Thursday Sweet 16: Who Gets Bounced from the Bracket

Frank Kaminsky
The Associated Press

Kennedy Meeks is worth five points a game to UNC, making Wisconsin a 76-65 favorite Thursday. Value Add’s No. 1 player lived up to our March 9 prediction of a surprise run deep into the tournament for Utah, but it will be one-on-three when he goes up against three Duke players in the Top 1% of all players in the new Value Add rankings.

The table below shows the top-ranked Value Add player for each team, including Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns passing Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky for No. 2, and how many players each team has in the top 1% as well as the top 100. The final column shows that the injured Meeks gives five points to UNC, while the Badgers should get back Traevon Jackson, who provides two extra points to them:

Sweet 16 team Highest Value Add Rnk Top 1% Top 100 Points lost via injury
Arizona 4 T.J. McConnell 17 1 3
Duke 15 Jahlil Okafor 23 3 4
Gonzaga 33 Kyle Wiltjer 21 2 2
Kentucky 12 Karl-Anthony Towns 2 3 7 Alex Poythress lost early
Louisville 0 Terry Rozier 26 2 2
Michigan St. 45 Denzel Valentine 99 0 1 Javon Bess lost early
NC State 1 Trevor Lacey 83 0 1
Notre Dame 22 Jerian Grant 7 1 3
Oklahoma 24 Buddy Hield 42 2 2
UCLA 5 Kevon Looney 80 0 1
UNC 5 Marcus Paige 30 1 1 Kennedy Meeks (-5)
Utah 55 Delon Wright 1 1 2 Kenneth Ogbe (-1)
West Virginia 3 Juwan Staten (2014) 34 0 0
Wichita St. 23 Fred Van Vleet 9 2 2
Wisconsin 44 Frank Kaminsky 3 2 3 Traevon Jackson back (-2)
Xavier 40 Matt Stainbrook 93 0 1

In Sweet 16 games to be played Thursday:

Both Notre Dame and Wichita State are led by a Top 10 Value Add player in Jerian Grant (No. 7) and Fred Van Vleet (No. 9). The Shockers have the better duo with Ron Baker also in the top 1%, but the Irish are one of only four teams with three top 100 players in Grant, Demetrius Jackson, and Pat Connaughton.

The odds at predict a 74-68 Wisconsin win over UNC, but Value Add calculates that Meeks usually takes two points away with his defense and adds three with his offense, so his injury would project a 76-65 Wisconsin win.

Yes, the goofy uber driver Matt Stainbrook is a legitimate star for Xavier—but he would only be the fourth best player on Arizona. Some of the first calls I received about Value Add revolved around the system identifying Duquesne‘s TJ McConnell as one of the top 20 players in the country in both 2011 and 2012. Sean Miller agreed, and had him transfer to Arizona where he finishes his career still in the Top 20.

Kentucky is the only team to match Duke‘s three players in the top 1% of all players, and that includes Towns passing Kaminsky for the No. 2 spot in the new ratings released today. West Virginia is the only team left without a player in the top 100, but that is because of injuries to Juwan Staten, who was ranked 34th last season. Staten is back, and will try to lead a huge upset over Kentucky.

In our March 9 post, we noted that we had Utah and Michigan State among the 10 teams with the best chance to make the Final Four even though they were ultimately not even seeded to make the Sweet 16. The top-seven teams we picked are all alive except for UVa, who we noted needed a full return of Justin Anderson.