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Inside the Numbers: UVA basketball vs. the metrics of the last 17 national champs

I’ve written about the magic number 11 in reference to KenPom.com, and what that means to the 2018-19 UVA basketball team.

The magic number refers to how the last four national champs have been ranked in the top 11 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

National Champ (Year) Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
Villanova (2017-2018) 127.8 (1) 94.0 (11)
North Carolina (2016-2017) 120.7 (9) 92.5 (11)
Villanova (2015-2016) 122.8 (3) 90.8 (5)
Duke (2014-2015) 124.5 (3) 92.0 (11)

 

At this writing, the 2018-2019 ‘Hoos are second nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (123.3) and second also in adjusted defensive efficiency (86.1).

Which, that’s pretty good.

I decided this morning to take this analysis back out to a full 10 years, just to see if this is a more recent trend, or if the idea that teams that are elite on both ends of the floor translates to titles has legs.

Here we go:

National Champ (Year) Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
UConn (2013-2014) 113.6 (39) 91.5 (10)
Louisville (2012-2013) 117.7 (7) 84.8 (1)
Kentucky (2011-2012) 122.2 (2) 89.6 (7)
UConn (2010-2011) 115.8 (19) 91.9 (15)
Duke (2009-2010) 121.0 (1) 87.7 (5)
North Carolina (2008-2009) 123.2 (1) 92.1 (18)

 

Damn, those two UConn champs, screwing things up, from my magic number 11 perspective.

That UNC team in 2008-2009 was also a tad bit outside the top 11 defensively (Kanas was 11th that year, at 90.7).

Still, by and large, the magic number holds.

You know, the KenPom.com stats era dates back to 2002.

Might as well track it as far back as we can.

National Champ (Year) Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
Kansas (2007-2008) 120.9 (1) 85.7 (1)
Florida (2006-2007) 122.8 (1) 92.0 (13)
Florida (2005-2006) 117.9 (3) 89.7 (7)
North Carolina (2004-2005) 122.5 (2) 89.7 (5)
UConn (2003-2004) 117.8 (9) 89.5 (6)
Syracuse (2002-2003) 114.4 (17) 91.1 (14)
Maryland (2001-2002) 119.2 (4) 89.9 (7)

So, where we are with this: 12 of the 17 national champs in the KenPom.com era were ranked in the top 11 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency, and if you throw that number out to 19, all but one – the 2013-2014 UConn title team – was ranked that high on both ends.

Looking at the top 11 on both ends in the current 2018-2019 KenPom.com data:

Team/KP Overall Rank Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
UVA (1) 123.3 (2) 86.1 (2)
Duke (3) 121.0 (6) 88.7 (6)
Michigan State (4) 121.4 (4) 91.1 (9)
North Carolina (5) 120.1 (7) 91.8 (11)

 

And then, the top 21 on both ends (you’ll see why I’m adding two more, to go from 19 to 21):

Team Adj. Offensive Efficiency (Rank) Adj. Defensive Efficiency (Rank)
UVA (1) 123.3 (2) 86.1 (2)
Gonzaga (2) 127.7 (1) 92.7 (15)
Duke (3) 121.0 (6) 88.7 (6)
Michigan State (4) 121.4 (4) 91.1 (9)
North Carolina (5) 120.1 (7) 91.8 (11)
Michigan (6) 115.3 (20) 86.9 (3)
Tennessee (7) 121.7 (3) 93.6 (21)
Kentucky (9) 118.0 (12) 90.8 (8)

 

Spoiler Alert: One of the above eight teams is your 2018-2019 national champ.

In case you’re wondering, the 2017-2018 UVA team – the number #1 overall national tournament seed, with a 31-2 record going into the Big Dance, a 17-1 record in the ACC, and a three-game sweep through the ACC Tournament – wouldn’t have been in this conversation.

Those ‘Hoos were 30th in adjusted offensive efficiency (115.2), and first in adjusted defensive efficiency (85.6).

Only one Tony Bennett team would have been a pre-tournament favorite using this metric: the 2015-2016 Elite Eight team, which was eighth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (120.6) and seventh in adjusted defensive efficiency (91.0).

Just from looking at that, then, this metric seems to check out.

Column by Chris Graham


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