With another week passing by on the college basketball calendar, and each team playing about two games, we are leaning more and more about each teams profile ahead of the 2024 college basketball postseason.
Using advanced metric website KenPom, sports bettors have become more and more aware of the profile of a National Champion, which I outlined in the first installment of this weekly article. Typically, champions are balanced on both sides of the floor, and we are looking to key in on teams that can win with high powered offenses and lockdown defenses.
This article breaks down potential contenders into three buckets: bona fide contenders that are top 20 in both KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency metric and defensive efficiency metric, just outside that threshold with the capability of playing into it, and teams that are lopsided and over reliant on being elite on one part, but not the other.
Here's some notes on each group with a few teams to keep an eye on moving forward:
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2024 National Championship Preview
Bona Fide National Championship Contenders
This group is going to continue looking fairly the same from here on out. With about a 20 game sample, numbers are starting to stabilize and show who teams not only have been, but are likely going to be moving forward.
While Houston has the best defense in the country by a wide margin, the team isn't an overwhelmingly effective offense, 194th in effective field goal percentage.
Meanwhile, the team that continues to gain momentum as a National Championship contender is Tennessee, who is enjoying a monster offensive season around Northern Colorado transfer Dalton Knecht. The wing put up 25 or more for the fifth straight game over the weekend, but keep an eye on a massive statement game at Rupp Arena on Saturday against an elite offense in Kentucky.
Outside Looking In
These are teams that are near the threshold of being a National Championship contender, inside the top 40 on both sides of the ball, almost like a contender-lite.
There are several intriguing teams that can improve its play, namely UConn who will likely enter the prior group with another strong week now that big man Donovan Clingan is back from injury, but the interesting team to note is New Mexico, who is running woodshed on teams in the Mountain West.
After battling early season injuries, the Lobos are at full strength and now building an elite profile with its up-tempo attack. Last season, the Lobos had a strong team as well with an explosive offense, but leaky defense. This season, it's coming together for Richard Pitino's group, 20th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency.
Freshman JT Toppin has been a huge boost to the Lobos defense, the 6'9" freshman has quickly become one of the best shot blockers in the sport, and he is slid in nicely around the Lobos' three-headed offensive monster in Jamal Mashburn Jr. (15.6 points per game), Jaelen House (15.6) and Donovan Dent (14.8 points).
New Mexico has won six of eight games in Mountain West play, all of them by 17 or more.
One Trick Ponies
This is a group of teams that are elite on one side of the ball, and average-to-bad on the other side, making it difficult to envision these teams withstanding the bumpy road of a six game NCAA Tournament run. These teams are relatively unbalanced, some more than others, which makes them vulnerable come the NCAA Tournament.
A team in this group that looks familiar is San Diego State, who made the National Championship Game last season. The team has a profile that slightly resembles last years, but closer to balanced. The team isn't as elite as it was on defense, but still incredibly strong, and is also better on offense, up from 238th in effective field goal percentage to 164th this season.
San Diego State was able to slow down the likes of Alabama en route to the title game last season, but it's defense was fifth in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric, but is 18th this season.
The other team worth keeping an eye on is Texas Tech, who is far better on offense than expected under first year head coach Grant McCasland. The Red Raiders have scored impressive Big 12 wins at Texas and Oklahoama as well as BYU already and are shooting a Big 12 best 39.8% from deep in league games. However, the defense is lagging this season, which means this team can be ripe for some regression as Big 12 play continues.
I advise keeping an eye on where certain teams are located on this sheet as conference play picks up and the discussion around who is a contender continues to get louded and louder.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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