The very first year I filled out a bracket was in 2002, and I knew nothing about college basketball. And after 12 years of having my bracket busted, I could argue that I haven’t learned a thing. Picking Georgia Tech in 2004 was my only correctly picked champion. Unbelievable.
The difference between those other horrid years and this one is not measuring teams solely with an eye test, a team’s respective records, or any other stats that one could easily find on ESPN.
I now have started to measure teams in terms of their efficiency, both on offense and defense. A team’s offensive efficiency is how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. And defensive is how many are allowed per 100 possessions. Understandably, a team with the best offensive efficiency will likely have the best offense. This isn’t always the case because different teams in different conferences play at faster and slower paces…which in turn, affects how many possessions a team will have. But it’s almost always right.
Not sold yet?
Since 2002, only one team has won a championship that did not have both an offensive and defensive efficiency better than 25. That team was last year’s champion, Connecticut. Were they great in the regular season? Hell, no! They had 9 losses to their name going into the tourney. They won because Shabazz Napier took over and put the rest of the field to shame. A phenomenon that is henceforth known as the ‘Shabazz Napier Effect’.
Still need convincing?
Between 2002-2013, if one or multiple teams had efficiencies in the top 10, that one (or the best, if multiple) team has won the championship every year.
On to the picks…
Only one team this year has both a top 10 offensive and defensive efficiency. Kentucky will win it all. You’re welcome.
The hardest part about picking the rest of the field comes down to two things.
1) Upsets happen. A team with both a worse offensive and defensive efficiency can, but not often, win. There’s usually a couple. It’s what puts the ‘madness’ in March.
2) Picking between two team with similar, but opposite efficiencies. A good example will follow…
(From here on out, the teams will be listed as so, with O=Offensive Efficiency and D=Defensive Efficiency
(#) Team A O/D vs (#) Team B O/D
(1) Kentucky 5/2 vs (16) Hampton 301/141 – Kentucky
(8) Cincinnati 76/18 vs (9) Purdue 57/69 – These are the types of matchups that I previously referred to that can be difficult. However, I calculated an aggregate median average of all 8v9 teams, and Cincinnati came out on top
(5) West Virginia 33/47 vs (12) Buffalo 47/94 – This was one of my upset picks for a few reasons, but mostly because Buffalo won their conference, and West Virginia was 5th in theirs.
(4) Maryland 56/36 vs (13) Valparaiso 129/31 – Maryland
(6) Butler 67/10 vs (11) Texas 42/19 – I took Texas in this one because they averaged out a little better, they’re better in offense (which usually is the predominant of the two efficiencies), and because I’ve seen Butler play.
(3) Notre Dame 2/112 vs (14) Northeastern 90/171 – The 112 for Notre Dame is very deceiving, Northeastern is only in a mid-major conference. Notre Dame also won the ACC title beating UNC and Duke back to back. Kudos!
(7) Wichita State 20/15 vs (10) Indiana 10/216 – Wichita State
(2) Kansas 37/7 vs (15) New Mexico St 120/87 – Kansas
Going through the entire bracket would take many, weary hours. I’m just going to sum up the rest of my picks here. If you’d like to know the efficiency ratings of all the teams in the field, go to http://www.kenpom.com
Round of 32 – Kentucky, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Maryland, Texas, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Kansas
Sweet 16 – Kentucky, Maryland, Notre Dame, Wichita State
Elite 8 – Kentucky, Notre Dame
Final 4 – Kentucky
Round of 32 – Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Harvard, Xavier, Baylor, Ohio State, Arizona
Sweet 16 – Wisconsin, Arkansas, Baylor, Arizona
Elite 8 – Wisconsin, Arizona
Final 4 – Arizona
Round of 32 – Villanova, LSU, Northern Iowa, UC Irvine, Providence, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia
Sweet 16 – Villanova, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan State
Elite 8 – Villanova, Michigan State
Final 4 – Villanova
Round of 32 – Duke, St Johns, Stephen F Austin, Georgetown, SMU, Iowa St, Iowa, Gonzaga
Sweet 16 – Duke, Stephen F Austin, Iowa St, Gonzaga
Elite 8 – Duke, Gonzaga
Final 4 – Duke
Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Duke
There are a few really tough matchups that I struggled with, and that you may want to go the other direction on.
Michigan St vs Virginia – Virginia has the best defensive efficiency, but I just can’t go against Tom Izzo. He’s too good. Unfortunately, Michigan State WILL lose at some point. With Villanova having a 3/14 O/D, I think that’ll end the Spartans’ run.
Iowa St vs Gonzaga – Iowa St won a better conference, but Gonzaga is 6/20 O/D. However, Gonzaga never makes it too far in the tourney, and they’re almost always ranked very high because they play in a relatively non-competitive conference.
Wisconsin vs Arizona – I already have been hearing it from Wisconsin fans about picking Arizona. Even though the Badgers have a 1/30 O/D, I believe they are a one-man ship that solely runs through Frank Kaminsky. If he gets in foul trouble, it’s over. Arizona also has some bigs of their own, and can splash from behind the arc.
In most tourneys, at least 3 of the 4 teams in the Final Four have at least 1 efficiency in the top 25.