Alabama Basketball: Does defense win in Big Dance Hoops?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

In the not, too distant past, it was believed in college football, defense won championships. This year, Alabama Basketball needs to prove defense can win college basketball championships.

Putting such a value on defense is not a norm in college basketball. Instead, most programs are built on the goal of explosive scoring. In most regular season games, for most teams, reaching the mid-to-high 70s in points means a win. In 2013, the average points scored by teams in games was 66.9 points. In only one of the ten seasons since has that number been under 70.1 points. The high during the ten seasons was 73.6 points in 2018.

Offensive-centric philosophy does not hold up in all games. When scoring more than in the 60s, becomes a challenge, making enough defensive stops is essential to winning.

Ken Pomeroy, whose data calculations are highly respected, provides insight on NCAA Tournament teams. Based on his data, 10 of the top 17 “Defensive Efficiency” college basketball teams are in the Sweet 16. Only four Sweet 16 teams are below the top 35 teams in defensive efficiency. Based on historical NCAA Tournament data, a sound argument can be made that none of the four teams will win the NCAA Tournament. They are Xavier (No. 63); Gonzaga (No. 75); Princeton (No. 96) and Miami ( No. 108).

The 12 teams not excluded because of their defensive efficiency, can then be measured by their offensive efficiency. In games with teams of comparable defensive performance, offensive performance becomes the difference.

Looking at more of Ken Pomeroy’s ‘Offensive Efficiency’ numbers, some of the top defensive teams are not productive enough to win the Championship. Those teams are Arkansas (No. 51); Tennessee (No. 60); San Diego State (No. 70) and Princeton (No. 100).

The sifting out of less efficient teams reduces the likely National Champion down to between six to nine teams. Florida Atlantic at No. 35 in each efficiency category is an outlier. Practically, that leaves at most eight teams with performance records indicating they can win the Championship.

Alabama Basketball and Seven Other Contenders

  • UCLA Bruins – Defensive Efficiency (DE) No. 2; Offensive Efficiency (OE) No. 21
  • Alabama Crimson Tide – DE, No. 3; OE, No. 18
  • Houston Cougars – DE, No. 4; OE, No. 9
  • Texas Longhorns – DE, No. 10; OE, No. 15
  • Creighton Blue Jays – DE, No. 13; OE, No. 23
  • U Conn Huskies – DE, No. 14; OE, No. 3
  • Kansas State Wildcats – DE, No. 17; OE, No. 47
  • Michigan State Spartans – DE, 31; OE, No. 38

How much weight should the data be given when making game predictions? Part of the answer is the data represents an entire season. Going forward is at most a four-game season for two of the teams. Teams peaking in late March have an advantage. Another caveat is in a single game, teams can perform well above and well below their season efficiencies. And between two closely matched teams, officiating and luck can also be factors.

Even when data analysis is sound, outcomes can be unpredictable.

Next. Crimson Tide has an opportunity to make history. dark

Alabama Basketball may not win it all. The Crimson Tide may not advance to the Final Four. But Alabama has as good a chance as any team – to do both.