KenPom's History Helps Predict the 2016 National Champion


We’ve finally hit the point where KenPom may have jumped the shark. Everyone loves talking about advanced metrics (myself included) and it’s something the committee takes into consideration for seeding/giving at-large bids.

So if you’re not into advanced stats or not familiar with KenPom, this may sound like a lot of random shit strung together – even if you’re into KenPom, it still might but bear with me here. I went and looked at the pre-tourney stats for each champion since KenPom came into existence in 2002.

From there I ran the numbers, looking for any sort of trend of champions before the tourney started – earlier this year I gave numbers for post-tourney, which showed the eventual champion will finish in the top-40 in AdjD and AdjO.

Right away you could throw out AdjTempo as that means nothing to determining who can win the national title. The fastest playing team was North Carolina in 2005, who ranked 5th in the country while the slowest playing team was UConn in 2014, ranking 247th.

What did jump out right away was every champion was ranked in the KenPom Top-25 before the NCAA Tournament started. 2014 UConn was no surprise the lowest ranked team right at No. 25 while three No. 1 teams (2008 Kansas, 2012 Kentucky and 2013 Louisville) won.

Below is a table of what the eventual national champions looked like ranking wise before the NCAA Tournament started:

2005North Carolina76.7255119.3614390.9575222
2009North Carolina75.77457121.90821490.9440184


Ruling out teams outside the KenPom top-25, don’t put any money on UConn, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Texas or Gonzaga. Looking at the raw numbers, each team in the top-25 must be top-80 AdjO and top-60 AdjD, pretty high numbers, but still in the top 23 percent of the country. So other teams you can rule out include Indiana (64 AdjD), Iowa State (No. 11 AdjD), Duke (No. 111 AdjD) and Baylor (No. 90 AdjD). Clearly that tired old saying of defense wins championships is true in KenPom’s world.

So, that leaves the following teams as eligible to win the national title: Virginia, Kansas, Michigan State, Villanova, UNC, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Miami, Xavier, Arizona, Purdue, Oregon, Iowa, Cal, Texas A&M, Utah and Maryland. That’s 19 possible teams, which seems right for how this season is going.

What if you take the averages of the national championship winners since 2002? Well, the field gets a lot smaller. If you take the average Pythag number, AdjO and AdjD – 3 of the main components to KenPom’s stats, only three teams can win it. The average numbers are .934803 Pythag, Top-13 AdjO and Top-19 AdjD.

Those three teams might surprise you as they are Kansas, Virginia and Villanova. Michigan State just misses based on AdjD as does UNC while Oklahoma and WVU barely miss on AdjO. So if you buy into KenPom and the law of averages, put your money on Kansas, Virginia and Villanova.