ACC Basketball

Finding Your Champion in Ken Pom

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Everyone knows we love ourselves some Ken Pomeroy stats, no matter how bad it makes our head hurt when we actually try to figure out what he’s talking about. Yet, what does it tell us regarding the future title holder? Is there anything to learn? Can I win enough money gambling on predictions based on his stats so I can abandon my family for a young 18-year-old in need of a Sugar Daddy?


Ken Pom is wicked smart.

Below is a list going back to 2002 of every NCAA Champion and where they were ranked prior to the Big Dance, plus where were they in both Adjusted Offense Efficiency and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. It also includes the team that sat at number one before the start of the NCAA Tournament (which matters because 11 of those bad boys failed to win the title, sorry Kentucky).

In fact, it wasn’t until 2008 when Ken’s top team ended up winning it all (Kansas), but it has actually¬†happened twice since in 2012 (Kentucky) and 2013 (Louisville).

Now when it comes to the offense and defense, the previous two champs (Louisville and Connecticut) both were better defensively. The Cardinals were the top-rated defense that season, while Connecticut’s 80th rated offense was the worst of all the title holders since Ken Pom began his rankings.

Oddly enough though, that Louisville team with the top-rated defense is the only top-rated defense to win the championship. No other champ since 2002 has had a top-four defense.

Yet, offensively, it seems to pay to have a good offense. Last year’s Huskies were the only champ to not have at least a top-20 offense. Two, Kansas in 2008 and North Carolina the following year, each had the nation’s top offense. Six of the last 13 champs had at least a top-four offense.

Overall, the eventual champ’s offense was better than their defense nine times out of thirteen, while three had a better defense. The 2010 Duke team tied, finishing 6th in both offense and defense in adjusted efficiency.

Read into the stats any way you want. Does this mean that the Blue Devils, with the second rated offense and 70th rated defense, has a better shot to win the title compared to Virginia, who has the top-rated defense, but the 26th rated offense? Remember Cavalier fans, Connecticut last year is the only team since 2002 to win the title without having an offense in the top-20. Of course no team has won the title with a defense rated as low as Duke’s, so don’t bust out the champagne just yet Cameron Crazies.

If you want to use history as your decider, then Villanova (3rd in offense, 19th in defense) will be your favorite. You would also like Gonzaga (5th in O, 18th in D), Baylor (12th and 28th) and Wichita State (13th and 14th).

I’m leaving out Kansas (14th and 17th) because another factor to take into account is overall ranking. Of the last 13 champions, 10 were ranked in Ken Pon’s top-10 prior to the tournament (The Jayhawks are currently 12th).

The three who finished outside the top-10, yet won a title were Connecticut last year, the Huskies again in 2011 and Syracuse back in 2003. Eight of the teams that won it all were actually in the top-5. If we factor all that in, then cancel out Gonzaga, Baylor and Wichita State…thus leaving your 2014-15 champion…the Villanova Wildcats.

Just kidding…Kentucky is winning it all.

YearChampionKen's RankOffenseDefenseKen's #1
(Elite 8)
2011Connecticut#1417th30thOhio State
(Sweet 16)
(Round 2)
2009North Carolina#41st49thMemphis
(Sweet 16)
2007Florida#63rd18thNorth Carolina
(Elite 8)
(Sweet 16)
2005North Carolina#23rd9thIllinois
(Final 4)
(Elite 8)
(Sweet 16)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>