NCAA tourney & KenPom
I don't do basketball (yet?), but I am a male with a pulse, so of course I have a bracket(s). I thought I'd do a little study with KenPom ratings to see how it does picking the final national champion. I looked at the past 16 seasons (2019-2004) and here are my observations:
- 10 of last 16 national champs were ranked #1 by KenPom
- 14 of last 16 national champs were ranked #1-#3 by KenPom
- Gonzaga is currently ranked #1 by KenPom, by a wide margin. The AdjEM for Gonz is approx 6 pts better than #2 rated Mich, which is the widest gap for a #1 vs. #2 in the last 16 seasons. The next largest gap between #1 and #2 was an AdjEM gap of 5 pts in 2011 -- when #10 rated UConn won it all.
- Focusing just on AdjO, AdjD and AdjEM (SoS) rankings, over the last 16 seasons, the average for the national title winners are 7-8-14, respectively. Interestingly, the worst AdjEM SoS ranking is 33 and yet Gonzaga has a 96 (!!) AdjEM. I know KenPom factors SoS into his overall AdjEM rating, but still, in this kooky season of COVID, it's something to keep in mind.
- Baylor is rated #4 by KenPom but also has a very poor AdjEM SoS ranking of 78, and also has a poor AdjD ranking of 44 (the worst AdjD for any national champ last 16 seasons is 18).
Gonzaga is 26-0 and shooting to be the first undefeated national champ since Indiana in 1976. But too many people know this and undoubtedly Gonzaga will be the national champ pick for most brackets. And we're often reminded the best chance to win these pools is to not be like the consensus (everyone else). Given what I wrote above, I'm going with two brackets, one with #2 rated Michigan as champ & the other with #3 rated Illinois. Michigan has a 6-7-15 profile (AdjO, AdjD, AdjEM SoS) and Illinois has a 8-5-3 profile.