14 teams pass at least one champ test…but only Villanova passes them all

This is the first week that there haven’t been any changes to the list of teams meeting the basic champ criteria. The last 13 champs 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 teams that meet all these criteria include: Villanova, Arizona, Duke, Michigan, Kansas, Wisconsin and North Carolina. Here’s the legend…and then the breakdown:

  • Orange boxes show teams meeting all criteria
  • Light red boxes show where teams missed the criteria
  • Purple boxes show teams who don’t deserve their AP top 20 ranking according to KenPom efficiency statistics.


Of the seven teams that possess all eight basic champ credentials, Wisconsin and North Carolina are in the greatest jeopardy of losing stats champ status. The Badgers remain precariously close to the 73-point threshold. And the Tar Heels are currently projected as a four seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket.

In a sign of how difficult it is to peg this year’s top teams, there are now seven squads in the AP top 20 whom efficiency numbers suggest are undeserving of their lofty rating. San Diego State, North Carolina, Iowa State, Oklahoma, St. Louis, Memphis and New Mexico don’t have KenPom Pythag values among the top 20 teams in the country. Advanced stats suggest that Tennessee (13), Ohio State (14), VCU (15), Michigan State (16), Iowa (17), Oklahoma State (19) and Pitt (20) are the better teams.

Speaking of possession-based data, there are 10 teams that pass at least one of the two efficiency champ tests. If you’ll recall, I use the KenPom’s ratings of the past champions 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.

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).

Here are the seven teams with an OE above 112.2 and a DE below 95.4:

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

This is the same list of teams as last year—with one exception. Kansas saw it’s DE jump up to 96.1 and thus missed out on the defensive threshold.

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

  • Kansas
  • Wichita State
  • Florida
  • Villanova
  • Louisville
  • Tennessee (say what?)
  • Michigan State

Wisconsin and UCLA dropped off the efficiency ratings list and were replaced by Tennessee and Michigan State. What the heck is with these Vols? They’ve come out of nowhere to become the 13th most efficient team in the country. That’s why I’ve pegged them as an Upsetter in my Pulse Check.

Overall, between the basic, raw and ranked efficiency tests, there are 14 champion candidates. Only Villanova appears on all these lists. Here’s the breakdown, by number of lists made:

  1. Villanova (BA, RAW, RK)
  2. Arizona (BA, RAW)
    Kansas (BA, RK)
    Florida (RAW, RK)
    Wichita State (RAW, RK)
    Louisville (RAW, RK)
  3. Duke (BA)
    Wisconsin (BA)
    Michigan (BA)
    North Carolina (BA)
    Virginia (RAW)
    Syracuse (RAW)
    Tennessee (RK)
    Michigan State (RK)
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11 Responses to 14 teams pass at least one champ test…but only Villanova passes them all

  1. Richard says:

    You have Memphis as not attending last years dance, but they were there. You have it correct on PulseCheck.

  2. ptiernan says:

    Done. Flying fast. Bear with me.

  3. NickStat says:

    So- last year’s Louisville team had the worst offensive ranking and lowest points per 100 possessions of any champ? Does that mean they did not pass the champ criteria prior to last year’s tourney? While meeting or exceeding each of these champ tests is a good start, wouldn’t it be better to run a regression to find out how highly correlated each is with predicting champ/success/PASE in tournament? Then you could boil down to a formula that would allow a rank order of most likely to least likely champs.

    Thanks for your work. Love your articles.

  4. Jack says:

    Peter – Any thoughts/research on whether how “mad” the conference tournaments are can be an indicator for the Dance itself? As of today, there have been 13 completed tournaments, and 9 have been won by 1 or 2 seeds. Anything to read into this for the next 3 weeks? Thanks.

  5. Gary Diny says:

    Does anyone else recall hearing this in the previous few years??? No team has lost their opening game of its conference tournament and gone on to win the NCAA tournament. Villanova!!!!


    • Tommy says:

      Heard that before, for sure, but can’t remember where. I used that to knock out Pitt from title consideration years ago (the Kemba Walker-UConn year, I believe). Makes sense f you believe in momentum going into the tournament.

      • Andy says:

        Also hurting matters for Villanovan is their three blowout losses they have incurred throughout the season. I still think they have a decent run, likely Elite Eight or Final Four, but a team that can’t stop a good offensive team like Creighton is really in deep doo-doo if their dream is to win the championship.

        Say what you will, but I think a 2 seed would be better for Nova. I have a feeling they may not handle the expectations of being a 1 seed very well.

    • Paul says:

      Gary, i’m with you on that stat. villanova is out

  6. Phaedrus says:

    Given recent conference realignment does the Big East still count as a major conference for the purposes of your analysis?

    My apologies if you have addressed this prior posts.

    • ptiernan says:

      Yeah, I’m still keeping the Big East as a Power conference…as well as the American. Frankly, the whole conference factor is disintegrating before our eyes.

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