The Recipe for a College Basketball Title (And Why This Is an Outlier Season)
The beauty of college basketball is that any team — yes, even Arkansas Pine Bluff, Incarnate Word, or Binghamton — can win the national championship. In a world where Golden State is a near-unprecedented championship favorite in the NBA, it’s nice to still have basketball that isn’t, well, so predictable.
But is that right? Just because the college basketball format allows for more parity, does that mean there really is more parity? Let’s take a look.
Offense, Defense, or Balance?
Ken Pomeroy has three great metrics to measure the performance of college teams . . .
- Adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO): Points scored per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponents
- Adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD): Points allowed per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponents
- Adjusted efficiency margin (AdjEM): The difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency
Using these numbers, which go back to the 2001-02 season, I correlated them with performance in March.
The combined metric, AdjEM, had the highest correlation with tournament performance, and the results of the top 15 teams in that regard are excellent:
Things are less peachy for the top 10 offenses and defenses, which suggests a team, even with an elite O/D unit, needs to have some semblance of balance.