Since Ken Pom began tracking statistics in 2001-02, no National Champion has ranked worse than 40th offensively or 20th defensively from an efficiency standpoint. Balance has proven to be the key to cutting down the nets in March, rather than relying only on just a high-scoring offense or a great defense.
In predicting teams that can win this year’s college basketball championship, it would be wise to use Pom’s College Basketball Ratings: Adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO) and Adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD). Only six teams currently fit the 40* /20* rule:
Clemson, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, and Tennessee.
Other teams in that 40/20 range (+/- 5) are Virginia and West Virginia.
When it comes to futures betting, I was trying to find three long-shots (10-1 odds or greater) to cut down the nets. Those odds eliminate big favorites like Michigan State and Virginia.
That leaves six teams that still fit:
Clemson, Gonzaga, Ohio State, Purdue, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
Since I am looking to do three bets, I eliminated three more teams based on the eye-test, experience (or lack thereof), and injuries.
The first team I eliminated was Clemson. The Tigers coaching staff has been terrific this year. Coach Brownell has the team firing on all cylinders, even after the unfortunate injury to senior Donte Grantham. Amit Tailor, the video coordinator, has also done a terrific job of getting the players prepared before every game. Grantham’s injury will be the reason their championship chances are derailed. Grantham was their leader and scored 14.2 ppg, which will be greatly missed come tournament time.
I also had to eliminate Gonzaga. This year’s team looks a lot different than last year’s team that lost in the Championship game. The Bulldogs lost stars Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins, and bring back only 5 players from that team. The only thing holding the Zags back is tournament experience.
Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann has to be a contender for Coach of the Year. Holtmann has this Buckeye team that has not made the tournament the past two seasons ranked 8th in the AP poll. But just like Gonzaga, experience is the biggest thing holding OSU back. Look out for them next year though.
That leaves 3 teams to bet on to win the NCAA tournament:
Purdue Boilermakers: 10-1
Purdue is having an amazing season, and are currently projected to be a #1 Seed come March. Yet, you can still get them at a price outside the top 4 teams (Michigan State, Villanova, Virginia, and Duke) and with double the payout of taking the Spartans. The Boilermakers revolve around a 7-foot-2, 290-pound center in Isaac Haas. Matt Painter built the offense around this dominant big man and lined up shooters all around him. Defensively, the twin towers of Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms are averaging almost four blocks per game. Guard Carsen Edwards is this team’s engine. Edwards does it all, averaging 16.9 ppg and hitting 2.3 threes a game. At 10-1 odds, Purdue is a steal.
Tennessee Volunteers: 20-1
Tennessee has been fun to watch this year. The Vols have tremendous depth and crash into you like waves defensively. Tennessee is currently ranked 18th in the AP poll and have beaten Purdue, Kentucky, and Texas A&M. While Rick Barnes has come up short with talented teams in the past, he has been there before. Barnes has one Final Four and three Elite Eight appearances on his resume. I can see Tennessee making a deep run barring a major injury. With a team that plays defense the way they do, 20-1 is worth the money.
West Virginia’s press defense is what makes them intimidating. It is tough for teams in the tournament to prepare for the press, especially if there is a quick turn around. A lot of teams have never faced a Mountaineer type press before, so if you only have one day to prepare for them, watch out. A great example of this is when West Virginia beat Notre Dame 83-71 last year in the Round of 32. The main cog that makes this team go is guard Jevon Carter. Carter is a bulldog defensively, and is one of my favorite players to watch: seeing Carter play defense on Trae Young was truly amazing. Bob Huggins has led his teams to eight Sweet Sixteen appearances, four Elite Eight appearances, and two Final Four appearances. At 25-1 there is true value in a team this well-balanced.
*Used Vegas Insider for the odds
*Adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO): Points scored per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponents
*Adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD): Points allowed per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponents