GameChangers (03/20/14)

By John Ewing
GameChangers, a look at plays that changed the outcome of the NCAA Tournament. If you have a suggestion for a GameChanger please direct all ideas via twitter to @johnewing.

To highlight the Live ScoreCaster, we will take our in-game technology, Live ScoreCaster, to the next level to review the game-changing plays from March Madness and what the game would have looked like if the plays had turned out differently. 
Click the links for each game to see the Live ScoreCaster charts as well as more analysis in the new Game Breakdown section.
Ohio State vs. Dayton
The Flyers pulled the first upset of the NCAA Tournament ousting big brother Ohio State 60-59 in the first game of March Madness. Buckeye fans may think Dayton was helped to victory with a controversial call.
Aaron Craft was charged with a flagrant one, when he wrapped up Dayton guard Jordan Sibert with less than three minutes remaining. The Flyers’ junior made both free throws to give Dayton a 55-52 lead and increase the little brother’s chance of winning from 51.8% to 65.3%.
Regardless of the call, Dayton earned the victory with clutch shooting down the stretch. Dyshawn Pierre made all three of his free throws after being fouled on a shot from behind the arc. The three-point play gave Dayton a 58-57 lead and the Flyers became 56.5% likely to win with less than 30 seconds to play.
The Flyers defied the odds as 6.5 point underdogs to win outright but it took a make and miss in the final six seconds to advance. After Aaron Craft’s layup with 0:17 left in the 4th, Dayton only had a 35.4% chance of winning before Vee Sanford’s runner put the Flyers ahead for good.  

Cincinnati vs. Harvard
Beware of the Ivy League! The Crimson followed last year’s upset of New Mexico by bouncing Cincinnati in the Round of 64. Harvard advanced to the next round leading the favored Bearcats for the final 33:36 of the game.
Cincinnati made it interesting cutting Harvard’s lead to 54-53 with 3:12 remaining. Harvard’s Siyani Chambers responded with a jumper that resulted in the largest swing of the game. The Crimson’s odds of winning increased from 55.4% to 69.3% with two minutes remaining. 
Cincinnati was never projected to win after the 13:36 mark in the first half.
Oregon vs. BYU
March Madness is about runs, six games (seven if you play in the First Four) for a championship but also in-game runs to finish opponents. Oregon had two such runs to end the Cougars’ comeback bid.
With 12:01 left in the 2nd half, BYU managed to make it a three point game, 56-53. Oregon was still projected to win 72.0% of the time despite it being a one possession game. An 11-2 run increased the Ducks odds of winning to 89.1%. Then Oregon dropped the hammer with a 15-2 run that made the Ducks 99.8% likely to win with 3:21 remaining.  

St. Louis vs. NC State
St. Louis rallied from a 14 point deficit late in the 2nd half to defeat NC State in overtime. The Billikens, down 59-45, only had a 3.1% chance of completing the comeback with 5:03 left in the 2nd half.
Poor free throw shooting (20 of 37) was the main contributor to the Wolfpack's downfall. ACC Player of the Year, T.J. Warren, only made six of his 14 free throw attempts including one miss that could have tied it in the final minute of overtime. Warren’s missed free throw lowered NC State’s win probability to 39.2%. Had Warren made the free throw to tie the game, the Wolfpack’s odds would have increased to 44.6% (SLU still had possession with enough time to score).
Oklahoma vs. North Dakota State
North Dakota State needed overtime but the Bison earned their first NCAA Tournament win. ND State’s Lawrence Alexander hit a three pointer with 11 seconds left to force the extra session. Prior to the game tying shot, the Bison were just 24.3% likely to win.
Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins each missed a free throw with less than a minute left and before Alexander’s game tying three pointer. Had the Sooners made either one of those free throws their odds of winning would have increased to 79.8% with a four point lead.
UConn vs. St. Joe’s
It can be difficult to pinpoint a single play that changed a game but St. Joe’s fate turned on a free throw attempt by Connecticut’s freshman center Amida Brimah. Brimah forced overtime by completing a three-point play in the final minute. Brimah shot 57.1% from the free throw line for the season. UConn needed him to convert the free throw to tie the game. Essentially it was a 50/50 proposition that Brimah would make the shot.
Unfortunately for St. Joe’s he did. The Hawks were still 56.6% likely to win the tied game but had Brimah missed the free throw St. Joe’s odds of winning would have increased to 62.2%. Leading by one point, with possession of the ball and less than 30 seconds remaining, it is fair to assume that the Huskies would have fouled in an attempt to extend the game, further increasing the Hawks chances of winning.