Usually, the number of teams that have the characteristics of past champions dwindles as the season wears on. This week, it grew. Now, half of the teams in the AP Top 20 possess the eight attributes of the last dozen champions:
- 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)
Who are the new teams that made the list this week? 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. A blue box means that they’re new to the list. Florida made the grade because they bumped up their scoring average. Ohio State returns to the list after its schedule toughened up. And North Carolina State debuts on the list after finally cracking the AP top 20, my loose metric for assessing whether a team is a potential one, two or three seed.
The seven repeat teams on the champ list are Duke, Michigan, Louisville, Indiana, Kansas, Syracuse, and Minnesota. I’ve been saying for a few weeks now that the Gophers will be the first team to fall off the list, but they keep hanging tough. I wonder, though, whether they’ll be able to keep their scoring average up through the grueling Big Ten season. Same goes for OSU.
I also like to track the teams whose AP rankings don’t reflect their possession-based efficiency ratings as reported on www.kenpom.com. Right now, according to possession-based data, eight teams don’t deserve to be ranked in the top 20. That’s more than there have been all season. The biggest imposter is Butler (ranked 53rd in Pythag) but Georgetown (41), Kansas State (39), North Carolina State (36—and a potential champ no less!) Illinois (34), San Diego State (25) Notre Dame (24) and Missouri (23) aren’t playing as efficiently as their ranking would indicate either.
They’ve taken the spots of eight underrated squads. Kentucky is the most criminal omission (ranked ninth in Pythag). Pitt (10), VCU (12), Michigan State (16), Wisconsin (14), Cincinnati (17), Wisconsin (18), Oklahoma State (19) and Wichita State (20) also got the shaft.