As every basketball junkie knows, KenPom.com is a treasure trove of college basketball information. I pored through the data to find four key factors that propelled recent Final Four teams to success, and teams that excel at those factors this year:
Lst year's winner, UCONN, was very strong on defense, particularly in the paint. UCONN was 7th in the country in opponents 2-point fg%. This year, the following teams excel at interior defense:
#12 Florida St
#13 Michigan St
These 8 teams are extremely hard to score against on the inside. With Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson manning the paint, Kentucky and Kansas in particular will be tough to score against. Teams that play good interior defense have what it takes to go all the way, as they'll only lose when opponents have fluke success on the outside.
Non-Conference Strength of Schedule
Last year's runner up Butler played an extremely tough schedule, the 7th hardest in the country. Overall records can be skewed by soft schedules and an inordinate amount of home games. The following teams are well prepped after playing brutal schedules:
#2 Mississippi Valley St
#3 Long Beach St
#18 UNC Asheville
Long Beach St, a 12 seed, played an extremely challenging schedule and came close to knocking off top 10 teams. They know what its like to play on the road and could be a team to watch.
In 2010, Duke went on to win it all thanks to an extremely efficient offense, #1 in the country. Duke wasn't even an amazing shooting team that year, but they were efficient because they limited turnovers and attacked the offensive glass. Here are some teams that will consistently get extra points off the boards this year:
#4 New Mexico St
#7 West Virginia
#8 Kansas St
#9 North Carolina
#14 Loyola (MD)
Led by Wendell McKines, New Mexico St is tough in the paint, which makes them dangerous against 4-seed Indiana. The only two teams on this list that combine offensive rebounding prowess with an ability to take care of the ball are North Carolina and Kentucky. They have to be considered serious National Champion contenders.
VCU made a surprise run to the Final Four last year as an 11 seed. They were not particularly amazing at offense, but they did play great defense that forced a ton of turnovers. Here are teams that force the highest % of steals:
#16 Mississippi Valley St
VCU is even better at forcing steals this year than they were last year. Ohio is another low seed (a 13) that plays pressure defense. They could cause all kinds of trouble for opponent Michigan. You'll notice a lot of Big East teams on this list, perhaps why many of the league's games were low scoring this year.