Fresh off the improbable victory of the University of Connecticut under second year coach Kevin Ollie, Grantland took a look at the makeup of the team, in an attempt to make sense of it all, and perhaps derive some reasons for why we should have seen this coming. Well, the verdict is in, and the championship formula Mark Titus has identifiedshould look pretty familiar to observes of UCLA Basketball:
But honestly, if you've been paying attention to college basketball over the past 10 years, the Huskies' championship shouldn't be that surprising. After all, UConn had the two things every NCAA champion team since 2004 has had: great defense and great guard play.
Not only champions, but as we can personally attest, teams that advance to the truly big games, and not just Steve 16s also generally share these characteristics in our own experience. Titus talks about the elite pedigree of the backcourts for champions over the past decade. A list with names like Raymond Felton, Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Ty Lawson, Kemba Walker and on and on, and the assertion that elite backcourts are precursors to post season success begins to take shape. A simpler observation appears to bear out the other half of assertion regarding defense:
You also need a great defense - the average KenPom adjusted defensive ranking for those 10 title teams is 9.4.
This "guard play + defense = championship" formula was on full display Monday night. UConn's defense, which ranked 10th on KenPom this season, held Kentucky to its lowest scoring total of the year. This came two days after UConn held Florida to its lowest scoring total of the year. Kentucky's defense, which ranked 41st on KenPom, had good moments against UConn, but it also broke down during too many pivotal possessions.
And even if one where to doubt this based on ten years of data, just think about where we have been over the past ten years. We reached the Final Four three times with backcourts filled with the likes of Farmar, Afflalo, Collison, and Westbrook. Those three teams were never worse than fifth in the country in defense. Howland's best offensive team in 2009, while featuring an elite backcourt in Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday, also slipped to 56th in the country in defense, and was subsequently bounced in the second round. And we know what happened to Howland's teams once his backcourt was drained of talent afterwards. You could even say it's the main reason why we currently have a rape apologist as coach instead of Ben.
Speaking of Alfraud, where does that leave us going forward? TIARA has made it clear that #Daddyball is the supreme law of the land for the next three years, so we can safely eliminate the possibility of having an elite backcourt in that timespan. Any backcourt which heavily utilizes Barfie is by definition not elite. The defense which supposedly improved so much over the course of the year still only managed to get to 45th in the country this year. If having an elite backcourt and good defense are the pillars that support deep tournament runs and championships, then thanks to TIARA's nepotism and Lavin-esque coaching traits, we should be without one of those pillars for at least the next three years and perhaps without the other until he is fired. And we get all of that for the 7th highest salary in college basketball! Lucky us!
One last parting shot from Titus:
Remember this when filling out your bracket next year: If your pick for the champion doesn't play great defense and doesn't have a point guard who's destined to play in the league, then you've almost certainly made a big mistake.
Well we've got a "coach" who basically guarantees we'll have neither of these things. Thanks, Dan!