NCAA tournament history doesn’t bode well for Iowa Hawkeyes

A couple interesting figures have popped up this week on Reddit’s college basketball forum, one graphing teams based on their Kenpom adjusted offense and defense ratings and another table showing the previous history of teams with top 30 offenses and sub-100 defenses.

Unfortunately, Iowa falls under the top 30 offense (#4) and sub-100 offense (#126) heading into the tournament and the results from the table aren’t pretty.

Since 2003, 56 teams have made the tournament with top-30 and sub-100 defenses. Here are their results. (Click for full size)

Since 2003, 56 teams have made the tournament with top-30 and sub-100 defenses. Here are their results. (Click for full size)

Since 2003 there have been 56 teams that fit the criteria, just one of them, 2003 Marquette, made the final four.  One team, West Virginia made the elite 8 in 2008 also fitting the criteria and just 10 percent of those teams made the Sweet 16 before bowing out of the tournament.

This late season slide losing six of seven leaves Iowa in pretty unsafe territory that seldom leads to success in the NCAA tournament. So with the teams mentioned above around 15 percent total made any splash in the tournament.

Not only have previous teams with similar metrics to the Hawkeyes had a lot of trouble, teams similar to Iowa’s first round matchup Tennessee have had some moderate success in the tournament.

Pre-NCAA Tournament Tennessee currently sits as the #29 offense and #16 defense with similar metrics to the 2003 Syracuse and 2011 UConn that won national championships. Based just off Kenpom metrics, Tennessee is one of if not the most under-seeded team in the tournament.

This year's NCAA tournament teams are graphed based on their adj O and D. The green dots are championship teams since 2003.

This year’s NCAA tournament teams are graphed based on their adj O and D. The green dots are championship teams since 2003. (Click for full size)

Relatively speaking, Iowa has a lot to overcome in this game, especially since Tennessee not only scores high in metrics, they’re riding the high of taking five of six to end the season with their only loss coming to 1-seed Florida.

Iowa really has one hope for success in the tournament, and that is to return to the form that lead them to a top 10 offense and a top 30 defense, which would put them well in the range of the past 10 years of champions and give them some of the best metrics of the year.

Melsahn Basabe said in the pre- Round 1 press conference today, “Obviously the numbers show that we haven’t been defending to our capability.”

The numbers do show that Iowa has taken the last eight games off defensively but if Iowa is going to win in the tournament it isn’t going to be because of offensive production, they must get back to their previous days of top 30 adjusted defensive efficiency.

The way they do that is get back to their backside rotations on three-pointers. Early in the season, Devyn Marble and Aaron White were making quick and hand in your face rotations that for the majority of the non-conference and early conference schedule had Iowa as a top five team in three-point field goal percentage. Obviously it isn’t just as simple as a simple rotation issue, but that was one of the major things that was apparent in both the terrible losses to Illinois and Northwestern.

One of the hopes for Iowa success is that they were tired from the last stretch of the season in which at one point they played four games in nine days and just had tired legs which led to their demise on defense.

If that is true, Iowa’s now had six days to rest their legs and motivation shouldn’t be lacking with the emotional rallying point of Patrick McCaffery, so the only thing that has to be done is the return to the swarming top-30 defense that was seen up until Iowa’s late season slide.

Figure credit here and here

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