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Wisconsin, Kentucky enter Saturday’s matchup with impressive advanced statistics

NCAA Final Four Basketball

Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan and Kentucky head coach John Calipari talk during a CBS Sports interview for their NCAA Final Four tournament college basketball semifinal game Thursday, April 2, 2015, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


One of the big conversations in college basketball this season has been the decrease in scoring, and whether or not looking to increase pace would result in scoring numbers getting back to where they once were. The three smaller tournaments are testing the impact of a 30-second shot clock on the game, but the fact of the matter is that more possessions doesn’t automatically mean more points. It’s all about what teams do with the possessions they’re afforded within a game.

One team that fits the bill is No. 1 Wisconsin, which will take on No. 1 Kentucky Saturday night at the Final Four in Indianapolis. Bo Ryan’s Badgers are averaging 72.8 points per game, and they’ve done so despite ranking 345th in adjusted tempo per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Wisconsin’s a highly efficient group offensively, and with stars Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker leading the way they lead the country with an adjusted offensive efficiency of 127.5.

How impressive is that number? Since Pomeroy began publishing his advanced stats in 2002, Wisconsin’s adjusted offensive efficiency is the highest of any team during this era and it isn’t all that close either. Outside of Michigan last season and Wake Forest in 2005, no team has posted an adjusted offensive efficiency better than 124.0, much less the 127.5 that Wisconsin has heading into the Final Four.

Also of note is the fact that more than four points separates Wisconsin from the second-best offensive team in the country this season in Notre Dame (123.1). That difference of 4.4 is the highest of the era, with Ohio State’s 3.4 point edge over Notre Dame in 2011 being the second-highest.

However, it should be noted that on only three occasions has the top-rated team in adjusted offensive efficiency won the national title, with Duke being the most recent in 2010. The list of national leaders in adjusted offensive efficiency going back to 2002 (national champions denoted with an asterisk):

2014: Michigan (124.1)
2013: Michigan (120.3)
2012: Missouri (123.9)
2011: Ohio State (123.3)
2010: Duke (120.0)*
2009: North Carolina (122.4)*
2008: North Carolina (120.4)
2007: Florida (121.5)*
2006: Gonzaga (118.0)
2005: Wake Forest (124.0)
2004: Wake Forest (121.0)
2003: Texas (120.2)
2002: Duke (117.7)

Wisconsin’s been an elite offensive team this season, but they’re going to have their hands full with a Kentucky team that has been lauded as one of the best in the history of the shot clock era. In regards to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, this current group of Wildcats, who lead the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (85.6), rates among the best in the history of his website.

Kentucky’s one of three teams to post an adjusted defensive efficiency of 85.6 during the Pomeroy era, with Calipari’s last team at Memphis being the only one to produce an even better number (85.1). Below are the annual leaders in that category, but it should be noted that just one team managed to win the national title in that particular season (Kansas, 2008).

2014: Arizona (88.5)
2013: Wisconsin (85.6)
2012: Louisville (85.6)
2011: Florida State (87.5)
2010: USC (86.2)
2009: Memphis (85.1)
2008: Kansas (87.1)*
2007: Kansas (88.4)
2006: Iowa (86.8)
2005: Washington State (86.8)
2004: Pittsburgh (86.8)
2003: Mississippi State (87.2)
2002: Duke (87.3)

With Kentucky ranked in the top five in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, their chances of cutting down the nets are pretty good (talent notwithstanding). Since 2002 only five national champions have not been ranked in the top ten in both of those categories. Syracuse was the first exception in 2003, with North Carolina (2005 and 2009) and UConn (2011 and 2014) being the others.

What do all of these numbers mean in regards to Saturday’s matchup in Indianapolis? Not sure if the boxing adage of “styles make fights” can be applied here, but the matchup of an elite offensive team and an elite defensive team (which also happens to be ranked fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency) will certainly be an entertaining one.