Five teams have both the raw efficiency numbers and rankings of past champs

I got a big surprise last night in the middle of the Oscars. An email came through from Ken Pomeroy. I had reached out to him over a month ago when I learned that he had adjusted his formulas to downplay the impact of mismatches.

I was concerned that my historical possession-based data from the past 10 years would be less relevant for tourney analysis. While Ken did recalculate his 11 years of data and post it to his, it’s all post-tournament, so it doesn’t have any predictive value. I didn’t expect Ken to do anything but confirm my suspicions.

That’s where the surprise came in. Ken re-ran all his pre-Selection Sunday data with the new formula and provided it to me. He even gave me the data for 2003, which I’d been missing. He did all this without my even deigning to ask. I can’t thank Ken enough for this act of generosity.

The numbers using the new “mismatch-free” formula aren’t earth-shatteringly different, but they do change in a meaningful enough way to affect the relative rankings of teams—and some of the conclusions that can be drawn from them It’s really too late for me to load this all into my database this season, but I plan to do extensive analysis with it next year for 30 years of the 64-team era.

One of the studies I wanted to make I undertook, however, was a reassessment of the two efficiency champ checks I do. If you’ll recall, I use the efficiency ratings of the past champions (now 11 of them!) to perform two tests:

  1. I compare the raw offensive and defensive efficiency numbers (based on points-per-100-possessions) of this year’s teams with the thresholds set by the last 11 champions.
  2. I compare the offensive and defensive efficiency ratings of this year’s teams with the ratings of those same champions.

The chart below will explain things better. Since 2003, the worst a champion has performed on offense in terms of points per 100 possessions is 112.2. That number belongs to last year’s champ Louisville. And the worst a champ has been ranked on offense is 18th (both Louisville and UConn in 2013). On defense, the most points a champ has allowed per 100 possessions is 95.4; that would be North Carolina in 2009—and they were ranked 49th in the country (of course, there offensive efficiency was through the roof). Take a look at this chart first, then we’ll get to the two tests:


As far as raw efficiency numbers go, the best candidates to cut down the nets will avoid the “danger zone” highlighted in the graph above. That is, they’ll have an OE above 112.2 and a DE below 95.4. Here are the teams that currently meet these thresholds:

  • Arizona
  • Virginia
  • Florida
  • Louisville
  • Wichita State
  • Villanova
  • Kansas
  • Syracuse

This is a far bigger list than it’s been in the past—and that’s because of the new KenPom numbers. Notice that four of these teams aren’t on the basic champ list. I’ve highlighted them in red.

When it comes to efficiency test #2, the rankings comparison, there are seven teams that own top-18 offensive and top-49 defensive rankings. They are:

  • Florida
  • Louisville
  • Wichita State
  • Villanova
  • Kansas
  • Wisconsin
  • UCLA

UCLA is a surprise addition to this list. With a DE rating of 49, the Bruins just squeak in under the limit. But UCLA doesn’t have anything like the vaunted offense that the Tar Heels of 2009 owned. Their inclusion is interesting, but I wouldn’t say that it establishes them as legitimate contenders.

Overall, between the basic, raw and ranked efficiency tests, there are 13 champion candidates. Only two of them—Villanova and Kansas of all teams—appear on all these lists. Here’s the breakdown, by number of lists made:

  1. Villanova (BA, RAW, RK)
    Kansas (BA, RAW, RK)
  2. Arizona (BA, RAW)
    Florida (RAW, RK)
    Wichita State (RAW, RK)
    Louisville (RAW, RK)
    Wisconsin (BA, RK)
  3. Virginia (RAW)
    Duke (BA)
    Syracuse (RAW)
    Michigan (BA)
    North Carolina (BA)
    UCLA (RK)
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9 Responses to Five teams have both the raw efficiency numbers and rankings of past champs

  1. Gary Diny says:


    Thanks for the info!! Pass along a thanks to Ken for sharing the data and re-running the formulas!!!

    Wondering if you could search to see how many teams made the thresholds for each of the seasons. Also if there were multiple teams, is there any noteworthy trends on point per 100 differential. Specifically, if multiple teams meet the thresholds, does the team with the bigger differential based on the efficiency number win out, or not.



  2. ptiernan says:

    Sorry Gary. I’m buried in preparation for the next two weeks and unlikely to get to this.

    • Gary Diny says:


      No problem…. just wanted to make sure you were not slacking on things (sarcasm alert).

      Do you foresee much change in the next 2 weeks in SOS for some teams? Seems like a few teams (as you mentioned) might dip below the scoring threshold at 73.0.

      Again interesting to see that the offensive efficiency has a much higher requirement than the defensive requirement in terms of rankings.

      Thanks again, and hope you have the coffee ready for the upcoming “madness”. I am watching BTN “inside the selection process”. They are debating Wisconsin as a #1 seed???? Could that really happen??


  3. Brigs says:

    Ken is the man! That’s a great gift. I would pay for that data set if it includes all the team and four factor stats.

