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Key ratings tell who may be NCAA threats

By Steve Makinen  () 

(To view the chart with this report, subscribe to Point Spread Weekly)

Each March I do an important exercise in which I find the shared quantitative characteristics of teams that have won championships and then fit the current tournament field to the findings. This helps me uncover which teams have the best shots at winning the title. I do the same thing to project potential upset winners and losers as well as Cinderella teams and Final Four candidates. It has been remarkably successful, particularly in pegging champions. In fact, in the last tournament played, Virginia was tied atop the chart you’ll see a little later as it stood on Selection Sunday that year. This was also the case for Villanova in 2018 and North Carolina in 2017. I have the evidence in print if you don’t believe it! Kansas was expected to be a runaway winner last year using this analysis before the tournament was canceled.

As to futures odds, it is never too early to acknowledge teams proving themselves best suited to make runs at this year’s crown. Of course, with the entire tournament being played in the Indianapolis area this year and the schedule tightened a bit, some things will be different. But typically the best and most prepared teams adapt to changing circumstances best, so if anything, I believe this type of analysis will only be strengthened for the 2021 tournament. As of Thursday, we will be seven weeks from the start of this year’s madness. It’s safe to say we know a lot about the teams, and I would happily endorse anyone using this analysis as the foundation for a tourney futures wager or two.

So let’s go through the list of the characteristics I use to compare this year’s teams with previous champions. Some are based on my four sets of strength ratings, some are based on my effective stats — which take into account recent play and strength of schedule — and others are pure raw statistics accumulated by teams this season. 

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