Four different champ tests say Indiana is the favorite

The top of the college basketball rankings got jumbled up again yesterday. But unlike last week, there were also a couple big changes to the two champ lists we track.Every Tuesday, we do a champ check based on stats we’ve been tracking for 12 years and another test using KenPom statistics. Let’s look at the basic champ check first. 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, only six teams meet all these criteria—one fewer than last week. Here’s the breakdown:


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 six teams on the champ list this week are Indiana, Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Louisville and Syracuse. Florida dropped off the list this week because their scoring average fell below 73 points per game.

I mentioned the dearth of scoring in college basketball a couple of weeks ago. It’s gotten even lower scoring since then. Think about this: the last two tourneys were the lowest scoring since the dance expanded to 64 teams 28 years ago—and the top 20 most efficient teams averaged 75.1 points a game. This year, the KenPom top 20 averages a meager 72.2 points a game, nearly three points lower.

Speaking of KenPom, let’s talk about those blue flags. These tabs identify six teams that meet two other champ stats I introduced six weeks ago. If you’re a fan of Ken Pomeroy’s possession-based stats, these filters may be more 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 top 20 teams in the AP rankings on these two KenPom rankings (as of 8:00pm Monday), four of our six potential champs don’t make the grade: Duke’s defensive efficiency ranks too low (28th), Kansas isn’t efficient enough offensively (20th), Michigan ranks a shockingly low 53rd on defense, and Louisville is too offensively challenged (25th).  Duke is the latest team to fail the KenPom ranking test.

On the other hand, three teams meet the efficiency ranking criteria that don’t have the eight traditional champ stats. Gonzaga (3OE, 23DE) barely made the KenPom defensive efficiency threshold. Ohio State’s (15OE, 17DE) is solid if not spectacular on both ends of the court. And Pittsburgh (12OE, 10DE) also made the grade.

Before Duke fans start to worry too much about their defensive ranking, know this: their raw defensive numbers are well within the threshold of past champions. I usually do the KenPom test by offensive and defensive ranking, but the fact is, this year’s teams are much stronger on defense than in past years—and correspondingly weaker on offense (which no doubt explains the low scoring averages). If you went by raw points scored and allowed per possession, irrespective of ranking, you’d have yet one more view of who has the chops to be champs.

The last nine champions have had offensive efficiency numbers no lower than 115.1 points and defensive numbers no higher than 92.2 points per possession. So which teams meet both these thresholds? Take a look at the chart:


Based on raw possession-based numbers, there are only five teams that have the offensive and defensive efficiency of the last nine champions: Gonzaga, Indiana, Duke, Florida and Pittsburgh. They’re illustrated in the chart above by the red vertical lines connecting their efficiency numbers

So where does that leave us? Ten different teams qualify for at least one of the three champ tests. Here’s who appears the most:

  1. Indiana (3)
  2. Gonzaga (2)
  3. Duke (2)
  4. Florida (2)
  5. Syracuse (2)
  6. Pittsburgh (2)
  7. Kansas (1)
  8. Michigan (1)
  9. Louisville (1)
  10. Ohio State (1)

The Hoosiers are the only team that passes all three champ tests—our basic check of eight stats the last dozen champions have possessed and the two KenPom methods for assessing champ-worthiness.

If Indiana is in the driver’s seat, who’s their closest competition? Here’s one more champ stat to chew on. I went back 20 years and discovered that 18 of the champions have come from a Big Six conference, scored at least 76.5 points a game and beaten opponents, on average, by more than 10 points. Only Indiana and Duke meet those criteria. So I’d have to say the Blue Devils are the nearest challenger to cut down the nets—at least for now. Talk to me next week.

This entry was posted in Champ Credentials. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Four different champ tests say Indiana is the favorite

  1. Jason says:

    Hey Pete, love the info. Do you think this year’s Florida team fits Duke 2010 (National Champ) or 2011 Ohio St. (Sweet 16 loss)? Ken Pomeroy has them well ahead of Indiana and the rest of the field. Is there any other stats they possess that would suggest a positive PASE? I noticed that there low scoring keeps them from the champ list, should that be a major concern knowing that scoring is down as a whole?

    • Ryan Tressler says:

      Florida is very intriguing to me as well . . . It would be interesting to see how teams with elite defenses, like a Florida or Louisville this year, typically perform in the tournament according to PASE. Maybe a look at top5 or 10 defenses according to Pomeroy.

      • Ryan Tressler says:

        I think I remember you posted an article on like top 6 seeds vs the median for offensive and defensive efficiency, but I am not sure I ever saw a straight look of top 10 defenses (by efficiency)

        • ptiernan says:

          So…are you looking for the PASE value of the top 10 defensive efficiency teams? That would be +.115. The top ten offensive efficiency teams are just +.021. Now, teams that are <15 in both OE and DE are +.387 PASE performers.

          • P.H. says:

            Pete – I look forward to when you add the 5 after season rules where I have picked 12 out of the last 12 champs! Of course I was backfitting :-)

  2. Boubacar Aw says:

    Hi Pete,

    Love the site and analysis, just have one clarification question. Are the stats and efficiency data you use to evaluate credentials exclusively from pre-tourney data or inclusive of performance during the tourney? Just curious especially when you consider teams like 2011 UConn, Butler and VCU that all saw such significant jumps in efficiency numbers throughout the tourney.

  3. GLove says:

    I went back 20 years and discovered that 18 of the champions have come from a Big Six conference, scored at least 76.5 points a game and beaten opponents, on average, by more than 10 points.

    Interesting…so who were the other 2 teams? I’m guessing UConn was probably one of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>