Now that football season is officially over, we need to really take a look and focus on college basketball. As we enter into conference play, it is time to separate who is really a contender for the National Championship and who is a pretender. Every year we say that there are usually 5-10 teams that legitimately have a chance come March to win the whole thing. Statistics are a good way to measure that with the KenPom adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings. Obviously anyone can be beaten come tournament time, but the teams that fall in the top 20 of both categories can be seen as elite as well as teams ranked highly in one or the other are seen as good but not elite. So we are going to break down the top 25 here and see which currently ranked teams, as of January 8, 2013, have all the chops to cut down the nets in April.
25. New Mexico - AdjO-73rd AdjD- 43rd This team will be in a lot of games in the Mountain West, not so much in the NCAA tourney.
24. UNLV - AdjO- 49th AdjD- 34th Labeled by many a dark horse final four team, and they may be right, but this team is not going to win the title.
23. Wichita State- Adj O- 49th AdjD- 22nd Needs a few more workings on offense.
22. Michigan State AjdO- 32nd AdjD- 18th Tom Izzo's teams are always there by March.
21. Cincinnati AdjO-81st AdjD-9th Cinci and Mick Cronin are suffering from a lack of one decent big man to balance that offense, and it is showing in the recent slide.
20. NCST AdjO-9th AdjD-159th NCST hosts Duke this weekend. Don't be surprised if they win or lose by 20 with these defensive ratings.
19. Georgetown AdjO-157th AdjD-11th Scoring less than 45 points a few times this season explains this dismal offensive ranking.
18. Kansas St. AdjO-96th AdjD-26th Another team whose defense will carry them to the tourney.
17. Notre Dame AdjO-2nd AdjD- 139th Mike Bray's team is always good on offense with great shooters and high IQ, but always not so much on defense.
16. San Diego St. AdjO-72nd AdjD-20th This team is good but definitely not great.
15. Ohio St. AdjO- 19th AdjD-13th Ohio State is a lot like Florida a great team that is going to fly under the radar for a long time this season.
14 Butler AdjO-37th AdjD-87th Butler has the ability to knock of some really good teams, but they are not a contender.
13.Creighton AdjO-7th AdjD-61st Doug McDermott is a baller, but his team is not a contender.
12. Illinois AdjO-30th AdjD-57th This is a decent team, but they may not have the horses to really contend.
11. Florida AdjO- 5th Adj D-10th Billy Donovan's team is going to be there at the end.
10. Missouri AdjO-18th AdjD-53rd Card fans are familiar with this team and how an elite team (UL) can make a pretender (Mizzou) look.
9. Gonzaga AdjO-3rd AdjD-62nd This is the best Zag team in a while, but they are clearly lacking on defense.
8. Minnesota AdjO-11th AdjD-19th Tubby has got the ball rolling this year and may have quietly built a title contender from looking at the numbers.
7. Syracuse AdjO-24th AdjD-1st Syracuse is a good team that is flirting the edge of elite.
6. Kansas AdjO-10th AdjD-6th I was thinking that Kansas would be overrated to this point, but in reality they are extremely good and a team to watch out for.
5. Indiana AdjO-4th AdjD-5th Indiana is a legitimate contender and if they get hot on any given night...lookout!
4. Arizona AdjO-16th AdjD-29th Has been squeaking by some teams and their stats are borderline elite, so this a good team.
3. Louisville AdjO- 13th AdjD- 2nd, The Cardinals are in my own opinion the best team in the country, because of their loss to Duke without their best NBA prospect. I think the nation will realize that in the coming month or so.
2. Michigan AdjO-1st AdjD- 39th, Michigan is a trendy team among national and local writers with some of the beatdowns that they have placed on teams and their glistening undefeated record, but if they don't fix their defense then they may be in trouble come tourney time.
1. Duke AdjO-6th AdjD-7th, the number one team in the nation is that for a reason looking at their stats.
Based on our criteria for elite teams (top 20, both categories) we can conclude that in the current top 25, teams that are Contenders are Duke, Indiana , Louisville, Kansas, Minnesota, Florida and Ohio St. That is a solid group of seven teams that should be there in the end if the numbers hold up through conference play.
Teams that fall outside the top 30 in an offensive or defensive category I'll label Pretenders or teams that won't win it all. New Mexico, UNLV, Wichita State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, NCST, Georgetown, Kansas State, Notre Dame, San Diego State, and Butler
There exists a number of teams that fall outside the top 20 but may be able to make a run IE...Michigan, Arizona, Kentucky etc...but just look at last years Final Four (UK, OHST, KU, UL) only one of those teams were ranked outside the top 20 in either of the stats and that was UL, with an Offensive efficiency of about 103rd out of 345 teams. You may ask how they made it so far; well, they made their run knocking off only one team that would be considered elite (Michigan State) because Florida's defensive efficiency was 71st. That is where the randomness of the tournament draw and seeding comes in. Even Rick Pitino's previously thought to be...best team in 08-09 with Terrance Williams and Earl Clark was not in the top 20 of offensive efficiency, this explains their inevitable upset to a team that was...Michigan State.
In conclusion, every year only 10 or so teams will be able to actually win the whole thing even though it is a tournament. Upsets will happen, but statistics usually hold out. I'll check back in with an update at the end of January in the thick of conference play with more efficiency numbers. By then we should have an even clearer picture of who has played their way into a contender or out into a pretender.