Using KenPom to Predict the 2022 NCAA Basketball Champion

The 2021-22 KenPom preseason rankings were released today, kicking off another season for one of the top websites for college basketball predictive analytics. If you’ve seen any of my college basketball analysis, I use this site a fair amount. While these rankings will certainly change throughout the season, I took to to see what common threads I could find in past national champions. Can we use Ken Pomeroy’s metrics to predict the 2022 national champs?

KP has been around for 19 national champions. I looked for common threads between all of them. The two most prominent metrics Pomeroy displays are Adjusted Offensive Efficiency and Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. A combination of the two gives the Adjusted Efficiency Margin used to rank the teams week-to-week.

Narrowing Down the List of Potential National Champs

Of the 19 national champions tracked by KenPom, the lowest any finished in Offensive Efficiency was 39th (2014 UConn) and the lowest any finished in Defensive Efficiency was 22nd (2021 Baylor). Admittedly, a midseason COVID-19 pause probably unfairly affected the Bears in the metrics, but we’ll roll with them anyway.

In the current preseason rankings, there are 18 teams who have at least a top-39 offense and top-22 defense. These teams are: Michigan, Illinois, Memphis, Texas Tech, Kansas, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor, Arkansas, USC, UCLA, Maryland, Duke, Purdue, Texas, Ohio State, and UConn. A list of 18 teams doesn’t really get us anywhere, but it’s a start. Good thing we can go further than that.

18 to 12 to 6

17 of the 19 national champions in the sample (89.4%) finished in the top 20 for both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. This year, 12 teams fit those parameters in the preseason rankings. The list is now: Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Gonzaga, Houston, Baylor, UCLA, Maryland, Duke, Purdue, Texas, and Ohio State. Let’s narrow it down a little bit more.

14 of the 19 national champions in the sample (73.7%) finished in the top 15 for both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. Only six teams match those criteria in this year’s preseason rankings. Those six are: Gonzaga, Michigan, Baylor, Kansas, UCLA, and Illinois. Again, the rankings stand to change (potentially quite drastically) throughout the season. This is a nice small group to start with. One of six. I will revisit KenPom in the future to update the list of potential champions every couple weeks.

Bring on the college basketball season.


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