It’s no secret: to win games in college basketball, you have to shoot well. In this NCAA Tournament, that simple fact has rang true once again.
In 53 of the 66 games of this year’s NCAA Tournament, the team that has had a better shooting percentage has won the game. That’s an 80.3% win percentage for the team that has shot better from the floor. It’s how Mercer pulled off a huge upset against Duke and how Dayton made their run to the Elite Eight: they knocked down shots and got hot at the right time. In both Final Four matchups, the winning team had a better field goal percentage, and that’s why we have a Connecticut-Kentucky title game set to tip off shortly after 9 pm tonight.
If recent National Championship games have provided any indication, the team that shoots better will win tonight’s game as well. In nine of the last ten title games, the team with a better shooting percentage from the field won the game (last year’s Louisville-Michigan final being the only exception). Everyone remembers Butler’s dreadful shooting in the 2011 final (the Bulldogs shot just 18.8%), and everyone remembers the clutch shooting of Mario Chalmers and the Jayhawks in 2008. If you get scores and go on big runs, it’ll usually be enough to withstand the mini-runs of your opponent and hold up the plaque at night’s end. If you shoot 30% or worse, you’ll usually be the second place team that people ultimately forget over the course of history.
What does that mean for tonight’s game? It means the edge goes to John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky has shot 48% this tournament, while UConn has only shot 46%. While that may not seem like a huge difference, the individual matchups in this game favor UK in the post. Julius Randle, one of the best players in the game, shoots 50% from the field, while UConn big man DeAndre Daniels has shot 48%. Kentucky center Dakari Johnson shoots 58%, while Phillip Nolan shoots 54%. You may say, “Well the guards take most of the shots for UConn,” which is an accurate statement. In that case, Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison’s shooting percentage is only .004% less than do-it-all UConn guard Shabazz Napier’s. The two may cancel each other out, meaning the shooting from the forwards will be vital, which once again means the Wildcats have the advantage.
Any way you slice it, Kentucky has better shooters than Connecticut. If history repeats itself, the better shooters will win the title. Therefore, the Wildcats will be the first team to win the National Championship with five freshmen in their starting lineup by a score of 73-65. Either Julius Randle or Aaron Harrison will be named Most Outstanding Player.
I’ve got Big Blue Nation winning their ninth title. Enjoy the game!