Who’s up, down heading to Sweet 16


By Steve Megargee - AP Sports Writer



Everything’s magnified in March.

A player who has been slumping all season can quickly put that behind him with a couple of big performances in the NCAA Tournament. A team that has struggled can suddenly change its reputation by heating up in the postseason.

North Carolina’s Joel Berry II, Florida’s Devin Robinson and South Carolina’s entire team are some of those on the annual tournament roller coaster heading into the Sweet 16.

Berry has struggled to find his shot and Robinson has produced some of the best performances in his college career.

Before last week, the Gamecocks were known for having their stingy defense and a suspect offense. But they’ve averaged 90.5 points in the first two games of the tournament to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time in the NCAA Tournament’s current format. They scored 65 points and shot 71.4 percent in the second half of an 88-81 victory over Duke .

“We wouldn’t be in the Sweet 16 if we were a bad offensive team,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said after the Duke game. “Now, do we shoot 71 percent, what did we shoot, 71 for a half? No, nobody does. But that’s why they call this thing March Madness.”

Here are some other statistical trends involving teams in the Sweet 16.

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UCLA’S ABILITY TO AVOID TURNOVERS

UCLA leads all Division I teams with a 1.93 assist-turnover ratio , but the Bruins have been particularly adept in this area during the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins have totaled 46 assists and only 10 turnovers in two NCAA Tournament games, including a season-low three turnovers against Cincinnati . Before the tournament, UCLA was committing 11.5 turnovers per game. The Bruins next face Kentucky, which has forced a total of 19 turnovers through the first two rounds of the tournament.

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BUTLER’S 3-POINT SHOOTING

Butler is shooting 47.1 percent (16 of 34) from beyond the arc in the tournament, well above its season percentage of .369. Avery Woodson is 8 of 14 from 3-point range in two tournament games. Butler now must face North Carolina, which has allowed its first two NCAA Tournament foes to shoot 31.3 percent (15 of 48) from 3-point range.

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NORTH CAROLINA G JOEL BERRY II’S SLUMP

Berry injured his ankle in a first-round victory over Texas Southern , which may explain why he’s struggled to make his shots thus far in the tournament. Berry has shot a combined 3 of 21 and has averaged 6.5 points in two tournament games. Berry is North Carolina’s second-leading scorer with 14.4 points per game.

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FLORIDA F DEVIN ROBINSON’S SURGE

Robinson scored 24 points in a first-round victory over East Tennessee State to match his career high. He followed that up against Virginia by recording his second double-double of the season. The 6-foot-8 junior is averaging 19 points and 9.5 rebounds over the last two games. Robinson had entered the NCAA Tournament averaging 10.9 points and 6.1 rebounds.

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MICHIGAN’S REBOUNDING WORRIES

Michigan has managed to get to the Sweet 16 despite posting a minus-13 rebound margin in its first two NCAA Tournament games. Michigan got outrebounded 40-21 by Oklahoma State and 37-30 by Louisville. They’ve been outscored 38-19 in second-chance points through the first two rounds yet have managed to survive anyway. Michigan next faces Oregon, which has a plus-10.5 rebound margin in the NCAA Tournament.

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SOUTH CAROLINA IN THE SECOND HALF

The Gamecocks have been unstoppable after halftime. They scored 54 points in the second half against Marquette and 65 points over the final 20 minutes against Duke. That’s an average of 59.5 second-half points – a remarkable total for a team that scored just 53 points the entire game in a Southeastern Conference Tournament loss to Alabama . South Carolina is shooting 33.3 percent (22 of 66) in the first half and 62.5 percent (40 of 64) in the second half.

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GONZAGA’S FREE-THROW WOES

Gonzaga has made 72.7 percent of its free throws this season, but the Bulldogs have shot just 57.4 percent (31 of 54) from the line during their first two tournament games. Jordan Mathews has shot 4 of 9, Josh Perkins has gone 1 of 5 and Johnathan Williams is 0 for 4.

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WEST VIRGINIA’S LONG-RANGE ACCURACY

West Virginia has shot 52 percent (13 of 25) from 3-point range in the NCAA Tournament. The Mountaineers had made 36.1 percent of their 3-pointers before the NCAA Tournament. Jevon Carter has gone 6 of 9 and Tarik Phillip has shot 3 of 6. West Virginia could struggle to maintain that pace against Gonzaga, which ranks seventh nationally in 3-point percentage defense .

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XAVIER F SEAN O’MARA’S PRODUCTION

O’Mara headed into the NCAA Tournament having scored in double figures just three times since the start of December. But the 6-10 junior has had double-digit scoring performances in both of Xavier’s tournament wins while averaging 14.5 points and 6 rebounds. O’Mara was averaging just 5.5 points and 2.8 rebounds before the NCAA Tournament.

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KANSAS CONTROLLING THE GLASS

Kansas entered the NCAA Tournament with an impressive plus-4 rebound margin but has been even more dominant on the boards in the postseason. The Jayhawks have outrebounded their first two NCAA Tournament foes by 13 boards per game. Landen Lucas has 11 rebounds in each of those two games. Next up is Purdue, which has a plus-7 rebound margin this season to rank 13th nationally . Purdue has outrebounded each of its first two NCAA Tournament foes by 10 boards.

By Steve Megargee

AP Sports Writer