The University of Louisville Cardinals are the reigning National Champions until (at least) next April when the NCAA crowns a new champion at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The Cards will be a preseason Top 5 team and will have expectations to return to the Final Four for a 3rd consecutive season. The Kentucky Wildcats will also have expectations to go to Dallas after bowing out of the 1st round of the NIT a year AFTER winning the National Championship in New Orleans capping off the 2012 season. EITHER team winning the 2014 National Championship would buck recent trends.
-NO DEFENDING CHAMPION HAS ADVANCED PAST THE SWEET 16 SINCE 2007, AND JUST ONCE SINCE 2001.
-SINCE 1991 ONLY TWO TEAMS HAVE WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP COMING OUT OF THE NIT A YEAR PRIOR….AND NEITHER TEAM WAS BOUNCED IN THE 1ST ROUND.
-SINCE 1991 ONLY TWO PROGRAMS HAVE WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT BEING RANKED IN THE FINAL AP POLL FROM THE YEAR BEFORE THEIR CHAMPIONSHIP.
After the Cards & Cats have kept the National Championship in the state for 2 years running, we searched for trends that existed in past champions. The research took quite a while to gather and is sorted BEFORE & AFTER a program’s championship season, what the team record was, how their post-season ended, % minutes, points, and rebounds returning, number of players departed, how many drafted in the NBA, and incoming McDonald’s All-Americans.
SEASON BEFORE TITLE
The data below shows there really isn’t an exact way to win a championship based on last year’s numbers. However, it does reveal some interesting trends. First, UConn’s 2011 season is a consistent oddity throughout this process as you will see.
-Average of 27.91 wins per champion from a year before the title is pretty significant. UConn’s 2009-10 season was a dismal 18-16, and the Huskies lost 7 players and had ZERO McDonald’s All-American’s incoming. Connecticut is definitely the outlier and the only program to win a championship without having 20 wins a season before. The next lowest returning win total was Arkansas who prior to their championship in 1994 went 22-9 and went to the Sweet 16.
-The Previous Season Final Ranking is interesting, since 1991 ONLY TWO PROGRAMS HAVE WON THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WITHOUT BEING RANKED IN THE FINAL AP POLL FROM THE YEAR BEFORE THEIR CHAMPIONSHIP. The first team was of course, 2003 Syracuse who rode to the crown on the hot hand of superstar Carmelo Anthony. And the second team being 2011 UConn who also rode the hot hand of Kemba Walker. Both of these teams also came out of the NIT to win the title.
-The next column tells how each season finished a year before for the National Champ. Again, recent history highlights UConn as the exception here, with every Title holder advancing at least to the Sweet 16 a year prior to winning it all. A “Rough Numerical Estimate” to quantify that ending was then established. Teams that exited in the Round of 16 were given a value of 16, despite possibly being better than the other 7 teams that exited in the same round. Since 1991 the average champion had a value of 18.52, which basically means that to have a statistically good shot at winning the championship a team needs to make the Sweet 16 a year before.
In fact, removing both of the back to back champions and also removing the two programs who won the title out of the NIT, the “Rough Numerical Value” moves from 18.52 to 15.29. Still it CAN happen, the odds just aren’t in those programs’ favor.
-The next 3 columns were thought to carry more weight but the numbers from year to year were just too bullish to really get any kind of handle on. Returning Minutes, Points, and Rebounds from the previous season ranged from a low of the 1997 Arizona Title Team (from the 1995-96 to the 1996-97 season) across all categories to a high of the 2005 North Carolina team. Again UConn 2011 found itself on the lower end of this measure, as did Syracuse 2003 both of which came out of the NIT a year prior to win a title……the only two programs to do so since 1991.
But the average returning Minutes, Points, and Rebounds ranged from about 68%-72% for all champions, but it varied too widely to place any sort of standard for champions. Same goes for Number of Players Departed, the range was just too wide to place any sort of significance to the metric.
