Every College Basketball Team That Can Still Make the Final Four Based on Statistical Precedent
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Smith (12) and Chaundee Brown (15) of the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team.
Two years ago, Ryan Collinsworth introduced a way to identify college basketball teams that fit the statistical profile of a national champion.
His research and team profiling yielded 10 teams that qualified as National Title Contenders in the final version of his weekly column. Every single one of those 10 teams made the Sweet 16, and the top-ranked team in Collinsworth’s model, Virginia, won the national championship.
For those interested in a deeper understanding of Collinsworth’s statistical methods and qualifications, please refer to his debut article establishing the statistical profile of a national champion.
In this season’s final update, we will highlight every team whose statistical profile still fits our profiles as either National Title Contenders or Final Four Dark Horses. Additionally, in the final section of this article, I’ll dive deep into the profile for one of our top title contenders this season: The Michigan Wolverines.
Statistical Methods & Qualifications
I initially analyzed all college basketball teams based on three metrics — each sourced from Ken Pomeroy — to determine which could win the national title this season:
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
I correlated each of these metrics with NCAA Tournament performance. Adjusted efficiency margin has the highest correlation, which suggests that well-balanced teams are more successful in the postseason.
We established that national champion-caliber teams generally boast an AdjEM score of 23.81 or higher. This threshold serves as the primary qualifying factor in our analysis.
In another article on our Final Four dark horse candidates, we also established statistical thresholds for AdjO and AdjD. Generally, Final Four teams boast an AdjO score of 114.0 or higher and an AdjD score of 96.2 or less.
Teams must fulfill all three of the above criteria in order to qualify as a national championship contender.
The 2020-21 National Championship Contenders
After cross-referencing 2020-21 teams with an AdjO of 113.9 or higher, an AdjD of 96.0 or lower, and an AdjEM of 23.91 or higher, we’re left with seven national championship contenders as of writing: