(Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports)
In this wacky, wide open NCAA Tournament, how are you supposed to predict a winner? While prediction is never an easy task, this season is much harder with no team really stepping out from the field. So what to do? Study history and advanced stats, that's what.
First off, the lowest seed to ever win the tournament was #8 Villanova in 1985, so you can scratch any team seeded 9-16 from your list of potential champs. Additionally, Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn in SI's recently released special edition NCAA basketball magazine illustrated three key metrics (using the awesome stats from KenPom.com) that help determine the NCAA champ every season:
1) The average adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency rankings for the teams that played in the NCAA title game over the past decade was 12.8 for offense and 9.9 for defense. Additionally, 2) the vast majority of Final Four teams over that period were at least ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
This obviously makes sense - teams that are the most efficient on offense and defense will normally win. So which teams this year fit the bill? The following:
Florida - #5 ranking on offense, #2 on defense
Louisville - #15 offense, #1 defense
Ohio St - #14 offense, #6 defense
Gonzaga - #3 offense, #14 defense
Pittsburgh - #9 offense, #17 defense
Indiana - #1 offense, #19 defense
Duke - #4 offense, #25 defense
So, taking these metrics and history into account, this predicts Louisville getting out of the Midwest, Gonzaga (barely over Ohio State) in the West, Florida in the South, and Indiana in the East. Then, the third metric Winn lays out settles the issue as to which team of these projected Final Four will win the title:
3) Interior defense (two point field goal defense rather than three point defense) are critical for the NCAA champion.
Of our projected Final Four teams, the two with the best two point field goal defenses are Gonzaga (ranked #11 nationally) and Florida (ranked #4). Which means our projected 2013 NCAA champion is..... (drumroll please)...... the Florida Gators!!
Numbers (and ball) don't lie.