-# of Players Drafted a Year Prior to a Team’s Title run DID ring true. 23 Championship teams, almost all of them are traditional basketball powers….and yet a year prior to their title run teams put an average of 0.65 players into the NBA Draft. In fact 12 of 23 teams had ZERO draftable players prior to winning it all, and only 4 teams had more than 1 player drafted a year prior to a championship.
-Incoming McDonald’s All-Americans was also another interesting metric. Of the 23 Championship teams 8 had ZERO incoming McDonald’s All-Americans (34.78%), 10 teams had ONE incoming MCDAA (43.4%), and just 5 had 1+ (21.74%). It is a small sample, and there are always top recruits that just miss the McDonald’s All-American cut that can come in and make a difference right away, but I did think it was significant that 78.26% of all champions since 1991 had ONE or FEWER incoming McDonald’s All-Americans.
|School||Prev Season Record||Prev Final Rank||Prev Season Result||% Minutes Returning||% Points Returning||% Rebounding Returning||# of players gone||# of players to NBA Draft||McD’s AA incoming|
|2011||UCONN||18-16||12||NIT 2nd Round||84||43.62%||36.09%||46.04%||7||1||0|
|2009||North Carolina||36-3||1||Final Four||4||84.93%||91.55%||86.25%||4||0||3|
|2006||Florida||24-8||16||NCAA 2nd Round||32||55.58%||39.91%||59.95%||5||1||0|
|2005||North Carolina||25-11||18||NCAA 2nd Round||32||97.01%||98.54%||97.90%||4||0||1|
|2003||Syracuse||23-12||NR||NIT Final Four||68||46.66%||41.30%||62.72%||6||0||1|
|2000||Michigan State||33-5||2||Final Four||4||50.42%||56.02%||50.61%||6||0||1|
|1995||UCLA||23-8||17||NCAA 1st Round||64||79.35%||79.85%||80.71%||4||0||0|
|1993||North Carolina||23-10||18||Sweet 16||16||82.44%||73.95%||92.64%||3||1||1|
|27.91 Average Wins||18.52||69.28%||68.30%||72.40%||4||0.65||0.96|
SEASON AFTER TITLE
After coming up with data BEFORE a Championship run, I thought it would be prudent to get data for the same set on what happened AFTER a team’s championship run. Of course we know that the 2012 Champions missed the NCAA Tournament, which isn’t unprecedented at all. The 1986-87 Louisville Cardinals allowed their season to end after the ’87 Metro Tournament after being left out of the NCAA Field following an 18-14 season.
In fact, following up a Championship is REALLY hard. Not only have only 2 programs since 1991 been able to repeat as champions, since 2001 only ONE program (Florida 2006, repeated as champions) has been able to return to the Final Four a year after winning it all. However, from 1991 to 2000 (10 year period) 4 of 10 Champions Returned to the Final Four & 6 of 10 went at least to the Elite 8. Why? I don’t think it is a coincidence that Kenyon Martin was the last College Senior to be drafted #1 at the 2000 NBA Draft. The one exception that was Florida 2006 had several players return to college despite 1st Round Projections, which is categorically atypical from college basketball since the 2000 Draft.
So what trends have their been since 1991 that would suggest a team have a successful season a year after winning a National Title. First of all, I defined success as at least a Regional Final (Elite 8). With single-elimination in the NCAA Tournament, winning a national championship can’t be the ultimate measure (the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat in Game 1, which in the NCAA Tournament would have eliminated the Heat. Miami won the series 4-1). I then collected the record for each team, % Minutes, Points, & Rebounds Returning, Number of Players Lost from the title team, Number of Players Drafted, and Number of incoming McDonald’s All-Americans.
-The First Columns that really matters here is the Next Year Result & Next Season record following a Championship season. I think it is important to note that since the 2007 Florida Gators, no defending champion has advanced past the Sweet 16. The 2007 Florida Gators are the exception as a defending champion returning over 90% of their production (will discuss later), but a quick look at the change in college basketball is clear on the chart. Since Michigan State won the 2000 Championship and returned to the 2001 NCAA Final Four just one team has advanced past the Sweet 16 after winning the national championship, but before the Spartans were able to pull that off it was actually really common for defending champions to make Final Fours and have successful seasons. From the 1992 Tournament to the 2001 Tournament (10 seasons) FOUR Defending Champions reached the Final Four, and SIX Reached at least a Regional Final.
