Part 1 of this article last week, I took a basic look at the profile of the
past 15 NCAA champions. From that profile, I was able to make a ‘short
list’ of potential champs in 2013, consisting of the following 15 teams: Florida,
Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Georgetown, Louisville,
Marquette, Syracuse, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Miami-FL and
However, since last week, one
of those 15 teams has been bounced from consideration. Syracuse’s late
season meltdown – four losses in their last five ballgames – has left them
above the seven loss cut-off line.
I’d still call the Orange a
‘live’ longshot – let’s not forget that fellow Big East member UConn in 2011
also lost four of their last five regular season games before reeling off eleven
consecutive wins in the Big East and Big Dance tournaments to win the
title. Then again, that 2011 UConn team is clearly the ‘exception to the
rule’ type of squad when we examine the last 15 title winners.
step in the elimination process is to look at the team’s records away from
home. The NCAA
championship is not won on a team’s home floor. Even with a favorable
location one weekend, a team is still going to have to win four ‘neutral site’
games in order to cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8th. And the best
predictive evidence for future success in neutral or hostile environments is
previous success is neutral or hostile environments.
In most years, we’ll find a sub
.500 road record or two among the list of potential champs, an instant
elimination. This year is no exception. Marquette lost just about every
tough road game they played all year. They got waxed at Florida, hammered
at Louisville and came up short at Georgetown, Villanova, Cincinnati and even
Michigan deserved their #1
ranking in January, winning 20 of their first 21 games. But frankly, my
alma mater did not play as well down the stretch of the campaign, and their
results away from home clearly left a lot to be desired. The Wolverines
lost at Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin and even lowly Penn
State down the stretch. Their 1-8 ATS mark in their final nine regular
season games clearly tells us that the Wolverines are not as good as advertised
I’ll send the Wolverines and
Golden Eagles packing. Voila, we’re down to a dirty dozen!
move to defensive acumen, based on one of the more under-rated stats in all of
college basketball – defensive field goal percentage allowed. Kentucky was ranked in the Top 10 in this category last year.
Kansas ranks #1 in the nation,
allowing opponent to hit less than 36% of their shots from the floor.
Florida and Georgetown are in the Top 10 in this category. Indiana,
Louisville, Oklahoma State and Miami-FL all rank in the Top 30, with Ohio State
and Michigan State just behind.
Duke’s biggest weakness in
recent years has been in this category, and 2013 is no exception. The
Blue Devils didn’t even crack the Top 100 teams in the nation defensively this
year. Neither did Arizona. And Kansas State was the outlier of the
bunch, ranked #180 out of the 347 Division 1A teams in defensive field goal
percentage allowed. I’ll eliminate those three teams from contention
As we continue with the
statistical profile of a champion, interior play is next on the list.
that I like to use here is rebounding margin. Kentucky
was a Top 10 rebounding team last year.
Indiana is the only team from
the group ranked in the Top 10 nationally in this statistical category.
Kansas, Michigan State, Ohio State, Florida and Louisville rank among the Top
and Oklahoma State both finished the regular season ranked outside the Top
75. And Georgetown was the real outlier, ranked in the #120’s in
rebounding margin. I’ll bounce those three teams here.
Teams with NBA first round picks in their lineup tend to do well
come tournament time
Last year, Kentucky certainly
had their fair share of first round NBA talent – Anthony Davis, Michael
Kidd-Gilchrist went #1 and #2, followed by Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague,
Darius Miller and Doron Lamb among the Top 46 picks. Now that’s a lot of
NBA ready talent!
In 2011, UConn only had one
first rounder in the draft, but he was the guy who carried the team – point
guard Kemba Walker. But we shouldn’t forget the impact of Jeremy Lamb,
who decided to return to school following his freshman year, but went in the
lottery the following season.
Four years ago North Carolina
sent Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough and Wayne Ellington into the first round,
followed by Danny Green in the second round. Five years ago, we saw
Kansas get three players drafted, including Brandon Rush in the lottery, Darrel
Arthur later in the first round and Mario Chalmers at the beginning of the
second round. The year before Florida had three lottery picks – Al
Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah.
Kansas will lose projected #1
overall pick Ben McLemore to the draft this spring, and Jeff Withey is a likely
first rounder. Indiana has Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo both projected
to go in the lottery, and Christian Watford could get drafted as well.
Ohio State has Deshawn Thomas; Florida has Patrick Young and Louisville has
Gorgui Dieng. Michigan State doesn’t have a projected NBA draft pick, so we’ll
say goodbye to Tom Izzo’s squad here.
I’ll examine point guard play, using assist-to-turnover ratio as the key stat.
Louisville’s Peyton Siva is
exactly what I’m looking for – a battle tested senior leader with a better than
2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell is a freshman (4.3 –
2.0) although senior Jordan Hulls (3.0 - 1.3) is very involved in running the
offense. Ohio State junior Aaron Craft (4.5 – 1.8) and his backup Shannon
Scott (3.8 - 1.3) both fare well statistically. So do Florida junior
Scottie Wilbekin (5.1 – 2.1) and his backcourt mate senior Kenny Boynton (2.9 -
This is where Kansas gets the
boot. Point guard play has arguably been their biggest weakness all
year. Senior Elijah Johnson (4.8-3.0) has struggled to fill Tyshawn
Taylor’s shoes from last year. Three other Jayhawk backcourt mates also
average more than two assists per game – Ben McLemore, Travis Releford and
Naadir Tharpe. Between them their 7.4 assists get offset by their
combined 4.9 turnovers, nowhere near the 2:1 ratio that I’m looking for.
final stat? Free throw shooting.
Any Memphis fan will tell you
how important free throw shooting actually is come tournament time – the
inability to close out the national championship game from the charity stripe
cost the Tigers a title at the Alamodome in San Antonio in 2008.
Indiana fares well in this
category, connecting at a 74% clip from the charity stripe. Louisville is
at 71%. But both Ohio State and Florida finished the season under 70%.
That leaves me with two teams
remaining. I’ll call for a Louisville – Indiana championship game matchup with
Louisville coming out on top. The Cardinals have star power, depth,
experience and talent. They rebound, play defense and win games
consistently away from home. Rick Pitino’s squad meets all the criteria
that has been effective at predicting past championship. Plain
and simple, Louisville has what it takes to win it all.