Basic champ list unchanged, but Villanova and Kansas earn KenPom cred

On the surface, nothing has really changed in this week’s Champ Check. The same seven teams have met the basic criteria…and Louisville is still barely on the outs because of a weak strength of schedule.

You know the drill. 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

The seven teams that meet all these criteria, just like last week, include: Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and Michigan. Here’s how to read the chart below:

  • Light red boxes show where teams missed the criteria
  • Orange boxes show teams meeting all criteria
  • The light blue box shows the team that just missed because of SOS
  • Dark blue tabs on the right show teams meeting KenPom ranking criteria
  • The light purple boxes in the second column show teams whose KenPom ranking suggest that they don’t deserve their AP top 20 rating


Louisville fell short again of making the grade because of a weak SOS (81). I’ve been saying for about a month now that the Cardinals’ SOS is bound to improve. But guess what? It’s actually going in the wrong direction. Four weeks ago, Louisville’s SOS was 73. The next week, it slipped to 78. Seven days ago, it was 81. And today it stands at 85. So here’s the deal: next week, if the Cardinals don’t meet the SOS requirement, they stop getting special mention as a pseudo-champ candidate.

The interesting change in this week’s Champ Check comes from the results of the KenPom ranking test. Since Pomeroy started posting efficiency stats 10 years ago, every champion has ranked at least 17th and 25th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. Last week, only Syracuse, Louisville and Iowa made these two efficiency thresholds. This week, the Hawkeyes’ defense weakened and they fell out of contention. Meanwhile, Villanova and Kansas shored up their defensive rankings and they’ve passed the KenPom test.

A final detail to point out on the chart: if you believe in possession-based stats, four teams shaded in purple above don’t deserve their AP top 20 ranking. They are Saint Louis (21), Cincinnati (26), Memphis (30) and Texas (38). They’ve bumped out four more deserving teams listed below the chart: Ohio State (14), Pitt (15), Wisconsin (17) and UCLA (18).

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5 Responses to Basic champ list unchanged, but Villanova and Kansas earn KenPom cred

  1. David says:

    Really interesting stuff. Just as a question, do you know of any statistics that show how well teams perform in the tournament who do not pass the (basic) championship criteria? Obviously they don’t win the whole tournament, but say, for example, you compare Cincinnati and Iowa State. Two teams, in my opinion, who are fairly similar in strength. However, Iowa State passes 7/8 championship criteria while Cincinnati passes 6/8. So, do you think, for the teams who do not pass the championship criteria, does the number that they do pass affect their performance in March?

    • ptiernan says:

      Hi David. I haven’t done that analysis and would have difficulty doing it through the query capabilities of my database. What I notice about Iowa State (besides the fact that the Cyclones are getting smoked by West Virginia tonight) is that they’re well-balanced in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. Cincinnati, on the other hand, is awful offensively (134th in OE), but strong defensively (5th). That sort of disparity doesn’t usually lend itself to a deep tourney run.

  2. Tyler says:

    Why does Memphis not count as a power conference team while Louisville does? If it’s because this is their first year in the American, will they have that box checked off next year?

  3. Joe Nitti says:

    the box should be labelled Feb. 10th, 2014, not last years, correct ?

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