Instead of doing another Undervalued, Overvalued, or Properly Valued blog, I figured I’d change it up a bit this time and make some comparisons between this year’s Final Four contenders and past Final Four participants in the KenPom era.
It was a much more time-consuming process than I was expecting. I broke teams down by their four or five attributes that are favorable to their ranking in the MLPPR and the four or five that hurt their ranking.
I then went back and tried to find teams with similar makeups that did make the Final Four. Some were easier than others. None of them are perfect, although some are pretty close. I didn’t want to use any old teams twice, which proved to be a challenge (2013 teams are very comparable to teams this year, apparently).
In a lot of cases, these are versions of this year’s teams as their best selves, which you tend to be when you win at least four games in the NCAA Tournament. I included every team that was in the Top 24 of the seed line, according to the Bracket Matrix. I also included Wichita State and Oklahoma State because the mainstream predictive ranking sites like them and those teams tend to do well in March.
If you don’t know the basis of the MLPPR, you can find out more here.
We’ll be back with a lot more MLPPR-related material in two weeks when the bracket is announced and I’ll be in the middle of a two-week state of euphoria.
Gonzaga (MLPPR: 1)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, DEFG%, D2P%, O2P%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OR%, Bench
Final Four Comp: ’06 Florida
I know Gonzaga sucks now because they lost to a Top 70 team and it completely invalidates them winning 29 games in a row – including five against Top 25 competition – but they still somehow find themselves in the Top 6 of both offensive and defensive efficiency and a similar makeup to the last team to win back-to-back national championships. Weird.
This picture is technically of the ’07 title team, but it was practically the same.
Villanova (MLPPR: 8)
Biggest Additions: OE, OEFG%, O2P%, D FTA/FGA
Biggest Subtractions: OR%, D2P%, DEFG%, D A/FGM
Final Four Comp: ’07 Florida
Seems fitting with Nova going for their repeat this year. Similar to the Gators, the offense has seen a slight uptick for the Wildcats in Year 2, while the defense has regressed slightly.
Neither Villanova or Gonzaga have three lottery picks on the roster, but they both have multiple pros, at least.
Kansas (MLPPR: 2)
Biggest Additions: OE, OEFG%, O3P%, D2P%, OR%
Biggest Subtractions: D3P%, DE, DEFG%, DR%, OSteal%
Final Four Comp: ’05 North Carolina
The Jayhawks aren’t quite at that level just yet and one of the biggest differences is they aren’t as good on the glass. That’s an area that’s actually gotten better for KU in Big 12 play, but Sean May is never walking through that door, so…
North Carolina (MLPPR: 14)
Biggest Additions: OE, OR%, OTO%, D FTA/FGA
Biggest Subtractions: DEFG%, D2P%, Bench, OBlock%
Final Four Comp: ’08 North Carolina
All of Roy’s Final Four teams at UNC are pretty much the same and the good news for Tar Heel fans is that this team is in that realm. This team and the ’08 group that lost to Kansas in the semifinals share their dominance on the glass and strikingly similar shooting and point distribution numbers.
Louisville (MLPPR: 6)
Biggest Additions: Defense, pretty much all of it
Biggest Subtractions: OEFG%, O2P%, D FTA/FGA, Bench
Final Four Comp: ’02 Oklahoma
I don’t remember a single thing about that Oklahoma team other than Hollis Price getting buckets. And if we’re being honest, I won’t remember anything about this Louisville team in 15 years other than Donovan Mitchell getting buckets.
Baylor (MLPPR: 5)
Biggest Additions: Defense, SOS, Bench
Biggest Subtractions: OTO%, OE, O3P%, D A/FGM
Final Four Comp: ’06 UCLA
Basically the exact same team with the small caveat that Baylor has four less future NBA players than UCLA had. Very minor detail.
Oregon (MLPPR: 4)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, DEFG%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA, D Block%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OTO%, O Block%
Final Four Comp: ’07 Georgetown
Similar makeup, similar early season struggles (even more so for the Hoyas), and the Ducks would probably be closer to the Hoyas in efficiency numbers if they had Healthy Dillon Brooks all year. Brooks is essentially the Jeff Green in this equation and Chris Boucher is a much more athletic, more versatile Roy Hibbert.
Arizona (MLPPR: 20)
Biggest Additions: O3P%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA, Height, O Steal%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, D2P%, DE, O2P%
Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’10 Duke
I was getting pretty desperate for new teams by the time I got to Arizona and this is the result. It’s a weird comparison, but the efficiency numbers are similar. Duke was just better, especially defensively. The thing Arizona has going for it is that they’re actually much more talented, just significantly less experienced. It didn’t help that their best returning player was out until late January.
