Championship Traits for Florida Gators basketball

Basketball is a copycat sport. At every level if something is successful, other coaches and other teams are going to latch on to the tactic that brought success, and try to see if they can make it work for themselves. In a lot of ways, it would be foolish not to take notes from winning programs and try to learn how it made them successful.

In the spirit of this, I thought I’d look at the winners of the last 8 National Championship winners and see if there are any noticeable trends. If so, I will look at what the Gators can do to match those trends.

All the rankings I will be referencing are from the college basketball tool called KenPom, a brilliant system that makes all the calculations necessary to adjust basic stats from conference to conference to make a fair national ranking. I will also include Florida’s ranking from last season in each statistic so you can see where they rank amongst these winning teams.

The Championship teams I studied:

’10 Duke
’11 Connecticut
’12 Kentucky
’13 Louisville
’14 Connecticut
’15 Duke
’16 Villanova
’17 North Carolina

Let us begin.

Defense

Does defense win championships? Here is how every team ranked in defensive efficiency in their winning year:

’10 Duke: 5th
’11 Connecticut: 15th
’12 Kentucky: 7th
’13 Louisville: 1st
’14 Connecticut: 10th
’15 Duke: 11th
’16 Villanova: 5th
’17 North Carolina: 11th
’17 Florida: 5th
So, does defense win championships? Looking at these numbers, it certainly plays a massive role. Though the Cardinals are the only #1 ranked defensive team to win, the fact that the lowest ranked was Connecticut’s #15 is very telling. If you want to win a national championship, you better be elite defensively. This may be concerning to Florida fans hoping to cut down the nets this year, as they currently do not project to be a top 15 defensive team. Looking at these numbers, you can certainly see why coach Mike White is making this area a priority.

Offense

Coaches love to preach the importance of defense, but how does offense weigh in? Here is where each team ranked in offensive efficiency.

’10 Duke: 1st
’11 Connecticut: 19th
’12 Kentucky: 2nd
’13 Louisville: 7th
’14 Connecticut: 39th
’15 Duke: 3rd
’16 Villanova: 3rd
’17 North Carolina: 9th
’17 Florida: 25th

This could come as a surprise to some. As much as defense is talked about as the most important factor in winning NCAA Tournament games, efficient scoring seems to be equally paramount. Make sure to keep that in mind when you’re filling out your brackets this March! Even though Florida wasn’t always great offensively last season the Gators actually ended up 25th in this category, and they should be much improved this year. That means they project be in the same vicinity as these championship winners, which should be encouraging to fans.

Pace

Dictating pace is talked about a ton by coaches and analysts alike, so what is the tempo you should be striving for? Here is how each team landed in the adjusted tempo rankings.

’10 Duke: 229th
’11 Connecticut: 221st
’12 Kentucky: 150th
’13 Louisville: 116th
’14 Connecticut: 254th
’15 Duke: 104th
’16 Villanova: 274th
’17 North Carolina: 40th
’17 Florida: 117th

With the exception of last year’s Tar Heels, almost every winner was in the middle of the pack nationally when it came to tempo. I think that information should be very interesting to any team that wants to play at a breakneck speed like last season’s UCLA, or slow the game to a crawl like Virginia. Coach White has been trying to push the Gators’ tempo, but last year they actually were right in the sweet spot. It will be interesting to see if he tries to get them into the top 50 range in tempo like the teams he had at Louisiana Tech, or keep them similar to what they played at last season.

3-Point Shooting

With the long ball so important to modern offense, how did these teams rank in terms of 3-point percentage?

’10 Duke: 25th
’11 Connecticut: 237th
’12 Kentucky: 37th
’13 Louisville: 200th
’14 Connecticut: 24th
’15 Duke: 26th
’16 Villanova: 105th
’17 North Carolina: 148th
’17 Florida: 131st

What I concluded from these numbers is that 3-point shooting is great, but it clearly isn’t everything. A few of these winners were definitely great shooting teams, but with half of them being pretty average, the 3-point shot might not be as important as you might think.

What actually might be more interesting is how reliant these teams were on 3-pointers. Here is where they ranked in terms of percentage of points coming from the 3-point shot:

’10 Duke: 107th
’11 Connecticut: 258th
’12 Kentucky: 307th
’13 Louisville: 263rd
’14 Connecticut: 93rd
’15 Duke: 198th
’16 Villanova: 71st
’17 North Carolina: 294th
’17 Florida: 192nd

Those numbers are somewhat surprising. The 3-point shot is talked about at length, but in reality these championship teams did not rely heavily on them. This shows it is truly important to have the ability to get easy points at the rim, and not fall in love with the 3-ball exclusively.

How about defending from behind the arc? Here is where teams ranked in 3-point percentage allowed:

’10 Duke: 2nd
’11 Connecticut: 77th
’12 Kentucky: 59th
’13 Louisville: 67th
’14 Connecticut: 95th
’15 Duke: 43rd
’16 Villanova: 135th
’17 North Carolina: 110th
’17 Florida: 10th

Not getting torched from 3 has definitely been a priority for these teams. It’s actually an interesting contrast, as though not every team has made 3s a priority offensively, they have definitely made limiting 3s one of their key defensive philosophies. As you can see, Florida ranked very well in this category last year, but after losing a lot of length we’ll see how they’ll do contesting jumpers.

Rebounding

How much did controlling the glass matter to the national champions? Here is how they ranked in offensive rebound percentage, followed by their rank in offensive rebounding percentage allowed.

Offense:
’10 Duke: 6th
’11 Connecticut: 7th
’12 Kentucky: 20th
’13 Louisville: 16th
’14 Connecticut: 210th
’15 Duke: 32nd
’16 Villanova: 224th
’17 North Carolina: 1st
’17 Florida: 73rd

Defense:
’10 Duke: 122nd
’11 Connecticut: 226th
’12 Kentucky: 114th
’13 Louisville: 241st
’14 Connecticut: 248th
’15 Duke: 125th
’16 Villanova: 147th
’17 North Carolina: 25th
’17 Florida: 193rd

These numbers are really interesting and in some ways almost seem contradictory. Most programs (with the exception of Villanova) were all really good offensive rebounding teams, but they (with the exception of North Carolina) also gave up a lot of offensive rebounds themselves. This suggests that giving up extra possessions might not actually be the horrible thing a lot of coaches make it out to be, and what’s more important is the ability to limit the efficiency of those possessions by your opponent as we saw in the defensive efficiency stats earlier.

Experience

How important is having a veteran squad? Let’s see how they ranked in experience.

’10 Duke: 69th
’11 Connecticut: 332nd
’12 Kentucky: 340th
’13 Louisville: 187th
’14 Connecticut: 67th
’15 Duke: 331st
’16 Villanova: 181st
’17 North Carolina: 103rd
’17 Florida: 71st

I think these rankings may be a little misleading as many teams from single-bid leagues really stay old and dominate the top of this category, but it’s still interesting to see how young a lot of these teams were. Having some grizzled veterans who have been through the grind before can be helpful, but having elite one-and-done talent can definitely get you to the same place.

What traits do you think define a championship team? Do the Gators possess those? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.