NCAA Tournament odds, top 25 rankings: Three teams fit data trends as true title contenders

Duke center Vernon Carey Jr., Kansas center Sudoku Azubuike, Nov. 5, 2019 (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Duke center Vernon Carey Jr., Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
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As the midpoint of the 2019-20 college basketball regular season approaches, let’s take a look at the short list of schools that have the statistical makeup of a national champion.

Parity has been a major theme this season, and teams adjust in February and March, but with 18 seasons of KenPom data, we can get a pretty good idea of teams to target for our futures portfolio.

Since KenPom started tracking data in 2002, 17 of the 18 national champions have featured a top-20 offense (adjusted offensive efficiency or AdjO), and 13 ranked inside the top seven offensively. On defense, all 18 ranked in the top 20 (AdjD), and the last eight winners ranked in the top 11.

Kansas (7/1 odds to win title), Duke (7/1) and Louisville (18/1) are currently the only three schools to feature a top-20 offense and a top-20 defense, per KenPom. Baylor (12/1), Butler (20/1) and Ohio State (25/1) are close, but these three teams need to improve to fit the criteria.

Analyst Ryan Collinsworth found that teams capable of winning the national championship usually have an AdjEM (difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency) score of 23.81 or higher. The teams also have AdjO scores of 114.0 (points per 100 possessions) or higher and an AdjD score of 96.2 (points allowed per 100 possessions) or fewer.

Only Kansas and Duke fit the AdjEM trend, and the Blue Devils are the only team with an AdjO over 114.0 and an AdjD under 96.2.

While betting favorites to win the title doesn’t come with much value, Bart Torvick’s metrics uncover three teams will longer odds that fit the criteria. Since Dec. 13, Dayton (18/1), Michigan State (12/1) and San Diego State (40/1) all rank in the top-20 in offensive and defensive efficiency, per Torvick.

Another characteristic of national champions dating even further back is coaching experience. Since 1990, the only coaches to win on their first trip to the Final Four are Jim Harrick (UCLA, 1995), Tubby Smith (Kentucky, 1998), Jim Calhoun (UConn, 1999), Bill Self (Kansas, 2008), Kevin Ollie (UConn, 2014) and Tony Bennett last season with Virginia. Of the teams mentioned in this article, only Duke, Kansas and Michigan State are led by coaches who have been to the Final Four.

Top 25 rankings, 2020 NCAA Tournament odds

RankTeamRecordTitle odds
No. 1Gonzaga18-110/1
No. 2Baylor13-112/1
No. 3Duke15-17/1
No. 4Auburn15-016/1
No. 5Butler15-120/1
No. 6Kansas12-37/1
No. 7San Diego State17-040/1
No. 8Oregon14-318/1
No. 9Florida State14-240/1
No. 10Kentucky12-316/1
No. 11Louisville13-318/1
No. 12West Virginia13-240/1
No. 13Dayton14-218/1
No. 14Villanova12-330/1
No. 15Michigan State13-412/1
No. 16Wichita State15-140/1
No. 17Maryland13-340/1
No. 18Seton Hall12-418/1
No. 19Michigan11-560/1
No. 20Colorado13-380/1
No. 21Ohio State11-525/1
No. 22Memphis13-360/1
No. 23Texas Tech10-340/1
No. 24Illinois12-5100/1
No. 25Creighton13-4100/1

Others receiving votes: Iowa 88, Stanford 77, Arkansas 65, Indiana 50, Virginia 41, Penn State 36, LSU 30, Arizona 20, Wisconsin 19, Liberty 11, Northern Iowa 10, Purdue 10, Duquesne 9, Washington 9, TCU 8, Rutgers 8, Virginia Tech 5, Oregon State 4, Houston 4, BYU 3, East Tennessee State 2, Saint Mary’s 1, Harvard 1, Akron 1, USC 1

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