Few changes on traditional champ list—but two meet KenPom thresholds

While the AP Top 20 had its share of shuffling this week, the list of teams that meet tourney champion credentials barely changed. For those who haven’t been following our weekly “champ check,” here’s the skinny: the last 12 champions have possessed these eight stats:

  • A one, two or three seed (the AP Top 20 make the grade)
  • Member of 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 have an All-American (*/12)
  • Led by a coach with more than five tourney trips and at least one Elite Eight run (CO)
  • Averaging more than 73 points per game (PF>73)
  • Allowing fewer than 73 points per game (PA<73)
  • An average scoring margin of at least seven points per game. (SM>=7)
  • A schedule among the 75 strongest in the country (S<75)

Today, seven teams meet all these criteria—the same number as last week. Here’s the breakdown:

champcheck_022513

Under the “TOT” column at the right, an “8” means the team met all the credentials. (Ignore the blue flags for a moment.) Red-filled boxes identify credentials each team failed to meet. The seven teams on the champ list this week are Indiana, Duke, Michigan, Kansas, Florida, Louisville and Syracuse. This is the same group of teams as last week—and the same cast of characters that have been swarming around the AP Top 10 pretty much all season. A couple weeks ago, when top-ranked teams were getting knocked off every other game, a lot of the pundits proclaimed that this would be a year of parity in college hoops. I even heard one analyst say that any one of 20 teams could cut down the nets this year.

Don’t believe it. The fact is, there are a dozen teams that are performing at the same rate as their historical counterparts—and then we fall of a “quality cliff.” If you haven’t read about the cliff, check out this post. There used to be a Lucky 13 atop the cliff…but Miami plunged into the mire of relative mediocrity.

Now, let’s talk about those blue flags. These tabs identify six teams that meet two other champ stats I introduced five weeks ago. If you’re a fan of Ken Pomeroy’s possession-based stats, these filters might be valuable to you. 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, three of our potential champs don’t make the grade: Michigan drops off because they rank 43rd on defense. And both Kansas (28th) and Louisville (19th) rank too low on offense.

On the other hand, three teams meet the efficiency ranking criteria that don’t have the eight traditional champ stats. Gonzaga (4OE, 24DE) barely made the KenPom efficiency criteria by shoring up their defense. Ohio State’s (13OE, 17DE) solid wins against Minnesota and Michigan State greatly improved their offensive numbers. And Pittsburgh (12OE, 9DE) also made the grade—despite getting left off the AP Top 20!

Speaking of criminal omissions, check out the red boxes in the second column titled “PR.” These highlight the teams whose KenPom ranking suggests they shouldn’t be in the AP Top 20. Butler is the most overrated team. The Bulldogs rank 20th in the AP Top 20, but are just the 52nd most efficient team in the nation. Other overvalued teams include: Memphis (38 in KenPom), Kansas State (33), New Mexico (28) and St. Louis (25). By efficiency numbers, they should be downgraded in favor of these five teams: Pittsburgh (6 in KenPom…yes, you read that right), Virginia (17) Colorado State (18), Minnesota (19) and San Diego State (20).

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3 Responses to Few changes on traditional champ list—but two meet KenPom thresholds

  1. Jay Morris says:

    I was wondering historically, how have the teams that met all 8 requirements fared in the tourney. We know that the winner should come from that group, but have the others over performed or under performed?

    • ptiernan says:

      Over the last 12 years, the time period I studied, 61 teams have had the champ credentials–about five per dance. Overall, they are +.427 PASE overachievers (about half a game per tourney). 23 of the 61 reached the F4–and all 12 cut down the nets.

      If we were to do champ stats for the entire 28 years, I’d use slightly different metrics. The fact is, the tourney was much higher scoring before 2000–so PPG and PAPG were higher.

      Here’s another metric to chew on: 24 of 28 champions have scored more than 75 points a game and have an average margin higher than 10. The only champion over the last 23 years NOT to score above 75 was UConn. That said, college basketball keeps getting lower and lower scoring. That’s why I relaxed the 75-point constraint and focused on the last dozen years.

      • Jay Morris says:

        Thank you for your reply. So 38% of the teams that meet your metric, make it to the final four. Given there are now 7 teams, realistically, 3 of the final four teams will come from that group this year.

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