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Picking the Winner

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Defense wins championships. According to recent history, this is true.

The last 11 champions have all ranked in the top 21 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency rating. But having an elite defense isn’t enough. Those 11 champions have also finished in the top 18 in offensive efficiency.

Past Champions (2003-2013)
Year Champion Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
2013 Louisville 4 3
2012 Kentucky 2 8
2011 Connecticut 18 13
2010 Duke 1 8
2009 North Carolina 1 21
2008 Kansas 2 1
2007 Florida 1 17
2006 Florida 3 6
2005 North Carolina 2 12
2004 Connecticut 9 5
2003 Syracuse 14 13


With two weeks remaining before the 2014 tournament starts, these are this year’s candidates to continue that trend:

2014 Schools
Champion Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Louisville 13 7
Wichita State 15 10
Florida 11 8
Villanova 9 20
*Kansas 6 26
*Arizona 29 1
*Virginia 31 3


Lousiville, Wichita State, Florida, and Villanova are the only teams that currently rank in the top 21 in defensive rating and top 18 in offensive rating. We included Kansas, Arizona, and Virginia as each are just outside of the desired rating as of March 6th.

KenPom’s offensive and defensive efficiency ratings are great ways of determining the potential candidates to advance to the final four. These aren’t completely fool-proof as there have been a few occasions where teams outside of either of the desired ratings advance to the Final Four (see list of Final Four participants to the right).

However when choosing the one team to dominate your bracket, it’s wise to stick with one of the candidates listed in the table above.

2003 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Syracuse 14 13
Kansas 15 4
Texas 1 80
Marquette 2 119
2004 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Connecticut 9 5
Georgia Tech 26 6
Duke 3 4
Oklahoma State 6 12
2005 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
North Carolina 2 12
Illinois 3 4
Louisville 7 37
Michigan State 6 32
2006 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Florida 3 6
UCLA 38 4
LSU 65 2
George Mason 58 13
2007 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Florida 1 17
Ohio State 3 11
UCLA 29 3
Georgetown 2 24
2008 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Kansas 2 1
Memphis 6 2
UCLA 8 5
North Carolina 1 19
2009 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
North Carolina 1 21
Michigan State 22 8
Connecticut 18 3
Villanova 25 13
2010 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Duke 1 8
Butler 57 2
Michigan State 36 27
West Virginia 11 23
2011 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Connecticut 18 13
Butler 48 44
Kentucky 10 15
VCU 25 84
2012 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Kentucky 2 8
Kansas 28 3
Ohio State 5 7
Louisville 116 1
2013 Final Four
Team Offensive Rank Defensive Rank
Louisville 4 3
Michigan 1 48
Syracuse 29 8
Wichita State 30 25


Final Four Trends based on KenPom’s Ratings

- 22 of 44 (50%) Final Four participants have finished in both the Top 18 in Offensive Rating and Top 21 in Defensive Rating

- 29 of 44 (66%) Final Four participants have been in the Top 18 Offensive Rating

- 33 of 44 (75%) Final Four participants have been in the Top 21 Defensive Rating

- Only 4 of 44 Final Four participants have finished outside of BOTH categories. (9th seeded Wichita State in 2013, 11th seeded VCU in 2011, 8th seeded Butler in 2011, 5th seeded Michigan State in 2010).

- Only 7 of 44 Final Four participants ranked below 30th in offensive efficiency rating.

Notable teams with that distinction this season:

Ohio State (117)
Cincinnati (131)
VCU (104)
San Diego State (96)
UConn (79)
Saint Louis (159)

- Only 5 of 44 Final Four participants ranked below 37th in defensive efficiency rating.

Notable teams with that distinction this season:

Duke (55)
Creighton (102)
Iowa (78)
Michigan (71)

  
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