Since 1991 the follow-up to a championship season average “Rough Numerical Value” is 28.64 (Somewhere between the Round of 32 & the Sweet 16), with a bias towards the Round of 32. But again there is a distinct change in time periods. That value from 2013 to 2002 is 37.08, which is actually between the 1st & 2nd Rounds of the NCAA Tournament. While the value from 1992-2001 is 18.5……a DRASTIC difference!!!
-The same sort of phenomenon also exists in the Next Year Record & Final Ranking. Defending Champions have won an average of 26.68 games, but breaking out the same time periods as above and it’s clear of the changing landscape of college basketball . From 2013 to 2002 defending champions have won an average of 25 games, while from 2001 to 1992 defending champs won an average of 28.7 games. Since Florida won the 2007 Championship just 2 of 6 (33%) defending champions have managed to appear in the Final AP Basketball Poll, while from 1991 to 2006, 100% (16 of 16) defending champions appeared in the Final Ranking.
-Returning % of Minutes, Points & Rebounds I did find interesting. Firstly, the 1997 Arizona Team returned the highest percentage and finished the regular season #4 in the nation and earned a #1 seed in the West Region before falling in the Regional Final to the National Runner-Up in Utah in 1998. It wasn’t a national championship, but the season would certainly be considered successful. On the flip side, the University of Kentucky’s 2012 title team returned the fewest % across the three categories and also had the worst result of a follow-up championship season.
To keep the example going, the next highest returning % team to 1997 Arizona was the 2006 Florida team who was able to repeat as National Champions in 2007. Since 1992 only 3 programs have won the National Championship and finished the next season in the NIT, and none of the 3 brought a higher average production percentage back than 34.84%. However, two programs have managed to bring back less than 35% production from their title run (2005 North Carolina & 2008 Kansas) but neither team was able to advance past the Sweet 16.
-Of the champions sampled, the average championship team lost an average of 5.55 players. The lowest number of players departed was 2 (twice) in 1997 Arizona and 2006 Florida. Arizona finished the season #4 in the country and was bounced in the Elite 8. Florida repeated as National Champions. The Louisville Cardinals also are currently scheduled to lose just two off their roster.
-The NBA Draft Results are also very interesting as well. If you recall what happened BEFORE a Title teams had an average of just 0.65 players drafted, but AFTER teams have an average of 2.09 players taken by the NBA in their draft. 2012 Kentucky has the high mark here with 6 players taken, 2007 Florida and 2008 Kansas were able to produce 5 draftable players each off of their championship teams. I did find it interesting that just 5 teams since 1991 have had ZERO players taken by the NBA and of those 2 repeated as Champions and one was the National Runner-Up.
-Incoming McDonald’s All-Americans didn’t change much BEFORE or AFTER a title but there was a slight bump of 0.96 to 1.14. But the inclusion of MCDAA’s were not a DEFINITE help to champions defending their title. For example, three teams have added multiple MCDAAs after winning a National Championship since 2006 and all three of those teams ended up in the NIT.
