College Basketball: Defense Wins Championships Myth

September 18, 2012

By Jonathan Gordon

 

“Defense wins championships” is arguably one of the most over-used adages in sports history.  How true is it?  What about offense?  Defensive enthusiasts argue you can’t lose if the other team doesn’t score.  True.  But you also can’t win if you don’t score, and no one wants to play/watch a zero-zero stalemate for fifteen overtimes.  Recently, this adage did indeed hold true for the NBA.  However, what about college?  College students love dunks!  Does defense hold the same importance in the college game as it does in the professional game? 


 

*All ratings are from www.kenpom.com.  AdjOff and AdjDef (adjusted efficiency ratings) measure the expected number of points a team would score/allow per 100 possessions against an average team.

 

A year-by-year look at the last 10 NCAAB champions:

 

Year

Team

AdjOff

rank

AdjDef

rank

2012

Kentucky

122.9

2

88.2

9

2011

U Conn

115.7

16

90.3

14

2010

Duke

123.5

1

85.9

4

2009

UNC

124.2

1

89.6

16

2008

Kansas

125.4

2

82.8

1

2007

Florida

125.4

1

87.4

12

2006

Florida

119.4

2

87.2

5

2005

UNC

126.6

1

86.7

5

2004

U Conn

119.9

4

85.5

5

2003

Syracuse

116

11

90.2

19

 


-For added measure, the top offensive team has won nine (9) of the ten (10) matchups, including the last nine (9).

 

-Four (4) of the champions were the top offense, while another three (3) had the second-best offense.  This means seven (7) of the last ten (10) champions were a top-two offense.  Meanwhile, only one (1) was a top-two defense. 

 

-Clearly, the table shows a higher correlation between winning and a high-powered offense than it does with a strong defense.  While defense is still important and most champions did have strong defenses, they were most proficient on the offensive side.

 

-Refer back to the table.  Look at the numbers.  They don’t lie. 

 

You can’t win if you don’t score.