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.
Every other week, I check the AP Top 20 against eight characteristics that the last 12 champions have possessed:
- Earned a one, two or three seed
- Came from a Power conference (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC)
- Were 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:
When I did this analysis two weeks ago, Indiana didn’t make the grade because their SOS was so soft. Ironically, with their loss to Butler, their schedule toughened up enough for them to meet that qualification. The same thing happened to Kansas, the other first-timer on the list.
Meanwhile, Ohio State, Florida and North Carolina have played their way off of the list. The Buckeyes did it by loading up on too many powderpuffs. The Gators saw their offensive output fall below the 73-point average threshold. And the Tar Heels didn’t make the AP Top 20.
That leaves only seven teams with the qualities of a tourney champion: Duke, Michigan, Syracuse, Louisville, Indiana, Kansas, and Minnesota. My guess is that the Gophers will be first team to drop out of this list. And OSU and Cinci are the most likely candidates to earn their champ wings.
Every couple weeks, 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, six teams don’t deserve to be ranked in the top 20. The biggest imposter is—surprise, surprise—Butler (ranked 44th in Pythag) but Georgetown (36), Missouri (32), Illinois (28), New Mexico (27) and San Diego State (25) aren’t playing as efficiently as their ranking would indicate either.
They’ve supplanted six more efficient squads. Pitt is the most criminal omission (ranked sixth, yes sixth, in Pythag). Kentucky (12) Wisconsin (14), VCU (16), Notre Dame (19) and UNLV (19) also have a beef.