March 4, 2013 - by Jeff Haley
Our mathematical models do more than just predict the likely NCAA tournament seeding, as you will find at our 2013 Bracketology page. They can also be used to forecast how the NCAA tournament will play out. This post looks at the three most likely NCAA champions according to our NCAA bracket predictions.
The Indiana Hoosiers are slight favorites to win the 2012-2013 NCAA championship. Our model gives Tom Crean’s team a 21 percent chance of winning it all, leading the way in our 2013 bracket predictions.
Indiana is a favorite in our system in large part because they have the largest point differential of any team in college basketball, with the Hoosiers outscoring opponents by an average of 20.1 points per game. IU’s offense is a force to be reckoned with, scoring 1.19 points per possession, which is also the highest rate in Division I.
Tom Crean’s team is actually good at most everything on offense, leading the nation in three point shooting percentage (42%), while running fourth in effective field goal percentage (56%). Indiana also earns plenty of second chance opportunities on the offensive glass, thanks to the efforts of their two player of the year candidates, Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo.
While IU’s offense is great, the defense is merely very good. IU has allowed 0.90 points per possession this season, the 22st lowest total in D-I. Crean’s squad is nothing special on the defensive glass, and they lack the sort of rim defender that makes good defenses great. If the Hoosiers falter in the NCAA tournament, it will likely be because of their defense.
Indiana’s title odds appear only a hair better than the chances of the Florida Gators, who our bracket predictions give a 20 percent chance of winning Billy Donovan’s third national championship.
The Gators are a more balanced team than Indiana. Florida is fifth in the country in points per possession on offense (1.16) and second nationally when it comes to points per possession defense (0.85). Combined excellence at both ends of the floor is what allows Florida to come in second in per game point differential, with the Gators outscoring their opponents by an average of 19.4 points per game.
Like most of Billy Donovan’s best teams, this iteration of the Gators shoots a lot of threes, hoisting them on 41 percent of their shots. And Florida does more than shoot a lot of threes, they also make them a lot. The Gators’ 38 percent three point shooting percentage ranks 32nd nationally. Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, and 6-10 Erik Murphy are not shy when it comes to launching shots from long range. Throw in the fact that Florida makes 56 percent of their twos and they don’t turn the ball over very much, and the result is a highly effective scoring machine.
Florida’s defense is just as good as the offense. Florida’s opponents are only managing an effective field goal percentage of 43 percent, which is the fifth lowest total in D-I. Like Indiana, Florida doesn’t have a dominant shot blocker, although Patric Young is pretty good. The Gator D instead relies on limiting opponent penetration while controlling the boards and forcing turnovers.
After Florida and Indiana, the championship chances for the next few teams drop off considerably. Take the case of Louisville, the team with the third best odds according to our NCAA bracket predictions. Louisville seems to be getting less attention lately, sitting at the fringes of the AP top 10, but the Cardinals are still good. Rick Pitino coaches one of the very best defenses in the nation.
Louisville allows 0.85 points per possession, putting it on par with Florida when it comes to defense. Louisville’s press forces turnovers, giving the Cardinals the second highest opponent turnover rate in the country. Even when teams break the initial pressure, shot blocking center Gorgui Dieng gives the Louisville D answers, which is part of the reason that the Cardinals are limiting opponents to a 44 percent effective field goal percentage.
Louisville is more likely to struggle on offense than the two teams ahead of them in our bracket predictions. The Cardinals rank 47th nationally in per possession scoring with 1.08 points per possession. Louisville avoids turnovers and crashes the glass, but 49 percent effective field goal percentage is not what you typically see with a championship offense. That may be due to a bit too much Russdiculousness; Russ Smith hoists one third of the Cardinals’ shots while he is on the floor.
In closing, don’t forget to check out all of our bracketology 2013 projections, which update daily. And in case you didn’t know already, TeamRankings.com is your #1 source for coverage and analysis of the 2013 NCAA tournament bracket, including bracket predictions for all Division I teams, computer optimized 2013 NCAA bracket picks, NCAA bracket odds for surviving each tournament round, and algorithmic NCAA tournament betting picks.
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