FanShot

Giant Killing in the West

BEST BETS No. 4 Vanderbilt (34.3 vulnerability rating) vs. No. 13 Murray St. (94.5 Giant Killer rating) UPSET CHANCE: 32.5 percent Does Murray State actually exist, or is it simply the fervid invention of some chronicler of giant-slaying hoops legends -- Jim Carroll, perhaps, or Dean Oliver? We believe the Racers are indeed real, but we're rubbing our eyes, as they've posted the highest rating in GK history. Why? Start with the fact that they excel at seizing extra possessions whether they start with the ball (offensive rebounds on 39.5 percent of missed shots, 12th in the NCAA) or their opponents do (sixth in the country in steal percentage, leading to turnovers on 24.6 percent of opponent possessions, 11th). They're efficient shooters, hitting more than 55 percent of 2-point attempts and more than 37 percent of 3s. And while they're not big, they rank sixth in the nation in block percentage, helping limit opponents to just 41 percent shooting on 2-pointers. All told, the gap between Murray State's effective FG percentage and its opponents' is a whopping 11.5 points. Bonus: The Racers don't rely on free throws, either, which, as we've often mentioned, is a common trait among historical Giant Killers. So while the Racers played a weak schedule and don't protect the ball particularly well, they still have a profile unlike any we've seen. And in Vanderbilt, they've drawn an opponent that doesn't generate turnovers (19.3 percent of opponent possessions, 243rd in the NCAA) and allows opponents second chances (offensive rebounds on 34.4 percent of missed shots, 249th). Maybe worst of all, 74 percent of the Commodores' scoring margin comes from the free throw line. That's the highest proportion among Giants, and a sign that Vandy can be dangerously easy for an underdog to neutralize, particularly in a loosely called game. If our model had a nose, it would be smelling history right about now.

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