Wolfpack falls off Champ List, Gophers climb back on

Lately, the lifespan of a top-ranked team has been about two games. But while a handful of teams are taking turns at the number one slot, the list of champ-worthy squads has remained consistent. Six teams have made our Champ List every week since the beginning of the year.

Remember the eight criteria for a stats champ. 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 have all eight stats this week? Check out the table:


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

While the Gators have been the most impressive team over the last couple weeks, they’ve been on and off the champ list this year because of their low scoring average. The Gophers are the other school that hasn’t been on every champ list in 2013. Their problem has been staying in the AP Top 20. This week, they squeaked into the 18th slot—and took NC State’s place on the champ list. The Wolfpack have lost three of their last four and got voted out of the AP Top 20.

If consistency is any measure of a tourney champ, then these six squads have the inside track to cut down the nets: Indiana, Michigan, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse and Louisville. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if the Cardinals (73.8ppg), Jayhawks (74.2ppg) and Orange (76.0) struggle to meet the offensive output threshold as their grueling conference schedules wear on. Right now, I’m watching Syracuse slog through a low-scoring win against Notre Dame. This is what nearly every Big East game will be like from here on in.

Notice the teal flags at the far right of the table? These identify seven 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. 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, two of our potential champs don’t make the grade. Michigan drops off because they rank 31st on defense, and Minnesota’s defensive ranking isn’t much better (30th).  That leaves just six teams that currently have both the basic champ stats and meet the KenPom efficiency rankings: Indiana, Florida, Duke, Kansas, Syracuse and Louisville. Interestingly, two teams that don’t make the basic champ stats do however meet the KenPom criteria. You see Ohio State on the list. The other team is Pittsburgh. When are they going to get some respect?

That’s a nice segue into our final analysis. I like to track the teams whose AP rankings don’t reflect their overall KenPom efficiency ratings. Right now, according to possession-based data, fove teams don’t deserve to be ranked in the top 20. Check out the red boxes under the second column, labeled “PR.” The biggest imposter is Butler (ranked 45th on KenPom) but New Mexico (40), Oregon (37), Kansas State (27) and Georgetown (26) aren’t playing as efficiently as their AP ranking would indicate either.

They’ve taken the spots of five underrated squads. Pitt is the biggest head-scratcher. The Panthers are ranked sixth on the KenPom list, but the voters are penalizing them for their five losses. Wisconsin (14), Colorado State (16), Oklahoma State (18) and Kentucky (19) are also undervalued.

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2 Responses to Wolfpack falls off Champ List, Gophers climb back on

  1. Matt says:

    In his Hoop Thoughts column this week, Seth Davis at SI (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-basketball/news/20130207/hoop-thoughts/?sct=uk_t12_a6#all) listed a chart that showed average scoring per game has dropped from an average from 69.5 pts/game in 2003-2004 to 67.7 pts/game in 2012-2013.

    What impact do you think this will have on the using 73+ points per game as one of the eight factors? Will points per possession perhaps be a better tool further on out?

    • ptiernan says:

      Matt – Tourney scoring has been steadily going down ever since 1989, when the average tourney team scored a whopping 83 points a game. Amazingly, Loyola Marymount came into the 1990 dance averaging 124.8 points a game! Last year, the field averaged more than 10 points less. So scoring is definitely down–and it is more a function of tempo than efficiency. By all rights, I should analyze by OE/DE. But I only have nine years of data with KenPom stats vs. 28 years of raw scoring. I used to do my champ check with a 77-point threshold. After all, 23 of 28 champs have met that bar. But with scoring going down, it becomes an increasingly misleading number. The last two champs (UConn with 73.4ppg and Kentucky with 76.7ppg) fell below the 77-point line, even though they were above the field average. A couple years back, I did the analysis by comparing teams to their fields average (1 above average, 2 above average and so one). I should probably revisit the analysis, but the way I have the database built, it’s a bit of a brute force analysis. As always, Matt, thanks for the thoughts.

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