Friday’s Den: Identifying trends for this year’s NCAA tournament

Are there any characteristics that can identify teams that will win the college basketball national title? I’ve studied the last six national champs, and came up with some trends:

— Last five national champs were #1-seeds; Villanova was a #2-seed when they won in 2016, Duke was a #1-seed when they won in 2015.

In 2014, 7-seed UConn beat 8-seed Kentucky in the national title game; since that year, six of the seven national champs have been #1-seeds.

The teams that lost the last seven national title games: four #1-seeds, two #3-seeds and a #8-seed (North Carolina last year)

Power conference teams have ruled the tournament, which doesn’t bode well for Houston in this year’s event.

— Tempo/pace of play— Nothing here; last six national champs have been all over the board as far as tempo goes.

— Offensive efficiency— This one is huge; last six national champs were all in the top 10 in this category. As I type this, that would narrow the potential national champs to:


— Defensive efficiency— Last six national champs were all in the top 25 in this category; there are five SEC teams in top 25 defensive efficiency.

— eFG%— This is same as regular FG%, except 3-pointers count as 1.5 baskets made. Five of the last six national champs were in the top 30 in this category.

— eFG% defense— Little bit of a mixed bag; Baylor was #121 two years ago, North Carolina was #71 in 2017. Doesn’t seem to be as important as the offensive end.

— 2-point FG%— Four of last six national champs were in top 50 in 2-point FG%.

— Point distribution— There seems to be no correlation, none, to how national champs got their points. This especially applies to foul shots; of the last six champs, Kansas last year (#184) ranked in the top 200 of getting their points on the foul line. 

To beat quality teams, you cannot depend on getting the best of the whistles. Fewer fouls are called in March; guys have to play through contact to have success.

— Non-conference strength of schedule— Baylor ’21/Virginia ’19 had terrible non-conference schedules; the other four champs ranked in the top 90, but Kansas LY (#49) had the only top 50 non-conference schedules.

— Overall strength of schedule— This indicates a trend: five of the last six national champs had an overall strength of schedule in the top 25, pointing us towards the power conferences to pick our national champ. Baylor is 2021 (#54) is the lone exception from the last six years.

— Depth— This one is surprising; of the last six national champs, only North Carolina in 2017 (#69) had bench minutes in the top 200. TV timeouts are longer in the NCAA’s; depth doesn’t mean as much.

— Experience— Of the last six national champs, only Baylor in 2021 was in the top 100 in this category; talent is more important than experience, and there is no metric that measures talent.

— Continuity— This category helps some; four of the last six national champs had a continuity in the top 80, with Baylor (#31), Kansas (#45) winning the last two years. In this day and age when kids transfer a lot, talented teams that bond over a period of 2-3 years have an advantage. 

In Thursday’s play……..
— Maryland 68, Purdue 54— Purdue had only two players score more than 6 points; they’ve now lost three of their last four games, after a 22-1 start. Boilermakers scored 54-58 points in their last two games. 

— Gonzaga 108, LMU 65— Zags avenged an earlier loss to LMU; they led 68-28 at halftime.

— Middle Tennessee 74, Florida Atlantic 70— Owls are 3-2 in their last five games, after a 21-1 start; they’ve given up 80 ppg in their last three games.

— Iowa 92, Ohio State 75— Buckeyes are in free fall; they’ve lost seven in row, 12 of last 13 games- they’re shooting 46.1% inside arc in Big 14 games. 

— Memphis 64, UCF 63— Tigers led 43-35 at halftime; they hung on to win, scoring 20 points in second half. Memphis turned ball over 24 times; they’ve won eight of their last nine games.

— NC-Wilmington 72, Drexel 71, 2OT— Drexel led by 15 early, by 4 with 1:16 left in the first OT. Dragons were just 13-21 on foul line in a one-point loss. UNCW won six of its last seven games; the last two seasons, Seahawks are 48-16, 28-8 in CAA play.

— Southern Indiana 82, Little Rock 81— Trojans lost 11 of their last 14 games; five of their last six losses are by 4 or less points.

— South Alabama 85, Southern Miss 54— Golden Eagles had won nine games in a row, but South Alabama shot 74% inside the arc in this game. USM leads Marshall/Louisiana by one game each in Sun Belt standings. 

— RIP Tim McCarver, who passed away at age 81. McCarver caught in the major leagues for 21 years, appearing in four different decades. He then became one of the game’s best TV analysts, working 24 World Series.

McCarver was especially good as a TV analyst for the Mets in the late 80’s; he was great when he worked every day on.a local broadcast, as opposed to only once a week on network TV. I learned a lot listening to him every night.

RIP, sir. 

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.