Can Michigan overcome poor D?
Wolverines, Hoyas, Missouri Tigers have big weaknesses entering tourney
The statistical formula to explain success in the NCAA tournament is not complicated. A team needs to be very good at scoring points and very good at preventing its opponent from scoring. It's that simple -- have a great offense and a great defense, and you're all set on a course for the Final Four, maybe even a national championship.
Of course, not all teams can flip a switch and become very good at both ends of the floor. By this point of the season, teams must deal with the reality of what they have been for the past four months, and for almost every team, that means dealing with significant flaws. If this season is typical, at least one of these flawed teams will advance to Atlanta. Some of the more interesting cases involve teams that are Final Four-quality on one side of the ball and sub-tournament-quality on the other end.
While national champions of recent times have repeatedly demonstrated a strong offense and defense during the regular season, some other teams have gotten close with an unbalanced profile. Last season's Louisville team had arguably the best defense in the country, but its offense ranked outside the top 100 in terms of adjusted offensive efficiency. The Cardinals played very good defense en route to the Final Four but improved their offense just enough to win the four games needed to play in New Orleans.
Another example that should be fresh in your mind is VCU from two seasons ago. The Rams' defense ranked 143rd heading into the tournament, but they reached the Final Four even while needing an extra win to do it. Most notably, they held Kansas to 0.89 points per possession in their Elite Eight game in what was easily their best defensive performance of the season. It's not the path I'd recommend to Atlanta, but conceivably if one side of the ball is good enough, it can carry a weaker unit to a few wins. VCU and Louisville show us that the case for unbalanced teams isn't hopeless.
This season, as usual, a few teams that lurk below the top seed line are lacking in balance. They are proficient on one side of the ball while the other unit lags behind, keeping them from achieving elite status. A few of these have a legitimate shot to win a title if they can get a good draw and overachieve at the right time.
First among these teams is Michigan, which brings an offense that is ranked second only to Indiana in schedule-adjusted efficiency. But Michigan's defense has put together some ugly performances, especially recently.
To read Ken Pomeroy's full article on the nation's most imbalanced teams, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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