Well, 68 teams will have a shot starting next week. Obviously, some teams will have a better chance than others – but this season might have the most contenders in the top 4 seed lines in recent memory.
It would really be no surprise if we saw Florida, Arizona, Wichita State, Kansas, Duke, Syracuse, Louisville, Virginia, Michigan, Villanova, Creighton, or Wisconsin cutting down the nets in Dallas.
That’s a lot of teams.
But where are the real contenders? Who are the front-runners?
Here are the last eleven national champions with their KenPom Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Efficiencies:
The average offensive rating on the list above is 118.6, while the average defensive rating is 90.2. This year, there are no teams that meet those averages (NOTE: only 4 of the 11 previous national champions meet those averages: 2012 Kentucky, 2010 Duke, 2008 Kansas, & 2004 Connecticut).
So, which teams meet the bottom requirements? Further, which teams this season are better than the worst defensive team on this list (2009 North Carolina: 92.9) and the worst offensive team (2003 Syracuse: 113.5)?
Four of them: Virginia, Louisville, Florida, & Wichita State.
Virginia has won 14 of 15 since January 13. Tony Bennett has his team playing well at the ACC Tournament with a semi-final matchup coming up against Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers’ best wins have come against SMU (neutral), North Carolina (home), Pittsburgh (away), and Syracuse (home). Their worst loss was at Green Bay on December 7.
Louisville will be playing for the American Athletic Conference title on Saturday. The Cardinals have won 11 of 12 with the lone loss coming on the road at Memphis. Their best wins have come against SMU (home & away), Connecticut (home & away), and Cincinnati (away). In non-conference play, Rick Pitino’s team lost to North Carolina (neutral) and Kentucky (away), with its best win at home against Southern Mississippi.
Florida has not lost since December 2 on a Shabazz Napier put back at the buzzer at Connecticut. Their only other loss was at Wisconsin on November 12. Billy Donovan has his Gators playing their best basketball. They were the first team to ever go undefeated in SEC play, and the quality wins include Kansas (home), Memphis (neutral), Tennessee (home & away), and Kentucky (home & away).
Wichita State is the first team to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated since UNLV in 1991. The Shockers are also the first team since 1991 UNLV to go undefeated after making the Final Four the previous year. That UNLV team lost to Duke in the Final Four in 1991 just a year after winning the National Championship. The best wins this year for Gregg Marshall’s boys were BYU (neutral), Saint Louis (away), and Tennessee (home).
There ya have it. While the eye test tells us there are a number of teams that could win it all this season, statistical analysis based on the past says only four teams could take home the title.
Who are you picking?
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