T Shoe Index data on the four most likely teams to win the NCAA Tournament

My favorite application of my T Shoe Index is using it to compare current teams to historical teams to provide context around how a team is playing, relative to what great teams of the past have accomplished. A quick refresher in case you’re new to my work, my T Shoe Index is an opponent-adjusted, tempo-adjusted ratings system that tries to answer the question, “How many points would Team A be expected to score and allow vs the average team?”

Over the last five NCAA Tournaments, the lowest TSI power rating for a champion was 16.9 (2021 Baylor). This year, there are four teams with a rating of 16.9 or above; therefore, your national champion is likely to come from this group.


Team No. 4 – Purdue Boilermakers

The Boilermakers check in at No. 4 with a power rating of 17.2. Offensively, Purdue is 7th in the nation, according to TSI, with a rating of 85.0 (meaning, they would be expected to score 85 points against the average college team); however, defensively, they sit at just 76th with a rating of 68.6. Comparing Purdue’s current TSI numbers to the past five NCAA champions, their offensive rating would be the second-highest of any champ  since 2018, but their defensive rating would be the worst by a full 1.7 points. So, if you’re a “defense wins championships” table-pounder, Purdue might not be the team for you to pick to win this year’s tournament.

Team No. 3 – Connecticut Huskies

With a power rating of 17.4, the Huskies are the No. 3 team in TSI coming off of their championship run a year ago. Offensively, UConn is No. 30 nationally with a 80.7 rating and No. 9 defensively with a 62.9 defensive rating. How do those metrics stack up historically? Both sides of the court for the Huskies would be middle of the pack among champions, so that type of balance is enticing if you’re looking for a bracket winner and/or futures bet. 

Team No. 2 – Arizona Wildcats

Arizona is the second-best team this season, according to TSI, with a power rating of 18.2, boasting the country’s No. 2 offensive TSI rating at 88.5, but just the 134th-best defensive rating at 71.0. That whopping 88.5 offensive rating would be the second-highest of the last five champions, but the lowest defensive rating of those champs is 66.9 – 4.1 points better than the Wildcats. This team’s path to a championship is to go gangbusters offensively and light up the scoreboard. I’m not sure they’re prepared to win in a slugfest type of game against some of the other contenders like UConn or…

Team No. 1 – Houston Cougars

Speaking of slugfests, Houston epitomizes this cliche; with a power rating of 19.8, the Cougars are the top team in TSI this season, mostly due to its stingy 58.3 defensive rating, but the 77.5 offensive rating isn’t anything to sneeze at, either. The only champion recently to have a better defensive rating is Tony Bennett’s 2019 Virginia team that suffocated everyone. That team is also the only team among the champs to have a lower offensive rating than Houston’s current rating. Houston is kind of the anti-Purdue and Arizona, so if you’re a “defense first” philosopher, keep an eye on this Cougars team in the tournament.