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The 10 Teams That Can Actually Make the Final Four, Based on Statistical Precedent

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During the Spring of 2019, I authored two recurring college basketball futures columns titled, “College Basketball National Title Contenders” and “Final Four Dark Horse Candidates.”

Since then, it has become tradition that I revive those columns for the NCAA Tournament.

The goal of this article is to help you isolate the specific teams with viable paths to the Final Four and to explicitly exclude other teams from plausible contention, based on two decades of statistical precedent.

My hope is that this effortful discrimination of contenders vs. pretenders will help you build more viable (and more financially lucrative) NCAA Tournament picks for your bracket pools.


What Qualifies a Team as a “National Championship Contender?”

For a thorough explanation of my full methods, refer to my original National Title Contenders and Final Four Dark Horses articles from the 2018-19 season.

But, as a concise summary, teams qualify as National Championship Contenders by achieving three metrical thresholds, each sourced from Ken Pomeroy.

  • Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AdjO) of 114.0 or higher.
  • Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (AdjD) of 96.2 or lower.
  • Adjusted Efficiency Margin (AdjEM) of 23.81 or higher.

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

These thresholds correspond precisely with statistically significant and discriminating z-scores among our sample population of teams since the 2001-02 season.

Furthermore — and this point is very important — there is no statistically significant improvement in a team’s odds to win the national championship beyond these prescribed threshold values.

However, it is imperative that a team meets all three of these metrical thresholds in order for the preceding statement to hold true. Independently, each metric still reports statistically significant improvement in a team’s title odds up to approximately z=+2.00.

Title Contenders from Previous Seasons

Since debuting this in 2019, it’s worked. Of the 16 teams the model suggested:

  • All 16 advanced to the Round of 32.
  • 14 teams made the Sweet 16.
  • 10 teams made the Elite Eight.
  • Five teams made the Final Four.

So that’s 10 of 16 Elite Eight teams correct, and 5 of 8 Final Four teams.

Among the teams that qualified as National Championship Contenders in each season, both groups included the eventual national champion (2019 Virginia and 2021 Baylor), and last year’s group also included the national runner-up (Gonzaga).

On top of all that, six of the 16 teams exited their respective tournaments by losing to other end-of-season National Championship Contenders.

2022 National Championship Contenders

After cross-referencing 2021-22 teams with an AdjEM of 23.81 or higher, AdjO of 114.0 or higher and AdjD of 96.2 or lower, 10 teams qualify as 2022 National Championship Contenders:

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