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Analyzing Kenpom data for Final 4 Teams. Is XU good enough to make a run?

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday in an article Joel talked about Xavier’s slumping defense and how that may not be as big a worry come tournament time as we might think.  This topic piqued my interest and got me wondering what the characteristics of a final four team are pre-tournament and post tournament.  A little bit of Kenpom data dumping later, and I present to you the Kenpom ratings of all Final 4 teams over the past 10 years pre and post tourney.  Note that pre-tournament data is after conference tournaments, but prior to any NCAA tournament games.  All data is from Kenpom, and further clarification of the stats can be found here:

AOE = Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

ADE = Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (On top of the picture it is listed as DOE - This should be ADE)

AT = Adjusted Tempo

NCAA Champions are in green.

NCAA Runner Ups are in light blue.

Now that we have seen the data, let’s make some observations.  The first thing that immediately jumped out to me was the pre-tournament adjusted tempo of these teams. 38 of the 40 final four teams had an adjusted tempo ranked 74th or higher, with the majority ranked in the hundreds.  Conversely, only 2 teams in the past 10 years have had a faster tempo than Xavier pre-tournament and made a Final 4.   As hard as it is to admit, the case that Xavier plays a little too fast and loose to make a deep run in March is certainly there.

In better news, an elite pretournament defense does not seem to be a necessary part of making a run in March over the past 5 years.  In fact, only 8 of the past 20 final four teams have had a pretournament defense ranked better than 30th, meaning 12 were ranked 30th or worse.  With that said, it does seem to be very important to play good defense in the tournament.   Of the 12 teams ranked 30th or worse prior to the tournament, 9 were able to boost their ranking by 9 or more slots during the tournament by playing good defense during the tournament.  Said another way, good defense seems to be a big part of making a Final 4, but it is very possible for a defense that was average over the course of the year to step it up in the tournament in order to make a run.  I think Xavier could very well step up their defensive intensity and utilize the 1-3-1 to play very well defensively in the tournament, but you can see Joel’s article from yesterday for further insight there.  Interestingly enough, the Final 4 teams from 2006-2010 were consistently good defensively both pre and post tourney.  I would chalk this up to the pre one and done era, which is not the world we live in today.

A good pretournament offense, on the other hand, seems to be a bit more important than defense.  14 of the past 20 (and 24 of the past 40) Final 4 teams had a pretournament offense ranked 20th or better, which Xavier is right in line with so there shouldn’t be too much worry there.

As for overall rankings, 17 of the past 20 (and 37 of the past 40) were ranked 25th or better prior to the tournament.  9 of those 17 (and 15 of those 37) were ranked 10th or worse which is right about where Xavier is at currently.  Needless to say a team ranked 14th in Kenpom prior to the tournament is more than capable of making a run to the Final 4.

I could probably go on for hours about the implications of this data, but I think it’ll be fun to hear what conclusions you all come to as well.  Thanks for reading and leave any takeaways in the comments.