournament early.
Baylor (124), Oregon (139), Virginia (150), North Carolina (160), Kentucky (178), Florida State (204), Louisville (232), West Virginia (261) and Kansas (283) are a few of the top-seeded teams that all struggle shooting free throws.
Vitale also wanted to ease everyone’s fears about Gonzaga. The Zags went 32-1 this season but have been met with skepticism by fans given their 78th ranked strength of schedule.
“This team is unique and different than year’s past. They play as one team. They have great bigs and guards along with good bench play. This year is the year Mark Few adds a Final Four to his resume,” Vitale said.
If you are looking for a couple sleepers, Vitale recommends Wichita State and Middle Tennessee State as teams that could go farther than many expect. As Heavy has pointed out, Vitale admits that historically it is the favorites that wind up in the Final Four.
Vitale has a one seed along with three two seeds as his Final Four picks. Dickie V likes North Carolina, Gonzaga, Duke and Louisville to wind up in Arizona in the Final Four. Vitale has North Carolina defeating Gonzaga to cut down the nets.