Three drop off traditional champ list…but three more earn possession cred

A lot has happened in the two weeks since I last did a champ check.  Three teams the used to be on the list failed to meet the traditional qualifications. As you probably know by now, every champ after 2000 has possessed these characteristics:

  • A one, two or three seed
  • Member of a Power conference: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 or SEC
  • Either went to the previous year’s dance or have an All-American
  • Led by a coach with more than five tourney trips and at least one Elite Eight run
  • Averaging more than 73 points per game
  • Allowing fewer than 73 points per game
  • An average scoring margin of at least seven points per game
  • A schedule among the 75 strongest in the country

Just seven teams now meet all these credentials: Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Villanova, Ohio State, Kentucky and Kansas. Louisville would also be on this list if it weren’t for their weak SOS. Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina dropped off the champ list; the Blue Devils and Tar Heels for falling out of the AP top 20, the Orange for not scoring enough. Here are all the gory numbers of the AP top 20:


If you use possession-based rankings to evaluate potential champs, the number of qualifiers shrinks to four—and three of them aren’t among the eight above. The last ten champions have ranked no worse than 17th and 25th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. By that standard, only Syracuse (6 OE, 14 DE), Wisconsin (4 OE, 12 DE), Iowa State (16 OE, 23 DE) and Iowa (3 OE, 21 DE)—yes, Iowa—make the grade.

However, using raw possession-based numbers instead of rankings yields just three potential champs. The last ten champions have averaged scoring at least 115.1 points and allowing no more than 92.2 per 100 possessions. Only Arizona (116.0, 88.2), Wisconsin (119.1, 92.0) and Villanova (115.6, 90.6) meet those limits. Here’s how the AP top 20 compare:


Altogether, 11 teams pass at least one of the three champ tests. Here they are, with their passed tests noted:

  1. Arizona (TRAD, POSS-RAW)
  2. Syracuse (POSS-RANK)
  3. Wisconsin (TRAD, POSS-RANK, POSS-RAW)
  4. Michigan State (TRAD)
  5. Villanova (TRAD, POSS-RAW)
  6. Iowa State (POSS-RANK)
  7. Ohio State (TRAD)
  8. Kentucky (TRAD)
  9. Iowa (POSS-RANK)
  10. Kansas (TRAD)
  11. Louisville (TRAD)

Only Arizona, Wisconsin and Villanova pass multiple champ tests. But the Badgers stand out at this point as the only team in the nation that meets traditional champ criteria and both possess-based qualifications.

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2 Responses to Three drop off traditional champ list…but three more earn possession cred

  1. Matt says:

    Given the new rules, we’ve seen a huge increase in average points per game. Total points per game are at its highest point in the last 18 years. Further 160 teams are averaging 73 or more points a game this season, compared to 52 a year ago.

    What impact will this scoring increase have on the 73 point criterion?

    • ptiernan says:


      Excellent points. The general trend since 1989 has been a decrease in points–and with the new defense rules, we’re moving up again, blessedly. It used to be that I used the 77 point barrier for scoring. 23 of the last 29 champs have met that threshold…but three of the lower scoring champs have occurred in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Before that, just Villanova (1985), Kansas (1988) and Michigan State (2000) weren’t that offensively prolific. It may be that we should do an evaluation of 77+ teams again, or at least 75+.

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