Want to win your bracket? Look at defensive efficiency
It’s the greatest time of year, spring is fast approaching, snow is finally melting in the Northeast, and March Madness is hours away. Here at MFST, we want to see our readers reap the benefits of our work, so I am going to let you in on a little secret that has allowed me to win six out of the last eight NCAA bracket contests I’ve entered. No I did not compete against thousands, or even hundreds, it was with friends and family in a group of ten to fifteen people. My secret: defensive efficiency rating. Eight out of the last ten NCAA tournament champions have been in the top 20 of defensive efficiency, and zero have a efficiency rating higher than .957 (2010 UConn). Confused? Here’s what defensive efficiency is….
Traditional basketball stats like points, rebounds, and assists do not necessarily show how efficient a team’s offense and defense might be. A team that plays at a high tempo, pushing the ball up-court aggressively, might allow more points on a game-by-game basis than a team that walks the ball up-court and only shoots with seconds left on the shot clock.
Offensive and defensive efficiency try to solve the problem by looking at numbers on a per-possession basis. Defensive efficiency measures the number of points a team allowed per 100 possessions.
Here is the top 10 best and worst defensive efficiency teams in this year’s bracket. Do not choose one of the bottom 10 to win the championship.
Kentucky .813 1st in the nation
Virginia .843 2nd in the nation
San Diego St. .847 3rd in the nation
Arizona .856 4th in the nation
Louisville** .879 7th in the nation
Wichita St. .880 8th in the nation
Utah .887 9th in the nation
Oklahoma .893 11th in the nation
Cincinnati .896 13th in the nation
Villanova .901 15th in the nation
*Northern Iowa, Butler, and Gonzaga round out the top 20 in the nation (18th, 19th, and 20th respectively)
** Louisville has been terrible in defensive efficiency since PG and best perimeter defender Chris Jones was thrown off the team. Louisville has been over 1.049 since his departure.
Eastern Washington 1.056 299th in the nation
Indiana 1.038 272nd in the nation
Belmont 1.021 227th in the nation
Oregon 1.006 196th in the nation
Davidson 1.002 188th in the nation
BYU .999 181st in the nation
Seattle .996 175th in the nation
Northeastern .991 160th in the nation
Notre Dame .989 157th in the nation
Xavier .986 148th in the nation
Note: Here are some other notable teams that have a low ranking in defensive efficiency, beware picking these teams to win the National Championship.
- NC State-135th
- Iowa State-119th
- Michigan State-78th
- North Carolina-77th
This does not guarantee you will win your bracket, but it should help narrow down the list of potential champions, if history repeats itself of course.
Dan Schalk is the head writer for MFST, you can follow him on Twitter @ffsportstalk