Early warnings (cont.)
Posted: Wednesday January 2, 2008 2:30PM; Updated: Wednesday January 2, 2008 8:59PM
The National-Title Discussion
There are only two teams in the AP poll who presently rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and they may surprise you: Duke and Marquette, who met in the finals of the Maui Invitational in November (Duke won, 77-73). That doesn't mean the Blue Devils and Golden Eagles should be the only teams in the national-title discussion -- far from it -- but it does mean they should be mentioned alongside the more obvious candidates such as Kansas, North Carolina, Memphis and UCLA.
Below, I've broken the ranked teams that seem to have deep NCAA tournament potential into three tiers. The first contains those that currently fit the efficiency profile of a champ; the second contains those that are elite in one efficiency category, and decent in the other; the third contains respectable teams that are sitting outside the top 10 in either efficiency category:
These are the two most intriguing observations from the chart above:
As much as I think Carolina is still going to run away with the ACC, the gap between the Tar Heels and Duke isn't as big as most people imagine. The reason: UNC has yet to really prove itself as an elite defensive team without Brandan Wright's crane-like wingspan in the paint. The Heels' offense is still capable of putting up 100 points every night, but their secondary big men -- Deon Thompson in particular -- need to emerge as better defenders if they're going to win a national title.
As good as Memphis looked in shutting down Georgetown and Arizona on back-to-back Saturdays, the Tigers' offense doesn't stack up statistically with the one team ranked above it, North Carolina. Memphis' D is still championship caliber, but who would have thought its offense would be noticeably less efficient (from a 116.6 adjusted rating in '06-07 to a 111.4 rating in '07-08) with Derrick Rose running the show?