|School||Championship Record||Next Year Result||Next year Record||Next Year Final Rank||% Minutes Returning||% Points Returning||% Rebounding Returning||# of players gone||# of players to NBA Draft||McD’s AA incoming for next season|
|2012||Kentucky||38-2||NIT 1st Round||100||21-12||NR||9.56%||7.63%||9.83%||9.01%||6||6||2|
|2011||UCONN||32-9||NCAA 1st Round||64||20-14||NR||61.84%||53.42%||69.99%||61.75%||4||1||0|
|2010||Duke||35-5||NCAA Sweet 16||16||32-5||3||57.89%||66.90%||55.68%||60.16%||6||0||1|
|2009||North Carolina||34-4||NIT Runner-Up||67||20-17||NR||33.09%||25.23%||46.21%||34.84%||9||4||4|
|2008||Kansas||37-3||NCAA Sweet 16||16||27-8||14||15.47%||15.18%||25.99%||18.88%||9||5||0|
|2007||Florida||35-5||NIT Final Four||69||24-12||NR||19.00%||15.91%||22.07%||18.99%||9||5||2|
|2005||North Carolina||33-4||NCAA 2nd Round||32||23-8||10||15.85%||8.97%||18.81%||14.54%||12||4||3|
|2004||UCONN||33-6||NCAA 2nd Round||32||23-8||13||49.44%||46.77%||49.56%||48.59%||5||2||1|
|2003||Syracuse||30-5||NCAA Sweet 16||16||23-8||20||67.76%||58.06%||66.01%||63.94%||5||1||0|
|2002||Maryland||32-4||NCAA Sweet 16||16||21-10||17||43.10%||31.34%||39.76%||38.07%||4||3||1|
|2001||Duke||35-4||NCAA Sweet 16||16||31-4||1||61.96%||60.57%||61.06%||61.20%||8||1||1|
|2000||Michigan State||32-7||NCAA Final Four||4||28-5||3||60.38%||53.27%||65.56%||59.74%||4||2||2|
|1999||UCONN||34-2||NCAA 2nd Round||32||25-10||20||60.78%||58.40%||70.02%||63.07%||6||1||0|
|1998||Kentucky||35-4||NCAA Elite 8||8||28-9||8||58.63%||52.10%||59.41%||56.71%||4||1||1|
|1997||Arizona||25-9||NCAA Elite 8||8||30-5||4||97.48%||97.72%||97.31%||97.50%||2||0||0|
|1995||UCLA||32-1||NCAA 1st Round||64||23-8||14||55.86%||48.49%||56.04%||53.46%||4||3||1|
|1993||North Carolina||34-4||NCAA 2nd Round||32||28-7||1||57.81%||63.26%||56.25%||59.11%||6||1||3|
|1992||Duke||34-2||NCAA 2nd Round||32||24-8||10||53.60%||49.83%||58.50%||53.98%||4||2||1|
Winning a championship is TOUGH. I think the data explored showed that programs really need SOME momentum heading into a potential championship season. Of course, exceptions are all over the place but bucking the trend requires exceptional circumstance. Repeating as national champions may be the toughest task in all of basketball these days. With the NBA snatching top talent from championship teams, the data showed clearly that the change at the professional level has created an even tougher landscape in college basketball to remain at the top.
I attempted to highlight the standout features of all of the information gathered. The Louisville & Kentucky rivalry has probably not been this intense in well over a decade and with the two programs being the most recent NCAA Champions with teams that most consider Top 5 teams for 2013-14 we are probably in for a wild ride. But bucking the trends aren’t going to be easy for EITHER team to find their way to the Final Four at Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium, but hopefully the data presented will help folks understand why it didn’t happen….OR help to appreciate the acheivement even more if Louisville, Kentucky, or Both find their way to college basketball’s grandest stage.
How were the columns created:
-Records: Won/Loss Records before or after a championship season.
-Final Rankings: Taken From Associated Press Final Polls
-Season Results: How a season ended. Numerical Value Presented is based on number of teams in a round. In the case of NIT, the number of teams in a round plus the number of teams in the NCAA Tournament.
-% of Production Returning: taken from players that left the program following a season. If I player scored 200 points and the team scored 1000 points in a season that player represents a 20% decrease, the sum of which was added up for all 3 sections and all 3 players.
-# of players gone: If they logged stats they were counted. If they were on roster and did not play a single minute, score, or grab a rebound those players were not counted.
-# Players Drafted: Players that were drafted in any round of the applicable NBA Draft.
-# of McDonald’s All-American’s Incoming: Taken from historical rosters
Why Did The Data Begin At 1991? 1991 was chosen because it was the first time a national champion has repeated since the field has expanded to 64 since 1985. Also, data became more and more difficult to gather to create a full report. Further digging may allow for a more detailed report as time goes along.