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. Pregame Shootaround: A terrific matchup of talented, freshmen point guards

    Jan 29, 2015, 1:09 PM EST

    Melo Trimble Melo Trimble

    Melo Trimble vs. D’Angelo Russell will be worth the two hours.

  2. Assigned Reading: Former top 100 recruit Noah Cottrill kicked addiction, thriving in NAIA

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:04 AM EST

    spts_12_17_09-e1340037417375

    Cottrill was once ranked above Shabazz Napier and Aaron Craft, among many others.

  3. Gilvydas Biruta’s putback as time expires saves Rhode Island (VIDEO)

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:24 PM EST

    Gilvydas Biruta, Matt Hubbard Gilvydas Biruta, Matt Hubbard

    Rhode Island moved to 14-5 overall and 6-2 in Atlantic 10 play with the win over Fordham.

  4. UConn loses reserve guard to stress fracture in right tibia

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:52 PM EST

    Sam Cassell Jr., Darrell Davis Sam Cassell Jr., Darrell Davis

    The Huskies will be short one perimeter option when they take on Cincinnati Thursday night.

  5. Jerian Grant, No. 8 Notre Dame erase another double-digit deficit as they beat No. 4 Duke

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:56 PM EST

    Jerian Grant stole the show for No. 8 Notre Dame (AP Photo) AP

    Jerian Grant was the headliner for the Fighting Irish, but he had plenty of help as they erased a ten-point second half deficit.

  6. 2015 McDonald’s All-American rosters announced

    Jan 28, 2015, 6:25 PM EST

    (adidas) (adidas)

    Nine uncommitted players, with Duke and (get this) LSU leading the way with two each.

  7. Maryland to wear shoes honoring program’s storied past Thursday night

    Jan 28, 2015, 5:54 PM EST

    Maryland Athletics Maryland Athletics

    The year of Maryland’s lone national title (2002) and the program’s former home can be seen in the graphics on this special shoe.

  8. Georgetown lands commitment from Class of 2015 wing

    Jan 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    John Thompson III AP

    Johnson was considering some other high major programs.

  9. Report: Stanford’s Reid Travis to return on Wednesday

    Jan 28, 2015, 12:39 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Travis is a key piece for the Cardinal front court.

  10. Pregame Shootaround: Get ready for Duke-Notre Dame

    Jan 28, 2015, 11:17 AM EST

    J.P. Tokoto, Jerian Grant AP

    A thrilling top ten battle highlights the night.

  11. Michigan’s Derrick Walton missed Tuesday with foot injury, extent unknown

    Jan 28, 2015, 10:25 AM EST

    Derrick Walton Jr. (AP Photo) AP

    You know what Michigan doesn’t need? More injuries.

  12. Heartbreak fuels Renardo Sidney’s new sense of purpose

    Jan 28, 2015, 9:16 AM EST

    Photo via the Island Storm facebook page Photo via the Island Storm facebook page

    We have heard Renardo Sidney say he is a changed man before. He explains why a two-year hiatus from basketball has changed him.

  13. Late Night Snacks: Florida, Xavier, West Virginia earn good road wins; VCU rolls past George Washington

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:35 PM EST

    wvu Getty Images

    Xavier and West Virginia earned nice conference road wins while VCU rolled over George Washington.

  14. #POSTERIZED: Dorian Finney-Smith with the rare game-winning poster (VIDEO)

    Jan 27, 2015, 11:16 PM EST

    MISSISSIPPI FLORIDA MISSISSIPPI FLORIDA

    Florida needed this win badly. Dorian Finney-Smith dunked them there.