  4. Andy says:

    Great stuff by Ken! Thank you for sharing Pete! As usual, I have my own thoughts on this that I thought I would share.

    It’s interesting that Villanova and Kansas are the only two to meet all three criteria. Indeed, I am very high on Villanova, despite their blowout losses, mainly because of their tough interior defense. Of course, perimeter defense is an issue, but they have a pretty good offense on their own right that this may be minor. And of course, there are those three blowout losses that have me concerned about their overall toughness. As for Kansas, I am slowly coming to grips that they might avoid an upset if they get just the right draw, but I still can’t imagine them in the Final Four, and I really want to take them out a round or two before. It just comes back to too much youth. Yes, Kentucky put it together in 2012 anyway, but that team had a senior starter who was on a somewhat surprising Final Four run the previous year, giving them a little leadership, and their freshmen were the most talented and hardest working, both put together, that I have ever seen in college.

    I’m not surprised Arizona doesn’t meet the ranking criteria….yet. I think it’s partly a function of their recent offensive slump and partly the rules chance allowing for more offense that is ranking them at #29 for now there. But make no mistake, I have been watching this team closely and they have impressed me a lot since their win at Colorado and they may have figured it out. Their offense wasn’t quite as impressive last night against Stanford, but they still got 79 points in I think 69 possessions or so, which is much better than where they were during the slump. It’s also just way to hard to ignore the large gulf between them at #1 and the #2 teams according to Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin. The gap in Ken Pomeroy is 0.0137, which is still wider than the gap between #2 Virginia and #7 Creighton. But more alarming is the gap between Arizona and #2 according to Sagarin, which is currently an astounding 3.43, which is still just wider than the gap between #2 and #17! (And #17, Oklahoma State, played tonight and I heard looked pretty solid, so their gap between than and #2 may become a tad narrow, too. Who’s #2 you ask? That’s Duke.) And that is no weak schedule, this is with one of the best collections of wins I have ever seen.

    And I’m still not done with Arizona. I read one article earlier today, and one guy commented that Arizona is #1 on NINE advanced metrics (although some, such as #1 overall seed, I take with a grain of salt). I also verified, they have won six true road games at opponents are otherwise a combined 85-5 at home (if you see the article, you’ll note he says 76-4 against five opponents on the road, thinking he included Duke which was in New York, not a true road game). Unless they slump again this week and/or in the Pac 12 tournament, I predict their offensive rank will continue to rise, but even if it doesn’t quite hit #18, at this rate it’s going to be very hard for me not to pick them to win the championship. Couple that with a coach who has only failed to overachieve once in six tries (as a 14 seed anyway), and has never lost to a team seeded lower than his own….I’ll let you figure it out.

    As for the other teams, I will keep it simple since I went on and on about Arizona, and had a fair amount to say about Villanova and Kansas.
    – Florida just doesn’t score enough points per game and I’m concerned about their perimeter defense.
    – Wichita State is a mid major and hasn’t been tested as much as I’d like.
    – Louisville also has played a soft schedule and lost their only two decent non-conference matches, making me a bit leery on them.
    – Wisconsin, again, comes to inconsistent coaching in the tournament, but usually underachieving.
    – Virginia scores too few points per game and is too inexperienced for my liking, in fact they kind of remind me of Miami a bit from last year, with much better defense though.
    – Duke and Michigan both struggle mightily with defense and rebounding, although Duke is getting better on defense somewhat.
    – North Carolina is a potential Cinderella for the Final Four, but after further review, only 20% of their field goal attempts are threes, making me consider elsewhere for a champion.
    – Finally, UCLA has a coach who hasn’t overachieved in years and has never reached the Elite Eight. I don’t expect that to change now.

    I guess it’s overall kind of a re-hash of my thoughts from last week, so I’ll try to update again only if I notice anything drastic for anyone, whether for better or worse.

    • Jeff Bessa says:

      I’m also sticking with Arizona but I’m excited about the AP top 20 and kenpom misalignment this year which creates value. Coach aside, Ucla was hurt when their two best players were suspended 3 hours before tipoff against Oregon. If they won out including a win over AZ in P12 tourney they are worth a look to win 2 or 3 games.

    • Blazers says:

      Andy, until the bracket comes out, there is no point in pointing out who will win it all. Every team has flaw, it comes down to who has the matchup in favor of them. Arizona is doing well despite the injured player. As for Villanova, yeah they suffer blowout losses, but let’s not forget the DUke of 2010 that won it all but suffered a bad loss to Georgetown (whom lost to 14 Ohio) by nearly 30 points.

  5. James says:


    Was there a change in the calculation of the raw efficiency numbers under the new KenPom numbers? The previous champ check limits were 115.1 offensive and 92.2 defensive (points per possession).


    • ptiernan says:

      Ken readjusted his formula early in the season to discount the impact of mismatch games. This threw all previous KenPom data out of whack. Amazingly, Ken was kind enough to recalculate all the previous years (2003-2013) PRE-TOURNEY…and send them to me on Sunday. These new tests reflect the updated numbers.

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