The 10 Best Offensive Teams in the NCAA Tournament
They say that defense wins championships, but everybody loves good offense. Also, offense wins championships in the NCAA Tournament.
The past three champions (North Carolina, Villanova, and Duke) all ranked top 10 in offensive rating, per Sports-Reference.com. Defensively, UNC ranked 49th, Villanova ranked 15th, and Duke ranked 64th.
Five of the past eight champs were top-10 offensively, yet only one sat inside the top 10 defensively (Louisville in 2013 ranked fourth). Now, in total, four of the past eight NCAA Tournament winners were at least top-15 on defense, but the point remains: offensive firepower is as important as -- or more important than -- defense when it comes to crowning recent NCAA champs.
With that said, which tournament-bound teams are the best offensively in the country this season?
10. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona's 120.46 adjusted offensive rating ranks them 10th in the nation as well as the tournament. Arizona's 56.6% effective field goal percentage ranks them 16th in the country, and their 56.7% two-point field goal percentage is 11th. Just 32.2% of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc, which ranks 297th in the nation.
With freshman big Deandre Ayton, they don't need to rely on the three. Ayton's 33.0 PER is 2nd in the country, and his 63.0% effective field goal percentage ranks 20th. Ayton's 5.4 offensive win shares rank him third, but junior guard Allonzo Trier's 4.6 rank him eighth. Trier actually edges Ayton in offensive rating (131.2 to 130.9), and Trier's 66.7% true shooting percentage ranks him 20th.
9. Wichita State Shockers
Wichita State is back in the March Madness hunt with one of the nation's top offenses. Their offense ranks fifth by KenPom's metrics and ninth by Sports-Reference's metrics. They're in the 98th percentile, per our numbers. The Shockers snare offensive rebounds at a top-12 rate and make 38.5% of their three-pointers, which ranks them 37th in the nation. Additionally, they assist on 63.8% of field goals, the third-highest rate in the country.
No singular player averages more than 15.0 points per game for Wichita State. Guard Landry Shamet leads the charge with exactly 15.0 per game, thanks to 45.9% shooting from beyond the arc (11th in the nation). Shamet ranks inside the top 20 nationally in offensive box plus/minus (8.7) and offensive rating (132.0). Center Shaquille Morris is the go-to man down low, with a 26.6% usage rate and a 58.3% effective field goal percentage.
But that's not all! Senior point guard Conner Frankamp has lowest turnover rate of all qualified players in the nation (he turns it over on just 3.5% of his possessions). And Rashard Kelly ranks seventh nationally in offensive rebounding rate (15.1%).
8. Texas Christian Horned Frogs
The lopsided TCU earned an at-large bid with a 21-11 record. Their offense sits in the 97th percentile, while the defense is in the 29th. They rank 13th in effective field goal percentage (56.9%), 14th in three-point percentage (40.0%), and 26th in two-point field goal percentage (55.2%), but just 200th in free throw percentage (70.8%).
TCU, last year's NIT winner, ranks seventh in assists per field goal make, and junior point guard Alex Robinson's 6.1 assists per game rank him inside the top 20 in the nation.
Additionally, sophomore guard Desmond Bane's 67.8% true shooting percentage ranks 12th nationally, and Vladimir Brodziansky, TCU's senior center, ranks 7th with a 132.7 offensive rating.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina has an adjusted offensive rating of 121.7 but a strange composition in terms of the Four Factors. They're 111th in effective field goal percentage (52.3%), 63rd in turnover rate (16.8%), 2nd in offensive rebounding rate (38.4%), and 304th in free throws per field goal attempt (0.286). The Tar Heels are also a lowly 245th in three-point attempt rate (34.9% of their field goal attempts are three-pointers).
The Tar Heels spread the wealth offensively, as no player has a usage rate above 25.4%, which belongs to senior point guard Joel Berry (116.1 offensive rating). Junior center Luke Maye is their go-to option down low. Maye has a 118.0 offensive rating on a 24.9% usage rate.
North Carolina does rank 15th in assists per field goal make, and senior forward Theo Pinson owns a team-best 26.1% assist rate.
6. Xavier Musketeers
Xavier drew the 1 seed in the West region and has one of the best offenses in the entire field. Their stud senior on the wing, Trevon Bluiett, is the primary reason why. Bluiett's 7.5 offensive box plus/minus ranks him 14th in the country this season. Bluiett's 25.4% usage rate is second on the team to Kerem Kanter's 27.2% (that's Enes Kanter's brother, by the way).
