In my November 17 blog, only a couple games into the season, I did my first champ check of the year. I evaluated the AP Top 20 against four of the eight stats that the last 12 champions have possessed. At that point, 14 teams met the criteria.
Now, less than three weeks later, I’ve done my first champ check against all eight characteristics—and six of those 14 teams have fallen off the list. As a refresher, every champion since 2001 has owned met these criteria:
- Earned a one, two or three seed
- Came from a Power conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC)
- Been led by a coach with more than five tourney trips and at least one Elite Eight run
- Either went to the previous year’s dance or had an All-American
- Averaged more than 73 points per game
- Allowed fewer than 73 points per game
- Owned an average scoring margin of at least seven points per game
- Played a schedule among the 75 strongest in the country
So which teams in this week’s AP Top 20 have the chops to be champs—and which don’t? Take a look at this chart:
Surprisingly, Indiana isn’t among the eight teams that own all eight champ stats. That’s because the Hoosiers currently have an SOS ranked worse than 75th in the land. Kansas and Cincinnati also fall into this camp of teams whose only chink is a weak schedule of opponents. All three are projected to have tough enough schedules once they start playing conference foes, but for now, they don’t make the grade.
The eight teams that do currently have the characteristics of a tourney champion have a red shaded box in the last column. They include: Duke, Michigan, Syracuse, Louisville, Florida, Ohio State, Minnesota and North Carolina. Some of these schools will no doubt drop off the list as the season wears on. If I had to guess right now, I’d say that Louisville and Florida will struggle to meet the offensive output requirements. And Minnesota is unlikely to bag a one of the top four seeds. Heck, the way the Tar Heels are playing, they may get a lower seed too.
Each week, I also track the teams whose AP rankings don’t reflect their possession-based efficiency numbers. This is the invaluable “Pythag” rating that Ken Pomeroy tracks on www.kenpom.com. Right now, according to efficiency numbers, five teams don’t deserve to be ranked in the top 20. The biggest imposter is Missouri (ranked 42nd in Pythag) but Illinois (41), New Mexico (27), San Diego State (26) and Georgetown (25) aren’t playing as efficiently as their ranking would indicate either.
They’ve supplanted five more efficient squads: Wisconsin (nine), Pittsburgh (11), Kentucky (12), Shaka Smart’s VCU (16) and UNLV (19).