Welcome to week 15 of the college basketball season. 15 is really not terribly significant, but two weeks ago was. So let’s go in the way back machine, speed it up to 86 mph and look at the AP standings from week 13. Then let’s figure out why this ranking is important.
We dug through every statistic-of every team-of every player-over the last 35 years in the college basketball season (isn’t the internet a wonderful thing!) And we’ve found some very significant trends that identify who you should be looking at when it comes to determining your champion for the Big Dance. If you want to read something pretty fascinating, check out the article “The DNA of a National Champion” when you get a second. Today we are going to focus on one element of that DNA.
The AP Ranked Trend: Since 1988 only two eventual Champions have not been a part of the AP Top 12 ranked teams 7 weeks before the Big Dance. Prior to that point in a season the data gets noisy and after that things start to settle and we know who is really who. Week 13 is really the sweet spot for indicators. Of course teams move up and down in the rankings after this week but you can suppose with a really high level of confidence that one of our aforementioned teams will be in that final game.
For instance, take Kansas last year. With just 7 weeks left in the season they were a soft 10 in the AP. They kicked it in high gear and steadily moved up the polls resulting in an AP #3 and a Selection Sunday #1 seed for the bracket. That 10 was concerning but just enough that it kept them on our radar, eventually moving them in to contention. Notably, they had all the other DNA constraints in spades.
The only two outliers to this are Syracuse (2003, 23rd) and UConn (2011, unranked). Both of which measured up admirably in all other categories of the DNA of a Champion, just not this one.
So if you’ve got a wandering eye for Iowa State, St Mary’s or Indiana to take the cake in your bracket, we’re just cautioning you. It’s not impossible; but lezbehonest–it’s not gonna happen.
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