It’s almost March and you know what that means! March Madness. It’s the best time of the year. Not because it’s my birthday month, but because it’s the start of the historic NCAA Tournament. There’s nothing more exciting than picking your bracket and rooting for teams you’ve selected or bet on.
This season, we’ve had quite a few of the top teams lose games early in the season. College basketball isn’t used to seeing a change at the top every week. In the middle of January, we watched the AP-Top five teams lose six times in one week. Things have been wild and strange in college basketball this season. You can also expect that when March Madness begins.
Even with the wild and strange season of college basketball, I’m still going to try to predict a couple teams that can win it all and cut down the nets in April. Bare with me here.
Which Teams Can Actually Win?
Let’s break it down analytically and use numbers. In the last 18 years, there have been 11 different schools that have won the National Championship. There’s a criteria when looking at the last 18 years to see if a team belongs as National Championship contenders.
First, if you’re going to pick a team to win a National Championship, this team has to be in the Preseason AP Top 25. Just three of the last 18 national champions weren’t in the AP Top-25 Preseason Poll. 83 percent of the time, the champion has been in the preseason Top 25. I like those odds.
Secondly, no team has ever won a national championship with a bad offensive efficiency. If a team is lower than 40th in offensive efficiency, they’re not winning the tournament. That leaves us with just 16 teams that have a potential chance at winning the NCAA Tournament. Just like that we’re down to 16 teams.
We have, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Ohio State, Oregon, Villanova, St. Mary’s Duke, Louisville, Arizona, Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Auburn, Baylor, Kentucky, and Utah State.
Now, no team has ever won a national championship being ranked lower than 20th in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom. That knocks out ten more teams and now we’re left with just six remaining potential teams in Louisville, Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Maryland, and Baylor.
15 of the last 18 champions had made the NCAA Tournament in the previous season. However, those remaining six teams made the tournament last season so we can’t eliminate anything there. However, 15 of the 18 national champions have had a coach that was already in the Final Four previously. There have only been three head coaches to win the National Championship in their first year in the final four. The chance that a coach wins the National Championship in his first year in the Final Four is 17 percent. So if we drop out Louisville, Ohio State, Maryland, and Baylor we’re left with Duke and Kansas.
The Kansas Jayhawks (23-3) are currently the number three team in the AP Poll. Kansas leads all of college basketball in KenPom rankings and has the most Quad 1 wins in the country with 10. The Jayhawks also have five Quad 2 wins to give them 15 wins against Quads 1 and 2. That currently leads the country. Also, if you scan Kansas’ schedule this season, they haven’t had a “bad loss” this season. Their three losses were to Duke on a neutral court, Villanova on the road and lastly, on the road against Baylor (who they’ll meet with again on Saturday).
Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike have been a fantastic duo for Kansas. Dotson averages 18.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 34.8 minutes per game while Azubuike averages 12.8 points per game, along with 9.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Kansas features a four-guard lineup that has been dominant at times with freshman Christian Braun included, who is a 6’6” guard with plenty of tools.
The Jayhawks lead KenPom’s defensive efficiency rankings thanks to Azubuike’s blocking and rebounding numbers while Dotson, Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji have all done a great job around the perimeter.
This Kansas team doesn’t have too many holes. They’ve been fantastic offensively as of late in the Big 12 but when matched up against other teams in the Tournament, can their defense survive a Big East type of offense?
Currently, Kansas would be the most picked team to win the NCAA Tournament.
Duke has played some tough, tight and close battles but they remain 22-3 on the season. They’ve survived UNC on the road in overtime, defeated a ranked FSU team on the road, and have overall played solid basketball… at times. Either way, Duke has found ways to win games and that’s what matters when it comes to March Madness.
Duke doesn’t have Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett to lead the way. Instead, they have Vernon Carey who averages 17.6 points along with 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in 24.7 minutes of action per contest. Point guard, Tre Jones decided to stay another season with this Duke team while his teammates, Williamson, Barrett, and Cam Reddish abandoned him for the NBA. He’s the only player averaging over 30 minutes per game and that could be huge down the stretch. Duke’s Cassius Stanley averages the second most minutes per game at 26.3 minutes per game. Duke will likely be well rested for the Madness. They also have solid depth. Realistically, Duke is very balanced and ranks 8th in offense and 11th in defense on KenPom.
Duke’s two ACC losses came without Wendell Moore Jr, who has played terrific defensively since returning into the lineup. The one question for Duke is how they’re going to get to the NCAA Tournament by starting three freshmen but with a veteran like Tre Jones and a bunch of great shooters surrounding this season, Duke quest to win a National Championship could happen this season.
Disclaimer: Remember, these stats will change on a per-game basis. With a month to go before March Madness, many teams can jump into different categories and become contenders for the NCAA Tournament. Currently, Kansas and Duke remain frontrunners to win it all. +900 and +1000 are some juicy odds too. Take those odds before oddsmakers ready this article!