A year ago, we chronicled how one stat from Ken Pomeroy – defensive efficiency – was crucial to picking Final Four teams. And guess what happened in the 2013 NCAA Tournament?
The Final Four was comprised of Wichita State (25), Louisville (3), Michigan (48) and Syracuse (8). That’s each team’s defensive efficiency in parentheses. So of the last 24 Final Four teams (2008-2013):
* 10 of 24 (41.6 %) have been in Ken Pom’s Top 5 for defensive efficiency
* 18 of 24 (75 %) have been in Ken Pom’s Top 20 for defensive efficiency
* 21 of 24 (87.5 %) have been in Ken Pom’s Top 30 for defensive efficiency
[Wondering how Michigan nearly won the title? Well, this Trey Burke 30-footer to force overtime against Kansas in the Sweet 16 was kind of a big deal.]
There are still about 10 days left in the college basketball regular season, and then comes postseason tournaments, so Ken Pom’s current defensive efficiency numbers could change a bit. It’ll surprise nobody that a handful of the perceived best teams in the country rate highly according to this metric: Arizona is 1, Louisville is 7, Syracuse is 9, Florida is 10. Teams the media loves that don’t rate highly in this category? Duke (54th), Michigan (87th) and Creighton (89th).
Here are a few “sleepers” to watch based on defensive stats, and by sleeper, I mean ranked outside the current top 20:
Ohio State: ranked 22nd, Ken Pom defensive efficiency: 3rd.
* Were in my preseason Final 4 because Aaron Craft is the man! No, really – defense, coaching and balance. Lack a take-over scorer, and the offense can be downright ugly. Mid-season doldrums (lost five of six) were followed by wins at Wisconsin and Iowa.
VCU: Not ranked, Ken Pom defensive efficiency: 6th.
* Lost to Michigan last year in the tournament, and early-season losses to FSU, Georgetown and Northern Iowa stripped the Rams of any buzz this season (despite a win over UVA). If you think OSU’s offense is terrible, VCU’s is worse. Going to be tough to the Rams can make a March run if VCU doesn’t beat Saint Louis this weekend.
Kansas State: Not ranked, Ken Pom defensive efficiency: 11th.
* Strange team that opened the season 2-3 and has a few nice home wins (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas). Marcus Foster is one of the most underrated players in the Big 12, but the rest of the offense is abysmal.
SMU: ranked 23rd (and rising), Ken Pom defensive efficiency: 15th.
* The most balanced of these “sleepers” because the offense is legit. Swept UConn. Would like to see a split with Louisville/Memphis to end the season, and then a nice run in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Larry Brown’s team is unlikely to be a “sleeper” much longer.