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Parrish: Defense Does Not Win Championships


Gary Parrish is picking UNC to win it all:

But a top-four offense provides success more often than a top-four defense.

Consider: If you take the schools with the four most efficient offenses in the past five seasons, what you'll find is that 11 of 20 made the Final Four, 15 of 20 made the Elite Eight, 18 of 20 made the Sweet Sixteen, and 20 of 20 won at least one NCAA tournament game. Conversely, if you take the schools with the four most efficient defenses in the past five seasons, what you'll find is that eight of 20 made the Final Four, 11 of 20 made the Elite Eight, 15 of 20 made the Sweet Sixteen, but that five of 20 either missed the NCAA tournament completely or lost a first-round game.

Translation: A top-four defense is nice, but it has guaranteed nothing the past five years. A top-four offense, however, has resulted in a Final Four 55 percent of the time, an Elite Eight 75 percent of the time, a Sweet Sixteen 90 percent of the time, and at least one victory in the NCAA tournament 100 percent of the time.

The worst offense to win a title the past five seasons?

UConn in 2004 (No. 4 in offensive efficiency)

The worst offense to play for a title the past two seasons?

Ohio State in 2007 (No. 4) and Memphis (No. 4) in 2008.

In fact, the only schools in the past five seasons to play for a title without a top-four offense were Georgia Tech in 2004 and UCLA in 2006. They both played against top-four offenses on the first Monday in April, both losing by at least nine points despite having top-four defenses.


Because offense wins championships!

Not defense.

And that's primarily why North Carolina is the favorite to win the NCAA tournament, according to Las Vegas odds makers. The Tar Heels enter their first-round game against Radford averaging 123.8 points per 100 offensive possessions, which is tops in the nation. You can get them at 2-to-1, right now. Just behind UNC is Pittsburgh at 4-to-1, presumably because the Panthers are also just behind UNC in offensive efficiency, averaging 122.9 points per 100 offensive possessions.

Parrish seems to omit a key fact.  Championship teams tend to do both really well. Yes, a great offense may carry you farther but if you can do both at the same time, it will take you to the promised land.  According to Pomeroy, only Florida in 2007 has posted a defensive effeciency outside the top ten and still won the title. Parrish mentions Ohio State and Memphis, both of which were still good on defense 15th and 4th respectively. In many ways, Parrish is making a one sided argument.  A better way to look at this would be to combined offensive and defensive effeciency rankings and see if the average of the two tells us something.  I suspect it would.

Still, the point Parrish trying to make is taken. I have mentioned in each of the Heels' four losses that the lack of offense ultimately did them in, not the lack of defense.  The games versus BC, Wake, Maryland and FSU all saw UNC shoot like they were playing blindfolded for half the game. Key offensive threats were either neutralized or did not show up which meant the Heels could not score enough points to win.  With the exception of the Wake Forest loss, the Heels were nowhere near their PPG average scoring between 70 and 85 points.  The 85 was against Maryland in OT.  From this perspective, UNC simply needs to shoot well and things tend to work out.  That being said, the nice thing about a stout defense is you can whether the fickled nature of a college basketball offense.  Every night is not going to be a great shooting night so when you can play defense in a top ten sort of way, the margin of error gets quite wide.

For UNC to win the national title, every offensive weapon on the team needs to show up.  Last season this happened until the Kansas game.  With Ty Lawson possibly hobbled, the effectiveness of the offense will be questioned resulting in a lot of questions about whether the Heels can get it done.  UNC is now sporting a decent but not great 92.2 defensive effeciency rating which puts them 35th overall, one spot behind Pitt. Louisville on the other hand ranks in the top ten in both areas as does *gulp* Gonzaga.  Which may not mean anything.  It is never too late for the Heels to buckle down on defense and if they can get some hot shooting in the NCAA Tournament, it might just be enough.