A thorough analysis of past national championship teams has shown that they have certain traits and characteristics in common. Visit the DNA of a National Championship Team page for a full explanation of those attributes. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post if you just want to see a list of this year’s contenders.
Caution: Not all teams that fit this description win the championship. Every year there are between 3 and 10 contenders with the right DNA that don’t win it all and might even make an early exit from the tournament (for example, 2016 Michigan State losing in the First Round or Kentucky’s second round exit in 2004).
Here’s a breakdown of this year’s contenders.
Let’s Start With the 1-3 Seeds
Since 1998, only one champ wasn’t a 1-, 2-, or 3-seed. This year’s 1-3 seeds are:
- Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas
- Cincinnati, Purdue, North Carolina, Duke
- Tennessee, Texas Tech, Michigan, Michigan St.
AP Rank Trend and Conference Tournament Performance
Of the top 12 seeded teams in the tournament, we can eliminate the following teams:
- Tennessee and Texas Tech were not ranked high enough in the AP Poll.
- Purdue dropped in the rankings leading up to the tournament, but didn’t win their conference tournament.
Of the nine remaining teams, the following teams can be eliminated for not meeting certain thresholds for key team statistics:
- Villanova (rebounding)
- Virginia (rebounding and scoring)
- Michigan (rebounding and scoring)
Cincinnati is eliminated for playing in the AAC.
So…This Year’s Contenders Are…
Taking all of these elements into consideration there are only five teams that have championship DNA this year:
- North Carolina
- Michigan St.
Close (and maybe worth consideration?)
- Villanova just barely missed the cut for rebounding. Should we give them a little leniency?
- Arizona missed the mark in defensive scoring, but only by a slight margin. They also were not given a 1-3 seed. They’re a 4-seed – just like they were in 1997, when they last won a national championship…