The 6 Best Offensive Teams in the NCAA Tournament
We always hear it: "Defense wins championships." But, it turns out, offense also wins championships. In fact, of the last 17 NCAA Tournament champions, the winner's average offensive percentile is .959, meaning they've been, on average, better than nearly 96% of all other NCAA offenses. Conversely, the average defensive percentile is .914 for those same championship teams.
Because offense is so important -- and because we've already told you who the best defensive teams are in the field -- we're going to take a look at who the elite offensive teams are in this year's big dance.
Duke Blue Devils (2 Seed, East Region)
With an adjusted offensive rating of 123.05, the Duke Blue Devils own the nation's sixth-most efficient offense. They average 80.7 points per game on a true shooting percentage of 58.7%, the 17th-best mark in the nation. The Blue Devils shoot 37.5% from downtown and convert free throws at a rate (75.8%) that ranks 26th in the land.
The trio of Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen are the engines behind all these gaudy numbers. Between them, they average 51.1 points and 6.1 three-point makes per game on 38.4% shooting from beyond the arc. They've also combined for 8.2 assists per game. In total, they've tallied 10.3 offensive win shares, led by Kennard's 5.5.
Who do you stop? It's tough to say while being attacked from three different angles.
North Carolina Tar Heels (1 Seed, South Region)
If you've watched any one of the three meetings between Duke and North Carolina, you could see why the games were played at such a high level. If you combined the two teams' totals and averaged them out, you'd get a total of 171 points per matchup. The Tar Heels just edge out the Blue Devils in terms of adjusted offensive rating (123.24). According to strength of schedule, they faced slightly tougher competition throughout the season.
All the same, coach Roy Williams' Tar Heels averaged 84.9 points per game while leading the nation in offensive rebounds and offensive rebounding rate, grabbing 42.2% of available rebounds on the offensive half of the floor. Their strength down low has resulted in the most two-point field goals on the most two-point attempts in all of college basketball. Senior forward Kennedy Meeks has done the most individual damage, with averages of 3.7 offensive rebounds and 5.3 two-point makes on 54.4% shooting from inside the arc.
If that wasn't enough to scare opposing defenses, the Heels are also first in the country in total assists while racking up a helper on 58.7% of their team's made field goals. So, to any team unlucky enough to face the Heels in the Tournament, take note: pack it in and pray that the Heels won't beat you from the outside.
Michigan Wolverines (7 Seed, Midwest Region)
On a yearly basis, we have come to expect this type of offensive efficiency from two of the best recruiting schools in the nation, but the Michigan Wolverines? I think I speak for all of us when I say, "Where did this come from?" Well, the Wolverines' offense, with an adjusted offensive rating of 123.46, is a deadly combination of valuing the basketball and putting it in the hoop with elite efficiency.
Their turnover rate of 13.3% ranks ninth in the nation and fifth among NCAA Tournament teams, and not one player averages more than 1.9 turnovers per game. But that's just where it starts. Michigan makes the most of each possession they have by chucking up 45.1% of their field goal attempts from three-point range and knocking them down at a rate of 38.1%. As a result, they rank in the top 10 nationally in both effective field goal percentage (56.9%) and true shooting percentage (60.0%).
It's obvious that the Wolverines are one of the best shooting teams in the country. And as such, they're a threat -- even as a 7 seed -- to make a run in the tournament.
UCLA Bruins (3 Seed, South Region)
As we return to the obvious, the high-paced and high-powered UCLA Bruins' offense has produced 123.80 adjusted points per 100 possessions in the regular season. In maintaining such efficiency, Steve Alford's crew has averaged a top-20 pace (74.8 possessions per 40 minutes) while racking up an NCAA-best 90.4 points per contest.
Unsurprisingly, they also rank first in field goal percentage (51.9%) and eighth in three-point shooting (40.5%). As we go next level, nothing changes. In terms of true shooting and effective field goal rate, the Bruins are also first in both categories.
UCLA is truly an offensive force to be reckoned with. Superstar point guard Lonzo Ball averages 14.6 points and dishes out 7.7 assists per game to the likes of Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton and Aaron Holiday, who each average at least 1.6 treys on a combined 40% shooting from three-point range. Even forwards T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh shoot a high percentage from the field (combined 60% shooting).
With that type of unparalleled shooting, it's hard to believe that two teams are better. Either way, NCAA Tournament teams want no part of this offense.
Villanova Wildcats (1 Seed, East Region)
In stark contrast to the Bruins, Jay Wright's Villanova Wildcats play at a pace (65.8 possessions per 40) that ranks within the 35 slowest teams in college hoops. That certainly hasn't prevented them from producing the second-highest adjusted offensive rating (124.13) of all teams. While rating just 2,047th in total field goal attempts, the Wildcats are 48th in total field goals. They are sixth in the nation in field goal percentage (49.7%), fifth in effective field goal percentage (57.9%) and second in true shooting percentage (61.6%).
Villanova shoots a very respectable 37% from three, but where they get you is with volume, as contrary as that is to their overall shot production. Their three-point attempt rate of 44.1% tells us that they shoot 44.1% of their attempts from three. Veterans Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins are the main culprits, with three-point attempt rates of 39.8% and 66.4%, respectively. For their efforts, the duo averages 4.6 makes and 12.0 attempts per game between them.
Don't be fooled by their pace and raw numbers. The Wildcats offense is deadly and could be key to a title repeat in 2017.
Oklahoma State Cowboys (10 Seed, Midwest Region)
Wait -- so Oklahoma State is the top-ranked offense in the NCAA Tournament? That means the first- and fourth-best offenses will play each other in the First Round. Yeah, that's right. We sure are in for a treat, aren't we!
The Cowboys' adjusted offensive rating of 124.48 is first in the nation. The thing with them, though, is that they're not really the best at one particular thing, like the Wolverines and Bruins. They are in the top 15 of multiple categories, including three-point shooting (40.1%), free throw shooting (78.7%) and offensive rebound rate (37.8%). Their offensive rebounding specialist is seven-footer Mitchell Solomon, who has tallied 3.0 offensive boards on just 5.2 total rebounds a game.
As for everything else on the offensive end, that's left to Jawun Evans, Jeffrey Carroll and Phil Forte. While Evans averages 19.0 points and 6.2 assists, Carroll accounts for 17.4 points and 2.0 offensive rebounds. As for Forte, he's the team marksman. The senior is making 2.6 threes per game on a 42% clip from deep, leading a trio that shoots 41.4% for a total of 5.5 three-balls per contest.
Evans and company make it two top offensive teams in the Midwest region. They join the East and South regions, which also contain two of the most efficient offensive teams in the tourney. Therefore, if you're a poor defensive team in the West, rejoice.