My Two Top NCAA Tourney Contenders; One Pretender

This will not be earth-shattering stuff, I am talking about the two teams that I feel have the best chance to win it all. The Pretender might ruffle more feathers. The contenders are teams that can not just get to the final four, not just a teams that can make it a long ways with some breaks. I am going to go through the two teams that really have a shot to win it all.

The basis of this will again be based off of the  stats. It can be important to be really good in some areas but not as important as avoiding being below average to awful in other categories. You need versatility, talent and coaching to win it all since there are no Carmelo Anthony level stars in this years field.  One reason Michigan State keeps making their way to final fours is they have enough talent, great coaching and each team has been extremely versatile.  Michigan State has been immune to the style of the game in the tourney because they can play many different ways.

The stats I will focus on are Offensive Efficiency, Defensive Efficiency, Effective FG %, Turnover %, Offensive Rebound%, Free Throw Rate, 3 Point%, 2 Point%, FT%, Block% and Steal%.  These are the major stats tracked at Kenpom and give a very strong snapshot of any particular team.  I believe it is important for the top teams to not be really bad in any one of these categories(ranked 300 or lower), or two be below average in multiple categories(ranked 200 or lower).

Ohio State – Top Contender

Category Offense Defense D-I Avg
Adj. Efficiency 123.5 2 88.0 6 101.5
Adj. Tempo 65.8 223 66.9
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 56.1 4 48.8 148 49.1
Turnover %: 16.1 5 24.8 8 20.3
Off. Reb. %: 35.2 73 28.2 30 32.3
FTA/FGA: 36.9 194 21.0 1 37.8
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 40.5 11 33.8 140 34.4
2P%: 53.8 9 47.8 172 47.8
FT%: 70.6 125 71.2 279 69.1
Block%: 8.0 80 8.8 183 9.2
Steal%: 6.4 2 11.8 32 9.5

Why?  Not a shocker.  The Buckeyes have been at the top of the polls all season and deservedly so.  They also have arguably the most future pros with Jared Sullinger, David Lighty and William Buford.  Looking at the stats above the Buckeyes are in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  The Buckeyes are also in the top ten in six other categories and top 100 in 11 categories.  Ohio State is very good, will get a one seed and will be one of the teams most picked to win it all.

Watch For:  If I were a Buckeye fan I would be nervous of a team with a ton of length.  Someone like North Carolina could make Ohio State nervous due to the inside duo of Zeller and Henson.  We have not seen Sullinger get into much, if any, foul trouble.  The tournament will test every teams depth at some point and that is about the only thing to be wary of with Ohio State.

Duke – 2nd Contender

Category Offense Defense D-I Avg
Adj. Efficiency 119.6 6 86.6 3 101.5
Adj. Tempo 70.2 40 66.9
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 54.1 16 44.1 8 49.1
Turnover %: 17.0 18 21.6 85 20.3
Off. Reb. %: 35.0 82 31.9 153 32.3
FTA/FGA: 37.0 192 29.3 29 37.8
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 38.5 26 32.3 66 34.4
2P%: 52.1 24 42.6 15 47.8
FT%: 74.7 31 64.1 12 69.1
Block%: 7.7 67 10.2 115 9.2
Steal%: 8.4 68 11.1 62 9.5

Why?  Because they are Duke again.  They are in the top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  They are in the top 100 in 15 of the 18 categories and are not below average in anything.  The big change from Duke this year and last year from a few years ago when they were consistently getting upset early in the tourney is the Offensive Block%.  In 2010 they were ranked 215, 273 in 2009, 307 in 2008.  This means Duke keeps getting tougher inside.  They do not get shots blocked nearly as much as they have in past years meaning guys are likely finishing at the rim with dunks or getting fouled.  Duke also has a star with Nolan Smith and the size needed to give Ohio State troubles. 

Watch For:  The weak ACC catching up with Duke.  The ACC is down this year which drove down Duke’s schedule difficulty to 32, last year it was 3, 13 the year before.  A lot of times we do not know how weak a conference is until the tournament comes and the entire conference is bounced out by the first weekend.  But unless the ACC was insanely weak you better have a really good reason to knock Duke out before the final four.  They are that tough.

Texas – Pretender

Category Offense Defense D-I Avg
Adj. Efficiency 113.9 24 85.3 1 101.5
Adj. Tempo 67.8 123 66.9
Four Factors
Effective FG%: 50.5 109 41.3 1 49.1
Turnover %: 17.4 32 19.0 242 20.3
Off. Reb. %: 36.5 30 30.0 82 32.3
FTA/FGA: 44.6 36 30.6 43 37.8
Miscellaneous Components
3P%: 38.4 29 28.8 6 34.4
2P%: 48.1 165 40.6 2 47.8
FT%: 64.5 298 67.3 78 69.1
Block%: 6.8 19 11.5 58 9.2
Steal%: 7.4 17 8.6 233 9.5

Why a Pretender?   A couple weeks ago I was joining the national media and drooling all over Texas but one thing made me nervous, their offensive efficiency was never getting into the top 20 in the country.  Their defense is incredible but this team reminds of the last Memphis team Calipari had with Tyreke Evans.  That team was insanely good on defense, easily the most efficient defense in the country but in the tournament they got out-scored by a good Missouri team.  Not a great Missouri team, a good one. 

When looking at the stats the defense is rated great, but the offense is still only a 24.  Texas is very bad at free throw shooting% 298, creating steals with a ranking of 233 and creating turnovers on defense with a ranking of 242.  So they have great defense but how?  Are they playing bad shooting teams?  The Big 12 is down but maybe more than we think.  Another red flag with Texas is they have lossed most of their tough non-conference games, at Pittsburgh, at USC and UConn.  These losses are not a crime but they do play into my theory of the Big 12 being really bad.  If Texas can blow out teams in their league but lose to similarly rated teams how accurate are the ratings of the Big 12?

Be wary of Texas.  Their offense will find some really bad spots to hide and they do not possess good enough free throw shooting to carry them through shooting slumps.  Texas has an offense that can take some minutes off, a very bad trait in the tourney.

Topics: Duke, NCAA Tourney Contender, NCAA Tourney Pretender, Ohio State, Texas

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