Raw efficiency numbers say Kansas won’t be the next champion…but Gonzaga might

If you’ve been reading my recent Champ List posts, you know that I’ve added a secondary analysis of the teams that meet the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings of the last nine champions. When I first did this analysis, way back on New Year’s Eve, I used the raw efficiency numbers rather than the rankings. They yielded markedly different results. I thought I’d revisit those numbers tonight to see who they say might be the next champion.

Since 2004, every champion has had no lower than a 115.1 offensive efficiency value (points per 100 possessions) and no higher than a 92.2 defensive efficiency value. UConn set both these upper and lower limits in 2011. The 2009 North Carolina squad was equally soft defensively, but their OE was 123.8.

Let’s assume that this year’s champion will fall into this range,. Which teams fall into this range today, with an OE no lower than 115.1 and a DE no higher than 92.2? Take a look at this chart; the teams in all caps meet both the offense and defense criteria:


Nearly every team in the AP Top 20 meets the defensive efficiency criteria. That includes Michigan, who didn’t meet the ranking criteria because they weren’t among the top 25 rated defensive squads. However, by raw numbers, their defense is solid enough to make the grade.

The area where most teams fall short is on the offensive side of the ball. Only seven of the top 20 teams score as efficiently as the last nine tourney champions. That doesn’t include Kansas, Syracuse or Louisville—all of whom made our conventional champ list.

When you filter by both the offensive and defensive criteria, only six teams in the AP Top 20 meet champion efficiency levels. Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Duke are the usual suspects. And Minnesota just made it back on the basic champ list. But Gonzaga is a bit of a surprise. The Zags are a definite longshot to win the tourney. For one thing, only two of the past 28 champs have come from a Mid-Major conference. For another, no team has won the dance with a snake-bit coach who’s gone to the dance more than five times without a single Elite Eight run.

If you think Gonzaga was a surprise team on this list, consider the case of Pittsburgh. They didn’t even make the chart because they aren’t in the AP Top 20. But the Panthers have a surprisingly efficient offensive (118.7 OE) for such a slow-tempo team. And their defense easily makes the grade (87.4 DE). Could Pitt steal the tourney crown? Well…considering that Jamie Dixon is the biggest underachiever among 97 coaches with at least three tourney trips (his PASE is a woeful -.665), I wouldn’t be getting too carried away with the Panthers.

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