Seven teams have the basic champ credentials

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.

Earlier today, we debuted a new forecast of potential champions based on tempo-free data. We used two methods, one leveraging offensive and defensive efficiency numbers by hundreds of possessions and the other just using the teams OE and DE rankings. Only six teams met the criteria for both methods, but 12 teams met at least one.

After the AP top 20 came out a couple hours ago, I crunched the numbers on our standard champ check. Every one of the last 12 champions have possessed these eight characteristics:

  • Earned a one, two or three seed
  • Came from a Power conference: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC (CF in the list below)
  • Either went to the previous year’s dance or had an All-American (*/12)
  • Were led by a coach with more than five tourney trips and at least one Elite Eight run (CO)
  • Averaged more than 73 points per game (PF>73)
  • Allowed fewer than 73 points per game (PA<73)
  • Owned an average scoring margin of at least seven points per game. (SM>=7)
  • Played a schedule among the 75 strongest in the country (S<75)

So which teams in this week’s AP Top 20 have the chops to be champs—and which don’t? Here’s the chart:


The “TOT” column at the far left tallies all the criteria. A “7” means that the team met all the credentials. (The AP top 20 is used to meet the eighth credential—a one, two or three seed.)

The seven teams that have all the characteristics of the last dozen champions are the same from the list two weeks ago. No surprise there, since not many big games were played over the holidays. Two other teams—Ohio State and Cincinnati—failed to make the cut only because their SOS is weak at this stage of the season. Moving into conference play, that’s about to change. My guess is that you’ll see both on the champ list in the next couple weeks…provided they hang in the top 20.

The seven teams with the qualities of a tourney champion are Duke, Michigan, Syracuse, Louisville, Indiana, Kansas, and Minnesota. Interestingly, only Duke, Indiana and Kansas also appeared on the two champ lists based on advanced tempo-free data.

I like to track the teams whose AP rankings don’t reflect their possession-based efficiency rankings as reported on, the same place I got the OE and DE numbers. Check out the red boxes in the second column. Right now, according to possession-based data, six teams don’t deserve to be ranked in the top 20. The biggest imposter is Georgetown (ranked 43rd in Pythag) but Illinois (41), New Mexico (38), Butler (37), San Diego State (23) and Missouri (21) aren’t playing as efficiently as their ranking would indicate either.

They’ve taken the spots of six underrated squads. Pitt remains the most criminal omission (still ranked sixth in Pythag). Kentucky (12), VCU (13), Wisconsin (14), Oklahoma State (17) and Wichita State (20) also have better tempo-free numbers than that AP gives them credit for.

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