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:
- 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.
- 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:
- Wichita State
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:
- Wichita State
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:
- Villanova (BA, RAW, RK)
Kansas (BA, RAW, RK)
- Arizona (BA, RAW)
Florida (RAW, RK)
Wichita State (RAW, RK)
Louisville (RAW, RK)
Wisconsin (BA, RK)
- Virginia (RAW)
North Carolina (BA)