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Can Tech win a championship with this style of play?

Let’s analyze some data and find out if defense truly wins championships.

TCU v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Thousands and thousands of football fans scoffed at the 2019 Super Bowl, labeling it “boring” and “pointless,” and many of our audience were disappointed not to see Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs playing for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.

But if there’s one positive takeaway for Red Raider fans, it’s that even in an era of high-octane offenses infultrating every sport known to man, defense is ultimately still what brings home the ultimate prize.

At least, we think.

That’s why I wanted to pull a bit of data on how NCAA basketball teams win championships in the modern era.

Take a look at this first table, which includes Texas Tech and the NCAA champions of the last 10 years. It includes the adjusted defensive efficiency (points surrendered per 100 possessions) and adjusted offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions). Obviously, you want the defensive number to be low and the offensive number to be high.

Past champs and their efficiencies

Year Team Adjusted defensive efficiency Adjusted offensive efficiency
Year Team Adjusted defensive efficiency Adjusted offensive efficiency
2019 Texas Tech 85 107
2018 Villanova 94 128
2017 North Carolina 93 120
2016 Villanova 91 123
2015 Duke 92 125
2014 UConn 92 113
2013 Louisville 85 117
2012 Kentucky 90 122
2011 UConn 92 116
2010 Duke 88 121
2009 North Carolina 92 123

This is an interesting table because only one team in the past decade to win a title was as good as this Red Raider team is defensively, the 2013 Louisville Cardinals. The difference is, the Cards, led by the dynamic backcourt of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith with Gorgui Dieng and Montrez Harrell holding down the paint, scored an additional 10 points per 100 possessions than the 2019 Red Raiders.

In fact, every champion in the past 10 years scored at a more efficient rate than this Tech squad, and half of them scored a massive 15+ points more than the Red Raiders per 100 possessions.

So, from that chart, it definitely looks like Tech needs to find a better rhythm offensively to content for a national title, but let’s look at some other data.

How did other teams who scored at a similar rate as this Tech team fare over the past five years?

Teams with 106.5 - 107.4 AdjO

Average wins Average losses Average kpom ranking
Average wins Average losses Average kpom ranking
17.5 15.3 147
18.1 14.3 135
19.8 12.8 135
20.3 12.5 123
18.7 14.4 156

For perspective, there were about 15-22 teams per year who fell into this category. As you can see, with about 350 teams playing Division I basketball, the average team who scored with the same level of efficiency as the 2019 Red Raiders typically won around 18 games and finished about 140th in the national polls.

Winning 18 games alone is hardly enough to make the NCAA Tournament, but if you’re falling out of the top-25 (let alone 130s), it’s going to be tough to cut down the nets in March.

I think the answer to this article’s question is simple: yes, Tech can win a national championship with the level of defense it’s playing, but to do so, it absolutely must make some more shots.

Look at it this way: Tech gets 67 possessions per game. We already know the Red Raiders need to score about 10 more points per 100 possessions to be on the same level as past champions. That means Tech needs to score 6.7 more points per game without allowing any more points than they currently do.

Right now, Tech is No. 217 in the country in scoring at 70.8 points per game. Based on my analysis, if Tech can bump that up to 77.5 points per game, they’ll be bringing home a natty in April. Easy enough, right?

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