Michigan on, Ohio State off basic champ list—but 13 teams pass one of three tests

Last week, Michigan wasn’t even among the AP’s top 20 teams. Now they’ve passed the basic champ test. Meanwhile, their archrival Ohio State has lost its cred. The basic champ test works like this: the last 13 champs in a row have 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

Nine teams meet all these criteria including: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan State, Villanova, Michigan, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Pittsburgh. Louisville fell short of making the grade only because of a weak SOS (78) that’s bound to improve. The Wolverines are the only team that’s new to the list. Here’s the legend…and then the breakdown:

  • Light red boxes show where teams missed the criteria
  • Orange boxes show teams meeting all criteria
  • Light blue boxes shows the team that just miss because of SOS
  • Dark blue tabs on the right show teams meeting KenPom ranking criteria
  • I’ll discuss the dark red boxes in a minute


Having ten teams with the basic chops to be champs is a lot for this point of the season. Usually, we’re at about seven or eight teams. The reason is that the higher scoring in college ball has inflated the offensive scoring averages. In any case, the fact that ten teams make the grade is a fitting outcome for a season where no teams, save Arizona, really stand out.

Here’s  another indication that picking the 2014 champion will be hard. Only three teams meet the efficiency ranking thresholds of past champs—and two of them didn’t make the basic list. Since Ken Pomeroy started posting efficiency stats 10 years ago, every champion has ranked at least 17th and 25th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. The only teams that meet these parameters are Syracuse, Iowa and Pitt. (That’s what the blue tabs all the way to the right signify.)

If, however, you examine the raw KenPom efficiency numbers (points scored and allowed per 100 possessions), a different set of three teams makes the grade. Every champion for the last decade has scored at least 115.1 and given up no more than 92.2 points per 100 possessions. Only Syracuse, Wichita State and Louisville meet those parameters. That’s why those three names are emblazoned in red in the chart above.

So…when it’s all said and done, we have 13 teams that meet at least one of the three champ tests I apply. Here they are, with the tests they pass in parentheses.

  1. Arizona (Basic)
  2. Syracuse (KP raw, KP rank)
  3. Wichita State (KP raw)
  4. Kansas (Basic)
  5. Michigan State (Basic)
  6. Villanova (Basic)
  7. Michigan (Basic)
  8. Kentucky (Basic)
  9. Louisville (Basic, KP raw)
  10. Wisconsin (Basic)
  11. Iowa (KP rank)
  12. Duke (Basic)
  13. Pittsburgh (Basic, KP rank)

Surprisingly, none of the teams meet all three criteria…and only three teams meet two. That would be Syracuse, Louisville (granting a slide on SOS) and Pittsburgh.

One last point to mention: I always track the AP top 20 teams whose KenPom ranking suggests are imposters. There are only two this week—the fewest I’ve ever seen. Cincinnati and Saint Louis don’t have the possession-based stats to warrant their rankings. Virginia and Ohio State are more efficient teams according to the nitty-gritty numbers.

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4 Responses to Michigan on, Ohio State off basic champ list—but 13 teams pass one of three tests

  1. Jeremy Houlihan says:

    In most of your champ checks you mention the efficiency stats, i’m curious would it be too much trouble adding them to your table? Some of your readers may not read kenpoms site, others may not be members. Thank you for your time.

    • ptiernan says:

      Jeremy…I’ll do it periodically, but OE, DE and Pythag raw and ranking is a lot of numbers to include. And I’m always in a race to complete the Monday review. I’ll commit to adding the numbers for the mid-season and pre-tourney Pulse Checks. Thanks.

  2. Andy says:

    A quick note: Kentucky didn’t make the tournament last year and should therefore have a disqualifier. Also, and this is an extremely small thing, but the board has the date as 2013 and the previous year as ’12. Otherwise, thanks so much for putting this together!

    • ptiernan says:

      Andy – I’m assuming that Kentucky’s Randle will be an All-American because he was listed as a pre-season pick. That said, if he doesn’t make the first or second team, Kentucky will indeed fail to make the grade. And thanks for the catch on “*/12.’ I’ve changed it going forward.

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