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Fun With KenPom: Final Four Edition

Will defense keep Ricardo Ratliffe and Mizzou out of the Final Four?

I went back to KenPom to analyze the offensive and defensive rankings of the teams that made the Final Four between 2003 and 2011. Again, I’m using KenPom’s rankings of adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies. If you want to know more about those stats, click here. Here’s some of what I found:

Average Ranks of Final Four Teams (2003-2011):

Offense: 13.89

Defense: 17.44

Outliers – Final Four teams ranking outside the top 30 in offense or defense:

2003 Marquette (3 seed): 1st in offense, 101st in defense

2003 Texas (1 seed): 3rd in offense, 44th in defense

2006 George Mason (11 seed): 49th in offense, 18th in defense

2006 LSU (4 seed): 50th in offense, 4th in defense

2010 Butler (5 seed): 50th in offense, 5th in defense

2011 Butler (8 seed): 50th in offense, 49th in defense

2011 VCU (11 seed): 32nd in offense, 86th in defense


– 2010 and 2011 were the only years where the average rank for both offense (26.25) and defense (41) were above 10.

– 2004 and 2008 were the only years where the average rank for both offense (9 in ’04 and 3.5 in ’08) and defense (6 in ’04 and  9 in ’08) were below 10.

– Of the 36 teams that made the Final Four between 2003 and 2011, just seven had an offense or defense that ranked outside the top 30. Four of those teams ranked outside the top 30 on one side of the ball, but made up for it with a top five ranking in the other category. One team, George Mason, ranked 49th in offense, but had a top 20 defense (18th). However, things got really weird in 2011. VCU and Butler had both offenses and defenses that ranked outside the top 30. Their runs to the Final Four were unprecedented, and tremendously fun to watch.

What Does This Mean For the 2012 Tournament?

Well, not too much. As we especially saw last season, anything can happen in the NCAA Tournament. It’s what makes college basketball so beautiful and exhilarating. But looking at the average rankings of previous Final Four teams, we can see which teams are in the best shape to make a deep tournament run.

Here are some teams that have similar or better rankings to the average Final Four team of the last nine years (These are teams that rank in the top 30 in both offense and defense, as of Feb. 25th):

Kentucky: 3rd in offense, 8th in defense

Ohio State: 14th in offense, 1st in defense

Michigan State: 12th in offense, 2nd in defense

Kansas: 10th in offense, 4th in defense

Syracuse: 9th in offense, 13th in defense

North Carolina: 11th in offense, 14th in defense

Wichita State: 8th in offense, 24th in defense

Marquette: 23rd in offense, 19th in defense

Baylor: 13th in offense, 30th in defense

Memphis: 25th in offense, 21st in defense*

*Surprising, huh?

Here are some teams, assuming their rankings don’t drastically improve in the next three weeks, that would join the list of Final Four outliers if they were to make it to New Orleans:

Missouri: 1st in offense, 74th in defense*

Duke: 4th in offense, 56th in defense

Florida: 2nd in offense, 85th in defense

* That’s a similar profile to 2003 Marquette, but do the Tigers have anyone who can take over a game like Dwyane Wade? Marcus Denmon is good, but I’m not sure he’s Wade good...

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Fun With KenPom: Teams With Top 10 Offenses and Defenses since 2003

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kentucky currently rank in the top 10 of KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive ratings.

Since 2003 (the year KenPom’s database dates back to), there have only been 16 teams who have ranked in the top ten in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency.*

If you’re unsure of what those numbers mean, or how they are compiled, here’s an explanation from KenPom. “Any time you see something “adjusted” on this site, it refers to how a team would perform against average competition at a neutral site. For instance, a team’s offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) is adjusted for the strength of the opposing defenses played. I compute an adjusted offensive efficiency for each game by multiplying the team’s raw offensive efficiency by the national average efficiency and dividing by the opponent’s adjusted defensive efficiency. The adjusted game efficiencies are then averaged (with more weighting to recent games) to produce the final adjusted offensive efficiency.”

Here’s a list of those 16 teams and their rankings. I also included how they ended up performing in the NCAA Tournament:

2003 (AdjO Rank – AdjD Rank – Tourney Outcome)

Kansas: 6th – 1st – National Runners Up

Kentucky: 5th – 4th – Sweet 16


Duke: 2nd – 4th – Final Four

UConn: 4th – 5th – National Champions


North Carolina: 1st – 5th – National Champions


Florida: 2nd – 5th – National Champions

Texas: 4th – 10th – Elite Eight


North Carolina: 3rd – 4th – Elite Eight


Kansas: 2nd – 1st – National Champions

Memphis: 4th – 4th – National Runners Up

UCLA: 7th – 3rd- Final Four




Duke: 1st – 4th – National Champions

Kansas: 2nd – 8th – Second Round


Ohio State: 1st – 5th – Sweet 16

Duke: 4th – 8th – Sweet 16

Kansas: 6th – 9th – Elite Eight


As of Feb. 25, two teams rank in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency: Kentucky (3rd and 8th) and Kansas (10th and 4th).

Four teams are close to being in the top ten in both categories, and could reach that accomplishment by the time the NCAA Tournament begins next month: Michigan State (12th and 2nd), Ohio State (14th and 1st), Syracuse (9th and 13th) and North Carolina (11th and 14th).


– Not surprisingly, these teams have done very well in the NCAA Tournament. 15 of the 16 teams reached the Sweet 16 (2010 Kansas is the lone exception, they got Farokhmaneshed in the second round); 12 of the 16 reached the Elite Eight; nine of the 16 reached the Final Four; Seven of the 16 made the National Championship Game; and 5 of the 16 took home the National Championship

-2008 was one hell of a year. UCLA – with Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Arron Afflalo and Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute – was just the third best team in the nation that season. Also, according to KenPom, 2008 Kansas (.9859) is the only team since 2003 to have a pythagorean winning percentage over 98 percent.

-2011 was odd. Three teams ranked in the top ten in both categories, yet none of those squads made the Final Four. 2008 was the only other time three teams fit that specification, and all three made the Final Four that year.

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