Skip to content

Defense wins championships, and other cliches that might be true

Mar 26, 2012, 9:14 PM EST

Baylor Bears' Acy drives to the net on Kentucky Wildcats' Davis and Jones during the first half of their men's NCAA South Regional basketball game in Atlanta

It’ s the Final Four. It’s gut-check time. So far these teams have answered the bell, and they’re not going to pull any punches. They’ve got to rise to the occasion, leave it all on the court, and give 110% for 40-minutes. This is the time that…

…OK , I’ll stop.

Defense wins championships!

(really stopping now)

Isn’t there a cliché that within every cliché is a kernel of truth? If you examine past winners of this tournament, then that’s certainly the case with “defense wins championships.”

There’s no shortage of elite defenses in this year’s Final Four. The best defense in the nation is here (Louisville).  As is the 2nd best (Ohio State). No. 3 didn’t make it, but No. 4 did (Kentucky Kansas).

Wait, Kentucky has the worst defense in New Orleans?

That’s right, the Wildcats have allowed 0.89 points per possession, which leaves them No. 11 nationally. Of course, they have the best offense of the teams remaining, and it’s not really close.

So with four teams ranked in the top-11 defensively, what does that mean for their chances?

There have been 10 NCAA tournaments (including this one) since tempo-free statistics became widely available. In those ten tournaments only two teams with defenses ranked outside the top-50 have even made it to the Final Four. And no team with a defense ranked worse than 20th has cut down the nets. In fact, five of the winners had defenses ranked in the top-5. If anyone besides Kentucky wins, that number jumps to six.

What about offenses? Three teams have made the Final Four with offenses ranked exactly 50th, though none worse until this year’s Louisville (101)  team became the clear outlier. Four of the winners had the best offense in the nation. Two had the 2nd best, and another was top-5. The worst offense to win the title was last year’s UConn Huskies (16th).

Maybe the more accurate saying would be “elite defense combined with an elite offense wins championships.”

The ranks of this year’s offenses: Kentucky (2), Ohio State (7), Kansas (16) and Louisville (101).

Latest Posts
  1. More ridiculous plays from 2016 acrobat Kwe Parker at City of Palms (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker might only be a junior in high school, but he’s one of the best leapers in the country.

  2. Pregame Shootaround: A tremendous day of hoops filled with intriguing top-25 battles

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    TaShawn Thomas AP

    If you don’t feel like watching lower-tier bowl games, you’ll be happy to know that Saturday is loaded with great games.

  3. Eastern Kentucky’s 3-point shooting leads to blowout win over No. 18 Miami

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EST

    AP AP

    Eastern Kentucky had 14 threes. Miami had 12 field goals.

  4. adidas puts wrong logo on Duje Dukan’s Wisconsin warmups (PHOTO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 8:59 PM EST

    Duje Dukan AP

    The senior forward is apparently playing for the Wisconsin Bearcats.

  5. New Year’s Resolutions: Villanova Wildcats

    Dec 19, 2014, 7:30 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Villanova is off to another good start in the regular season, but heading into the New Year, the Wildcats will need to rack up the wins in postseason play.

  6. Markus Kennedy cleared to play immediately for SMU

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:49 PM EST

    AP AP

    The SMU forward missed the first 10 games.

  7. Two players questionable for Florida’s game against Wake Forest

    Dec 19, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Gators could be shorthanded once again in Saturday’s non-conference contest with Wake Forest.

  8. Injured Indiana forward to return to school this spring

    Dec 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EST

    Landon Atterberry Devin Davis AP

    The Indiana sophomore was struck by a vehicle driven by a teammate back in November.

  9. FGCU announces addition of former VCU power forward

    Dec 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EST

    VCU v George Washington Getty Images

    Antravious Simmons averaged 0.7 points and 0.7 rebounds as a redshirt freshman at VCU.

  10. Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: No. 3 Arizona among three ranked teams in action

    Dec 19, 2014, 3:27 PM EST

    Stanley Johnson AP

    The Wildcats are on the road to take on one of Conference USA’s best teams in UTEP, and both No. 18 Miami and No. 20 St. John’s are in action as well.

  11. Injured senior guard leaves St. Bonaventure program

    Dec 19, 2014, 2:44 PM EST

    La Salle Explorers v St. Bonaventure Bonnies Getty Images

    Jordan Gathers had yet to play in a game this season after undergoing hip surgery in June.

  12. One suitor for Duke transfer hopes to land him despite not having an available scholarship

    Dec 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EST

    Livingstone v Duke Getty Images

    Kansas State is one of many programs looking to land Semi Ojeleye, but all of their scholarships are accounted for currently.

  13. POSTERIZED: UNLV commit Derrick Jones throws one down with force (VIDEO)

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:04 PM EST

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Jones’ dunk on five-star forward Cody Riley is one of the best you’ll see this year.

  14. New Year’s Resolutions: Duke Blue Devils

    Dec 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    When you talk Duke basketball in 2014-15, you start with Player of the Year candidate Jahlil Okafor, but there are plenty of other keys to Duke’s success as we get closer to the new year.

  15. Weekend Preview: A loaded Saturday slate highlights the weekend

    Dec 19, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    Dakarai Allen, Nigel Williams-Goss AP

    Oklahoma-Washington, Ohio State-North Carolina and UCLA-Kentucky are just three of the marquee matchups.

  16. Rebounding, foul shooting help No. 2 Duke make up for 19 turnovers in win over UConn

    Dec 19, 2014, 12:41 AM EST

    Mike Krzyzewski Mike Krzyzewski

    Even with the win there are things Duke needs to improve upon, most notably the fact that they’ve committed 36 turnovers over the last two games.

  17. Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Duke, No. 6 Virginia move to 10-0

    Dec 18, 2014, 10:45 PM EST

    Ryan Boatright, Tyus Jones Ryan Boatright, Tyus Jones

    Also of note was Ole Miss avoiding what would have been their fourth home loss of the season.