Is there something in the water in the state of Ohio? Four teams from Ohio have made it to the Sweet Sixteen, but only one of those four is ranked in the top 25 NCAAB teams’ defensive efficiency rankings. Not only is this team ranked in the top 25, but they are also the highest ranked remaining team in the NCAA tournament. The Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked 3rd in the country in defensive efficiency, but the question is “how do the other remaining 15 teams stack up?”
As stated by Kurn's Picks prior to the NCAA tournament’s tipoff, teams ranked outside of the nations top 75 in defensive efficiency tend to really struggle in the NCAA tournament. A few of the top seeded teams that found themselves in this category entering tournament play were Missouri, Duke, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Temple. Is it a coincidence that none of these teams find themselves in the Sweet Sixteen? Not hardly.
NCAA Basketball fans across the country saw their bracket’s college basketball picks collapse as they watched two major upsets with Mizzou(2) and Duke(2) losing to much less talented (15 seed) opponents. The question is how? How did these two powerhouse programs lose to two teams that most people couldn’t even point to on a map? Two words – Defensive Efficiency. Lehigh came into the tournament with the 45th ranked defensive efficiency team in the nation compared to Duke’s 145th ranking. Final score: Duke 70, Lehigh 75. Likewise, Missouri entered NCAA tournament play ranked 141st in defensive efficiency compared to Norfolk St.’s 97th national ranking. Final score: Missouri 84, Norfolk St 86.
When breaking down the remaining 16 teams further, only four of them have defensive efficiency rankings outside of the top 75. Xavier (92nd) Indiana (93rd) Florida (101st) and NC State (142nd) are the only remaining Sweet Sixteen teams able to advance to this point. Coincidentally all four of these teams are considered underdogs this round and will have to defy the odds to find themselves advancing to the Elite Eight.
However, sometimes numbers do lie so taking a close look at all of the data is imperative when making your college basketball picks! Syracuse, for example, came into tournament play ranked in the national top 20 in defensive efficiency. Though this seems legit at first glance, the absence of Fab Melo cannot be undervalued. Over it’s last 3 games, ‘Cuse finds it’s defensive efficiency ranking plummeting to 1.018 which would rank outside of the top 230 nationally for the season. Keep in mind one of their previous three opponents was the 16th seeded UNC-Asheville who nearly pulled off a historical upset. Based off of this analysis, Wisconsin offers substantial value in picking the underdog Badgers to advance to the next round as they hold a top 5 defensive efficiency ranking. Look for the Badgers to have every chance to pull off an outright win over the favored Syracuse Orange.
Ohio State, Wisconsin, Louisville, Kentucky, and Michigan State all find themselves ranked in the top 10 defensive efficiency teams coming into this round of the NCAA tournament. Ironically, it’s possible that three of these five teams could find their way into the Final Four. Make sure to factor in and cross examine all of the statistical data when making your college basketball picks.