With just three teams who meet basic champ criteria left in the dance—and all of them slated to play each other before the finals—the streak of 13 straight predictions is in jeopardy. Heading into the dance, there were six squads that met these criteria:
- A one, two or three seed
- Member of a Power conference: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC
- Either went to the previous year’s dance or have an All-American
- Led by a coach with more than five tourney trips and at least one Elite Eight run
- Averaging more than 73 points per game
- Allowing fewer than 73 points per game
- An average scoring margin of at least seven points per game
- A schedule among the 75 strongest in the country
The teams were Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Duke. Only the Wildcats, Badgers and Wolverines remain (sounds like National Geographics death match). The odds of the basic champ check working again are diminished by the fact that Arizona plays Wisconsin tonight…and the winner would play Michigan (if it got there) in the Final Four. One thing is for sure: at least one team with basic champ cred will be alive next week.
Next year, I’ll probably do a combination of basic and advanced champ criteria. The fact is, all of the remaining teams have schedules among the 75 strongest in the country. Seven of the eight teams have an average scoring margin better than seven points a game (only Dayton falls short). Six of eight also have coaches with the requisite experience and success (only Archie Miller and Kevin Ollie are lacking). And only Kentucky, UConn and Dayton didn’t go to the previous tourney. If Florida or UConn don’t win the dance, the point-scoring threshold also remains intact. I will probably ditch the seeding requirement and replace it with KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency rankings.
Speaking of the advanced champ tests, three teams pass at least one of them. Remember: since 2003, the worst a champion has performed on offense in terms of points per 100 possessions is 112.2. That number belongs to last year’s champ Louisville. And the worst a champ has been ranked on offense is 18th (both Louisville and UConn in 2013). On defense, the most points a champ has allowed per 100 possessions is 95.4; that would be North Carolina in 2009—and they were ranked 49th in the country (of course, there offensive efficiency was through the roof).
Arizona and Florida meet the requirements for OE above 112.2 and DE below 95.4. And when it comes to the ranking comparison (top 18 offensive, top 49 defense), Florida and Michigan State make the grade.
To summarize, five teams meet at least one of the champ checks. Arizona and Florida meet two of them, and Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan State meet one. That means if Dayton, Kentucky or UConn win the tourney, all bets are off… and the champ criteria will need a major overhaul.