Florida (MLPPR: 9)
Biggest Additions: DE, DEFG%, D3P%, D A/FGM
Biggest Subtractions: OEFG%, O2P%, Bench, O A/FGM, D FTA/FGA
Final Four Comp: ’13 Louisville
The tough part about this comp is that Florida would have to go on a run without their Gorgui Dieng, which is John Egbunu. Probably not gonna happen.
Kentucky (MLPPR: 7)
Biggest Additions: Offense, D3P%, D A/FGM
Biggest Subtractions: D2P%, D FTA/FGA, DPoss, DEFG%
Final Four Comp: ’04 Oklahoma State
Last team to win an outright Big 12 title not named Kansas. Oklahoma State didn’t quite have the talent in the backcourt that Kentucky has, but they did have Tony Allen.
UCLA (MLPPR: 17)
Biggest Additions: Offense, D FTA/FGA, D2P%, Height
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, DE, D3P%, OR%
Final Four Comp: ’03 Marquette
I’m just imagining Steve Alford going back to Indiana to replace Crean and telling every recruit that he reminds of him of Lonzo Ball. That joke might be too inside.
Anyway, Marquette also was great at the offense and not so great at the defense with a future Top 5 pick running the show and a couple of other pros around him.
Butler (MLPPR: 30)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, OTO%, O2P%, D A/FGM
Biggest Subtractions: DE, DEFG%, D2P%, OR%
Final Four Comp: ’13 Michigan
This is not your older brother’s Butler basketball. It’s a potent offensive team with some obvious, possibly (probably) fatal flaws. Their numbers look like the Michigan team that damn near rode Spike Albrecht to a national championship, only they have six less NBA players, which is quickly becoming a common theme in this blog.
West Virginia (MLPPR: 22)
Biggest Additions: OR%, OStl%, DE, DBlock%, DSteal%
Biggest Subtractions: D FTA/FGA, DEFG%, DPoss, SOS, Bench
Final Four Comp: ’94 Arkansas
I had to get inventive here because there’s no team that’s pressed like West Virginia that has made the Final Four in the KenPom era. I was rather young, but if I’m gathering this correctly, Arkansas and its “40 Minutes of Hell” put on a press from time-to-time.
No offense to the Mountaineer crowd, but Nathan Adrian isn’t exactly the equivalent to Big Nasty.
Purdue (MLPPR: 15)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O3P%, D FTA/FGA, DEFG%, D2P%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OTO%, OSteal%, DBlock%
Final Four Comp: ’16 Oklahoma
Caleb Swanigan gets all of the national attention, but Purdue’s shooting is really the star of the offense. They’re not quite as reliant as the Sooners were last year, but it’s similar. Outside of Buddy Hield, the one thing the Boilers could use that Oklahoma had was a shot-blocker like Khadeem Lattin. They could also use the weakest bracket in the field, which OU was fortunate enough to get last year.
Florida State (MLPPR: 11)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, OTO%, Height, D Block%
Biggest Subtractions: D FTA/FGA, Bench, DR%, SOS
Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’15 Kentucky
Extremely watered down, I suppose.
The Seminoles do have a lot of talent, although not quite 2015 Kentucky levels, but they do run as deep and they have the height. You could make the argument that the Noles are better offensively, but although still good, they’re nowhere near the lever Kentucky was defensively.
Duke (MLPPR: 10)
Biggest Additions: Offense, D3P%, Height
Biggest Subtractions: DE, DEFG%, D2P%
Final Four Comp: ’15 Duke
I’ve made this comparison like three times now, so might as well keep it consistent. The worry about the Blue Devils this year is their defense. They went from 48th to 38th from Friday to Sunday in DE. The 2015 version was probably in a worse spot defensively than this team was until they turned the corner around at the end of February.
Sure, Duke just lost twice this week. You know what they did at this time two years ago? Went to OT against a Virginia Tech team that was 2-16 in the ACC and 175th in the KenPom rankings.
Virginia (MLPPR: 3)
Biggest Additions: OTO%, SOS, DE, DEFG%
Biggest Subtractions: OE, OR%, D FTA/FGA, Bench
Final Four Comp: ’04 Georgia Tech
I’ve become very uncomfortable with the Virginia ranking now that they’re losing a bunch of games, but Georgia Tech is a good comp in more than just their efficiencies.
The Yellow Jackets also had a rough time in the ACC. This was back when there were only nine teams and you played everybody twice, but it was the highest rated league back then and GT was 6-7 before winning their last three games. They entered the tournament at 23-9 overall and a #3 seed before making the final game.