Kanter has come on of late after entering the starting lineup on January 13th. Kanter averaged a team-high 26.8 points per 40 minutes in conference play but averaged only 16.3 minutes per game in that split.
Overall, Xavier is 20th in effective field goal percentage (55.7%), 20th in two-point field goal percentage (55.9%), and 6th in free throw percentage (79.0%).
5. Michigan State Spartans
Sparty's offense grades out in the 98th percentile, per our metrics. They own a top-10 effective field goal percentage (57.8%) and offensive rebound rate (36.1%) but do turn the ball over quite a lot (19.2% of their possessions end in turnovers, higher than the nation's average of 18.5%).
Michigan State has made 41.3% of their three-pointers this season, a top-five rate, and their 55.5% two-point percentage is 24th.
Sophomore point guard Cassius Winston ranks 10th in the country in assists per game (6.8), 2nd in assist rate (43.6%), 9th in true shooting percentage (69.1%), 14th in offensive rating (131.8), and 2nd in offensive box plus/minus (9.1). Sophomore bigs Nick Ward (123.6 offensive rating) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (121.1) provide an efficient offensive boost, as well. And there's still Miles Bridges, who leads the team with 16.9 points per game and possesses a 26.9% usage rate.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas owns the nation's 4th-best offense despite a free-throw rate (free throw attempts per field goal attempt) of just 0.262, which ranks them 336th in the country. They also shoot just 70.0% as a team from the line, which ranks 236th.
They make up for that by having a 58.1% effective field goal percentage (6th-best) and a 16.6% turnover rate (55th-best), as well as top-13 percentages from inside the arc (56.5%, 13th) and outside the arc (40.3%, 11th).
A lot of players chip in to this elite offense. Senior point guard Devonte' Graham assists on 7.5 makes per game, tied for third in the country. Udoka Azubuike's got a 29.6 PER, ranking eighth nationally, and a 77.4% effective field goal percentage (first) and a 72.1% true shooting percentage (second). Svi Mykhailiuk sank 106 three-pointers this season at a 45.3% clip (13th-best in the country).
3. Duke Blue Devils
Duke's adjusted offensive rating sits at 124.4, third-highest in the country. No team offensive rebounds better than the Blue Devils, but they do tend to turn the ball over (on 17.7% of their possessions, 128th in the nation).
The offensive attack is led by freshman forward Marvin Bagley, whose usage rate is 26.2%. He puts those to good use, as he's 19th in the nation in effective field goal percentage (63.0%). But Wendell Carter, Trevon Duval, and Grayson Allen all possess usage rates of at least 21.4%.
Carter's 58.4% effective field goal percentage gives Duke two high-usage, high-efficiency options for opponents to try to limit. Duke primarily does their damage on the interior, where 52.5% of their points are generated.
2. Purdue Boilermakers
Purdue is second in adjusted offensive rating (124.4). They actually just edge out Duke 124.37 to 124.35.
Despite a below-average offensive rebounding rate (27.7%, 210th in the nation), Purdue's offense thrives because of limited turnovers (a top-25 rate of 15.6%) and the second-best three-point percentage in the nation (42.0%).
Dakota Mathias is a top-10 three-point shooter this season, converting on 46.4% of his shots from beyond the arc. He ranks top-10 in offensive box plus/minus (7.9), as well. Isaac Haas owns a PER of 28.9, good for 15th in the country. And Carsen Edwards' offensive box plus/minus of 7.8 puts him just outside the top 10 in the country.
1. Villanova Wildcats
Villanova grades out as the top offense in the tournament by our metrics. They pace the nation in Sports-Reference's adjusted offensive rating (127.6) and are first in KenPom's adjusted offensive rating (127.4), as well. They're led by Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. Both Bridges (133.3) and Brunson (132.6) rank top-10 in the nation in offensive rating.
Collectively, no team has a better effective field goal percentage than Villanova does, and they rank 2nd in two-point field goal percentage (59.7%), 20th in three-point percentage (39.8%), and 19th in free throw percentage (77.1%). To add to it all, they've got one of the 10 best turnover rates in college basketball, giving them a well-rounded and lethal attack.