Stats don’t lie: Louisville basketball one of five teams capable of winning it all

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As always college basketball is gearing up for a wild postseason, but according to the most proven data analytics, Louisville basketball is among five teams that have what it takes to win a title.

Just today, I heard a song that, at least briefly, put my winter on hold. Perhaps the unseasonably warm weather had a play in it, or maybe the chords struck me in just the right mood. Whatever the case, nostalgia washed over me when I heard the CBS college basketball theme song for the first time this season.

Eight chords, and one minute and eleven seconds of heart-pounding instrumental, “da-da-da-dat-dat-da-da-da” has the power to instantly put one in the best possible mood.

March madness truly is the fifth season in college basketball country, and for many around the world who grew up filling out brackets and sitting in front of a TV set for hours on end in mid-March. Spring is just around the corner, life is changing, and the peak of college basketball build-up over the course of the past three months is striking at just the right time. The nostalgia of selection shows, bracket blunders, and buzzer beaters is enough to get one through the end of a long winter.

Now, with one of the more magical weeks of the year on the horizon, its the time of the year when college basketball die-hards are trying to decipher between legit contenders and tournament pretenders leading up to the pinnacle of madness.

Around here, we have a new tradition of letting the stats speak for themselves. And why wouldn’t we? After deliberation and prognostication for months on end, fans and analysts alike are often proven wrong, while a small group of statisticians has been able to get things right. In case you aren’t an analytics person, here’s where we left off last season:

Although they can’t tell you the full story, stats don’t often lie in college basketball. Opinions and rankings in sports are subjective but have always been able to guide the average fan. However, where the eye test fails, analytics can help pick up the slack.

That’s exactly why we love using analytics from the college basketball wizard himself, Ken Pomeroy. KenPom uses advanced analytics to predict how teams will ultimately end up fairing come season’s end. Pomeroy uses some stuff that is way over the heads of the average fans, like luck, adjusted tempo, or the “Log5” equation. If you’re a huge college basketball nut like us, you can subscribe to his website for all kinds of nerdy round ball goodness.

However, what we want to focus on is a trend that has turned into more of a statistical standard. Since 2002 when Pomeroy began his site, there have been two statistics that a team had to adhere to if they wanted a chance at winning the national championship:

  • Rank in the top 20 in KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive efficiency rankings
  • Rank in the top 20 in KenPom’s Adjusted Defensive efficiency rankings

In 17 out of the last 18 seasons, a team with an adjusted offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency ranking inside of the top 20 has won the whole shebang. It’s still a smaller sample size, but it appears that the Ken Pomeroy method works very well.

The same rules apply to make the cut this year.

In 2019, two of the four teams that made our February list, Virginia and Michigan State, found themselves in the Final Four. As we now know, Virginia ended up the eventual national champion. Meanwhile, the other two Final Four squads Auburn (6th offense, 36th defense) and Texas Tech (25th offense, 1st defense) boasted two completely different but equally impressive records.

The fact remains that, among the metrics used to measure how well teams will match up in the postseason, KenPom stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Let’s take a look at the squads that are on this year’s list as of the first week of February, and break down the teams that just missed the cut but could work their way in.

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