Eight teams make champ list—Gophers and Buckeyes drop off

Last week, 10 teams had the stats to be champs. But a lot has happened in the last seven days. Many of the nation’s top 20 squads suffered tough losses—Duke got blown out by Miami, Louisville dropped their third straight and Syracuse lost as well. None of those teams played their way off the champ list, however. But two Big Ten teams no longer make the grade.

Remember the eight champworthy criteria. Every one of the last 12 champions have:

  • Earned a one, two or three seed
  • Come 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 currently have these eight stats? Check out this table:


Under the “TOT” column at the far right, an “8” means the team met all the credentials. Red-filled boxes identify credentials each team failed to meet. The eight teams on the champ list are Michigan, Kansas, Indiana, Florida, Duke, Syracuse, Louisville and North Carolina State.

Minnesota and Ohio State fell off the champ list this week. The Gophers didn’t make the AP Top 20, so are unlikely to bag a one, two or three seed—at least at this point. And Ohio State averages exactly 73 points a game, not more than 73 points. So they miss out by a scant tenth of a point. Three other teams could find themselves on the wrong side of the offensive output criterion if they don’t step up their scoring. Kansas, Florida and Louisville are all trending down toward the 73-point line.

Notice the teal flags at the far right of the table? These flags identify six teams that meet two other champ stats I’m following this year. If you’re a fan of Ken Pomeroy’s possession-based statistics, these filters should be of interest. I don’t include them in the basic champ check because I only have nine years of pre-tourney KenPom data. That said, every one of the nine champions since 2004 has had an offensive efficiency rank among the top 17 and a defensive rank among the top 25.

When you evaluate the AP top 20 on these two KenPom rankings, four of our potential champs don’t make the grade:

  • Michigan drops off because they rank 39th on defense
  • Kansas has only the 18th best offense
  • Louisville’s offense isn’t efficient enough either (20th)
  • And NC State’s defensive ranking is abyssmal (148th)

That leaves just four teams that have both the basic champ stats and meet the KenPom efficiency rankings: Indiana, Florida, Duke and Syracuse. Interestingly, four teams that don’t make the basic champ stats do however meet the KenPom criteria. You see Arizona and Ohio State on the list. The other two teams didn’t even make the AP Top 20. One is Pitt and the other is Minnesota.

One last analysis: I track the teams whose AP rankings don’t reflect their overall KenPom efficiency ratings. Right now, according to possession-based data, eight teams don’t deserve to be ranked in the top 20. That’s the most all year. Check out the red boxes under the second column, labeled “PR.” The biggest imposter is Kansas State (ranked 44th on KenPom) but New Mexico (42), North Carolina State (38), Missouri (36), Butler (28), Mississippi (26), Oregon (23) and Wichita State (21) aren’t playing as efficiently as their AP ranking would indicate either.

They’ve taken the spots of eight underrated squads. Pitt is the most criminal omission. They’re ranked seventh on KenPom! Minnesota (9), Creighton (12), Wisconsin (15), Cincinnati (17), VCU (18), Colorado State (19) and Oklahoma State (17) were also undervalued.

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