This blog is almost entirely about baseball, not by conscious decision but more because that is the sport I follow most closely. Since moving away from Durham, North Carolina, I’ve remained a college hoops fan though I’ve not followed as closely, so please take the following with as many grains as salt as required. For some time I have been a big fan of @kenpomeroy and his college hoops ratings system. Similar in approach to many of the themes of the saber revolution in baseball, kenpom ratings attempt to offer some insight beyond traditional numbers.
Of particular interest for this discussion are his Adjusted Offense and Adjusted Defense ratings. At the highest level, they try to assess how efficient college teams are on either end of the floor, realizing that points scored or points allowed are limited because they fail to take into account the pace at which a team plays (i.e., high octane offensive teams may play excellent defense, but the mere fact that they allow more possessions likely means they will also allow more points).
Looking at the 2013 numbers, even the casual fan would find some comfort in the eye test and the top teams in the kenpom rankings – the best defensive team in the country is Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals (no surprise to anyone that has followed Pitino’s teams over the years) and the best offensive team is Indiana.
Over the years, what is interesting to me is that I have tracked those few teams that have managed to find their way into the top 5 in both Adjusted Offense and Adjusted Defense. Below is a table going back to 2003 that shows those teams that were ranked in the top 5 on both sides of the floor:
|Teams — Top 5 on AdjO and AdjD|
Over these 10 seasons, there have been 10 teams that met the criteria. In 2008, those two teams (Kansas and Memphis) met for the national championship (and went to overtime to decide who cut down the nets). In 2004, those two teams (Duke and UConn) met in San Antonio in the National Semifinals (to this day the only Final Four game I have ever attended in person), and UConn came back to beat Duke and two days later cut down the nets against Georgia Tech. In 2005 and 2006, UNC and Florida rode their balanced attacked to national championships.
In 2003 and 2007, the teams in the top 5 in both were eliminated in the Elite 8 – Dwayne Wade posted a triple double to lead Marquette over Kentucky in 2003, while Georgetown squeaked by UNC in overtime one step short of the Final Four in 2007. The lone outlier – Ohio State’s loss in the Sweet 16 to Brandon Knight’s 15 footer with 5 seconds left, sealing a 62-60 victory over top seeded OSU.
How is this all relevant to 2013? Well, according to kenpom only one team managed the top 5 in both offense and defense this year – the #3 Seed Florida Gators. Most pundits out there seem to be picking Louisville, or Indiana, even occasionally Kansas. My bracket? I don’t care if this isn’t a statistically valid sample — I’m trusting @kenpomeroy and going with the Gators to cut down the nets in Atlanta.