That’s the good news for Cavs fans. The bad news? That Yellow Jacket team won all five of their games by five points or less or in overtime. Fun!
Minnesota (MLPPR: 27)
Biggest Additions: Defense, OTO%, Height
Biggest Subtractions: OE, OEFG%, 2P%, OR%, SOS
Final Four Comp: ’14 UConn
Both really good defensive teams with shot blockers with questionable offenses. Of course the Huskies had Bazz, which was nice. The obvious candidate to be that guy for the Gophers is Nate Mason. He’s not as good as Napier, but he has shown that ability to take over and win games for Minnesota. He did it to both Purdue and Indiana this year.
Cincinnati (MLPPR: 13)
Biggest Additions: DEFG%, D2P%, OTO%, D Block%, O2P%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, OE, OFT%, D3P%
Final Four Comp: ’13 Wichita State
Pretty, pretty similar teams. The Bearcats are actually probably a little better and their seed will be more favorable to go on a run. The obvious concern is the offense, especially going against a zone.
Notre Dame (MLPPR: 24)
Biggest Additions: OTO%, OEFG%, O3P%, D FTA/FGA
Biggest Subtractions: Defense, OR%, O Block%
Final Four Comp: (Watered Down) ’14 Wisconsin
I think most people probably think of defense when they think about Wisconsin basketball, but those back-to-back Final Four teams were actually a couple of the worst defensive teams to make the final weekend in recent years.
Now Notre Dame is still a ways from even reaching Wisconsin’s defensive level, but they’ve been improving on that end lately.
6 Seeds (and Wichita State and Oklahoma State)
Wisconsin (MLPPR: 19)
Biggest Additions: D2P%, OR%, D FTA/FGA, DE
Biggest Subtractions: D3P%, OE, OEFG%, O3P%, SOS
Final Four Comp: ’14 Florida
Admittedly kind of a stretch here, especially with how Wisconsin is playing recently, but if Wisconsin is going to succeed in March it’ll be because they grind teams defensively, just like Florida did.
SMU (MLPPR: 12)
Biggest Additions: Defense, OR%, O3P%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, O2P%, D A/FGM
Final Four Comp: ’13 Syracuse
I love this comparison. Syracuse’s zone was better than SMU’s is this year, but the Mustangs score a little easier. It’s hard to tell exactly how good SMU is because they play in the AAC, but they’ve been really consistent this year. Hopefully whoever they play in the first round isn’t gift wrapped a win because of horrendous officiating.
Saint Mary’s (MLPPR: 18)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O2P%, DEFG%, D3P%, D FTA/FGA
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, D Block%, D Steal%, DE, O Steal%
Final Four Comp:
’06 UCLA ’07 UCLA
I didn’t realize I doubled up on ’06 UCLA. Instead of finding the next best fit, I took the easy way out and just put ’07 UCLA, so we could get Brodie involved. I don’t think Saint Mary’s will make the Final Four, largely due to an extreme lack of Westbrook.
Let’s watch some very grainy footage:
Creighton (MLPPR: 25)
Biggest Additions: OEFG%, O3P%, O2P%, OTO%, D Poss, D FTA/FGA
Biggest Subtractions: OR%, DE, DEFG%, D2P%, SOS
Final Four Comp: ’05 Michigan State
I was desperate. Creighton isn’t close to rebounding as well as the Spartans, but they shoot a lot better.
The Bluejays are one of like five teams in this blog that matches pretty closely with 2013 Michigan.
Wichita State (MLPPR: 16)
Biggest Additions: DEFG%, D2P%, OEFG%, O3P%, OTO%
Biggest Subtractions: SOS, Bench, D FTA/FGA
Final Four Comp: ’05 Louisville
Not a good sized picture, but it’s the only one I could find of the Holy Trinity of Rick Pitino, Francisco Garcia, and Reggie Theus.
This was back in the C-USA days for Louisville, so that part fits the Shockers playing a MVC schedule. That’s just one of the many similarities.
Look at the KenPom profiles:
I don’t know if you can really see all the numbers that well, but you can see the green shading, which is all you need.
Oklahoma State (MLPPR: 47)
Biggest Additions: OE, OR%, 3P%, SOS
Biggest Subtractions: DEFENSE
Final Four Comp: ’11 VCU
I’m having PTSD from the Rams scoring 1,000 points against Purdue.
VCU made the Final Four despite having the worst defensive profile you could possibly have almost. They did it with their guards shredding defenses on the other end, which is what the Jawun Evans could do for the Cowboys. The OSU defense is actually worse than VCU because they not only give up so many easy buckets around the rim, but they double down by fouling all the time.