Nation's hottest, coldest teams
Using per-possession scoring margins to rank teams over the last 10 games
That sound you hear is all of the casual sports fans around you at last paying attention to college basketball. And the first question they often ask is simple: Which team is hot right now?
True, not every team that has entered the NCAA tournament "on a roll" has been able to carry that momentum into the postseason. (See Gonzaga in 2012-13.) By the same token, teams that struggle late in the season can still do quite well in March and even April. (See Connecticut in 2010-11.)
Still, your friend, the casual fan, may be on to something. It's hardly a stretch to assume that in the majority of cases -- and making due allowance for the opponent -- a team that's doing well will continue to do so. Call it hoops inertia.
To measure who's hot and who's not, I'll look at the per-possession scoring margins that teams have posted over their past 10 games. I'll go ahead and surprise you at the top and point out that teams such as Wichita State (plus-0.24) and Florida (plus-0.18) have been very hot over their past 10 contests -- and indeed a good deal longer than that. But beyond these obvious suspects, who else is ending the season on a roll? Which teams are staggering to the finish line?
I have the answers. Here's a look at the nation's 10 hottest and 10 coldest teams over the past 10 games.
Top 10 hottest teams
1. Louisville Cardinals (Per-possession scoring margin over past 10 games: plus-0.29)
All season long, the Cardinals have absolutely feasted on the teams in the bottom half of the American Athletic Conference, a domination that's reflected in the "plus-0.29" shown above. Then for good measure Rick Pitino's group ended the season by giving the same treatment to Connecticut, beating the Huskies 81-48 in Louisville. You're still looking at a team that's 0-2 against Memphis, of course, but there's no doubt the Cards finished strong.
2. New Mexico Lobos (plus-0.19)
Craig Neal's men have played outstanding defense late in the season, holding Mountain West opponents to just 0.91 points per possession over the past 10 games. In fact, in that stretch opposing offenses were held to 39 percent shooting on their 2-pointers. If the Lobos are labeled a "surprise team" in about 10 days, I'm not sure it'll really be all that surprising.
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